Research and Life in Japan by a JSPS Fellow (18)
Hailing from Moscow, Russia, Dr. Zoya Viktorovna Efimova has been conducting research with her host Dr. Wakana Kono at the Graduate School of Humanities, Chiba University under a JSPS postdoctoral fellowship since November 2007. Dr. Efimova did her doctoral work under the supervision of Prof. Vera Podlesskaya at the Institute of Linguistics, Russian State University for the Humanities (RSUH) in Russia, where Dr. Kono has conducted her own research in the Russian language. Over about the past 10 years, the two have continued their research collaboration in the field of corpus linguistics.
By the time this volume of the JSPS Quarterly is issued, Dr. Efimova will have become the mother of her second child. To deliver the baby, she took advantage of the maternity leave systems of the JSPS Postdoctoral Fellowship Program and of Chiba University.
Please explain the nature of the research you are conducting under the JSPS fellowship?
I am working in corpus linguistics, which in simple terms is the study of language as expressed in “real life” usages. This approach is based on the idea that a field-collected dataset of natural language usages allows reliable language analysis. Linguists gather text corpora (a large and structured set of texts), which contain many samples of natural language usages. In order to make the corpora more useful for linguistic research, texts are usually provided with annotations (various linguistic information such as transcription and translation). I am a member of a big project at RSUH to build a large multilingual corpus, which contains Italian, Armenian, English, Persian and, of course, Russian and Japanese narratives composed by native speakers. This spoken data is transcribed, texts are segmented into basic predications, and pause lengths are annotated. As a specialist in Japanese grammar, I have been working on the Japanese part of this corpus project.
The primary goal of my research in Japan is to gather corpora of Japanese narratives and develop systematic principles of universal transcription along with an annotation system that enables comparing spoken data of typologically different languages. Together with my colleague Dr. Kono, a specialist in Russian language, we are working out principles for text representation, which can apply to either Japanese or Russian. Based on the materials we have prepared, I am also doing some contrastive studies of Japanese and Russian discourse.
Why did you originally choose Japanese as the object of your research?
I chose Japanese almost accidentally. I had entered the linguistics department at RSUH, where all students were tasked to learn at least one foreign language. My happenstance choice of the Japanese language caused me to get involved in Japanese history, culture, and so on. The more I studied Japan, the more I got interested in it. This passion placed me on the starting line of my research into Japanese grammar.
You are going to give a birth while in Japan. Does this cause you any anxiety?
No. If I had not given birth before or was not confident of my Japanese, I may have hesitated. Other reasons also affected my decision. First of all, my husband had just found a job here and my son is in the middle of his second year at a Japanese elementary school, so it would be a pity to hinder their progress by going back to Russia for the delivery. Second is the well-developed health care system here in Japan, which is also key in my decision to stay here. Moreover, there are some Japanese obstetricians and gynecologists who can speak English well. Third is the good opportunity to experience a part of Japanese life that is not often discussed in books about Japan. I am also interested in the early mother-children relationship and its influence on social tranquility in Japan. I would like to make a close, personal observation of it.
How easy was it to apply for maternity leave under the postdoctoral fellowship?
It was very easy. All I had to do was submit a copy of my “maternal and child health handbook” and a few forms. It is a well-conceived gender-equal provision of the fellowship program, which enables fellows to swiftly return to their research activities after taking leave for child bearing.
What advice do you have for other fellows who may give birth during their fellowship tenure?
First, a good hospital or clinic will require appointments from the early stages of pregnancy. I would advise you to decide whether you want to deliver in Japan or in your own country as soon as possible. Once you start seeing a doctor regularly, everything should go smoothly. Procedures are simple. You do not need to be anxious about them. Next, it is very important to join the National Health Insurance system. On an average, hospitals charge about 4,000 dollars; however, if you join the system, the Japanese government will cover about 3,500 dollars of that cost.
Note: Fellows wishing to take leave for childbearing and/or infant care should submit the form “Request for Maternity Suspension of Postdoctoral Fellowship.”