Akira Omaki

Posted: August 2018

The LSA is saddened to report the recent passing of our member Dr. Akira Omaki on August 6, 2018, due to complications from lymphoma. Dr. Omaki received his PhD from University of Maryland in 2010, worked as a post-doctoral researcher at the University of Geneva in 2010-2011, before joining the faculty at Johns Hopkins University. In 2016, Dr. Omaki became an Assistant Professor at the University of Washington's Department of Linguistics, where he directed the Language Development and Processing Lab, with two ongling NSF-funded research projects.

Dr. Omaki's research focused on the intersection of language development and language comprehension/production at the sentence level. According to him, sentence processing and language learning share the same problem: The target abstract structural representations must be identified despite the fact that a) input provides no direct evidence for the target syntactic representations, and b) there are many structural/grammatical hypotheses compatible with the input. Globally speaking, he was interested in how these identification processes are constrained by linguistic knowledge as well as cognitive mechanisms like attention and memory.

Read a notice from the University of Washington Linguistics Department here.

His UMD colleague, Colin Phillips writes:

Akira was smart, indefatigable, and always, always positive. During his years at UMD he was a smiling face that you might run into in Marie Mount Hall at literally any time of day or night. From his first day here he was pushing forward an ambitious research agenda that combined formal linguistics, language processing in the service of understanding how children learn language. He was a tireless mentor to his students. 

He leaves behind his wife Elise, and their two-year old daughter Aya.

Elise writes: "In lieu of flowers, please consider sending a donation to UNICEF (https://www.unicefusa.org/). Akira cared very much about making the world a better place for the next generation, and this was one of his favorite charities.”