Alexander Francis-Ratte

Alexander Francis-Ratte

Associate Professor, Asian Studies; Department Chair, Asian Studies

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I am a linguist whose specialization is in Japanese language, past and present. I joined Furman in 2016 after completing my Ph.D. in Japanese at The Ohio State University, where I developed expertise in Japanese linguistics, pre-modern Japan, and Japanese language teaching pedagogy. At Furman, I teach courses on Japan, focusing primarily on first-year Japanese language. I also teach courses on Japanese culture, Korean language, and Asian linguistics. My goal as a language teacher is for my students to learn how to communicate effectively in the target language. Throughout all of my courses, students will gain an appreciation of the diversity of languages and cultures in East Asia, and learn about the interconnectedness of Japan, Korea, and China. When I am not at Furman teaching and helping students and doing research, I enjoy hiking in the mountains, backpacking, road trips, and cooking at home with my cats.


  • Alester G. Furman Jr. and Janie Earle Furman Meritorious Teaching Award (2022)
  • James B. Duke Chair in Asian Studies (2018)
  • Japan Foundation Doctoral Fellowship (2016, declined)


  • Ph.D., The Ohio State University
  • M.A., The Ohio State University
  • B.A., Williams College

Research Interests
My research focuses on the history of the Japanese and Korean languages, targeting stages of these languages before textual evidence and reconstructing hypothetical ancestor languages. My scholarly interests have taken me across Asia and Europe, and I have been a visiting research fellow at the National Institute for Japanese Language and Linguistics (Japan), as well as a visiting scholar at the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History (Germany). I am currently working on a book that explores in depth the case for a Japano-Koreanic language family, and I have worked with undergraduate students in three separate summers on research internships that explore the Japano-Koreanic reconstruction.


  • Francis-Ratte, Alexander (2022). An Interdisciplinary Case for a Peninsular Origin of the Japanese Language. The Southern Journal of Linguistics, 45: 1
  • Rivers, Alissa and Francis-Ratte, Alexander (2022). A Targeted Exploration of the Japano-Koreanic Theory. The Southern Journal of Linguistics;
  • Francis-Ratte, Alexander (2022). On the origin of the Japanese plural suffix and its possible relationship to Korean. Asian Languages and Linguistics 2, 1: 24-35
  • Francis-Ratte, Alexander & J. Marshall Unger (2020). Contact between genetically related languages: the case of Old Japanese and Old Korean, in Martine Robbeets & Alexander Savleyev (eds.), The Oxford Guide to the Transeurasian Languages, 705-715. Oxford: Oxford University Press
  • Francis-Ratte, Alexander (2017). Lexical Recycling as a Lens onto Shared Japano-Koreanic Agriculture. In Language Dispersal Beyond Farming, edited by Martine Robbeets, John Benjamins Publishing Company: 75-92

Recent Professional Presentations

  • 2018. “Assessing the current state of Japano-Koreanic”. Invited lecture, City University of
    New York Graduate Center.
  • 2018. “Ancient Loanwords and their Significance for Language Contact in Early Japan”.
    Southeast Conference on Linguistics, Blacksburg, Virginia.
  • 2018. (with Emily Nicholson ‘18) “New Japanese-Korean Cognates and Some Implications
    for Japanese-Korean Border Crossings”. Southeast Conference on Linguistics, Blacksburg, Virginia.
  • 2018. (with J. Marshall Unger) “Contact between genetically related languages: the case of Old Japanese and Old Korean”. Workshop on Transeurasian Languages, Jena,
  • 2017. “Reassessing morphological and lexical evidence in the quest for the origins of
    Japanese”. Invited speaker, The Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human
    History, Jena, Germany.
  • 2017. “New evidence for the common origin of the Japanese and Korean languages”.
    Invited speaker, University of Gent, Belgium.
  • 2016. “Lexical Recycling as a Lens onto Shared Korean-Japanese Agriculture”. Societas
    Linguistica Europaea Annual Meeting, Naples, Italy.
  • 2016. “The End of the Voicing Controversy in proto-Korean-Japanese”. 12th Workshop on
    Altaic Formal Linguistics, New Britain, CT.

Additional Professional Activity

  • 2019. Visiting Scholar, Eurasia3angle Group, Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History
  • 2018. Visiting Research Fellow 特別外来研究員, National Institute for Japanese Language and Linguistics: Tokyo, Japan