Skip to main content

Meet Dr. Hashimoto

Avid tennis player, corpus linguist, and man of the people

Dr. Brett Hashimoto
Dr. Brett Hashimoto
Photo by Rebekah Baker

Dr. Brett Hashimoto is going on 4 years at BYU. He spent his first year as a researcher at the J. Reuben Clark Law School before coming to the Department of Linguistics. He earned his PhD from Northern Arizona University and wrote his dissertation on the everyday language use of university students. His interest in corpora (large sets of written text in various registers of a language) led him to discover the lack of data collected on regular, everyday language use or exposure. Collecting written data from NAU students, he discovered that while most students reported they spent much of their time doing schoolwork, in reality, they spent no more than 2 hours per day studying or doing schoolwork.

Dr. Hashimoto focuses on applied linguistics, which means he uses linguistics to help solve problems in the real world. He has researched how linguistics can help judges interpret the law in a more fair and scientifically grounded way and has even trained state supreme court justices and appellate federal judges. Law interpretation has such high stakes, determining whether people will be sentenced to imprisonment or even death. Thus improving interpretation can have a meaningful and practical impact.

Dr. Hashimoto constantly thinks about how his research can circle back to people in the community, emphasizing the part of BYU’s motto to “go forth to serve.” One project he feels is very beneficial to the world is his work with the BYU Sustainability Research Group investigating the discourse around sustainability, in both public and academic settings. He and other professors across many research disciplines work together to ask questions like, “What are the differences between how we talk about sustainability in the academic world and in the larger public world?” and “What sustainability topics are often talked about together, rarely talked about together, or rarely talked about at all?” Dr. Hashimoto specifically has used a wide variety of large-scale corpus linguistic data analysis methods to help answer these questions, and he believes the implications of this project can help address global environmental and sustainability issues.

Recently, he has been working with Dr. Earl Brown in the department to find out why the language of the law is so complex and difficult to read. Because the law is something we have to live by, his goal is to propose solutions for making the law easier to understand. Usually, it’s minorities, the poor, the uneducated, and young people, who experience injustices in encounters with the law. When the law is difficult to understand, it can become nearly impossible for these groups of people to understand the rules and repercussions of violating the rules, which can result in life-changing consequences.

If you’re interested in corpora, the language of the law, or applied linguistics, get in contact with Brett Hashimoto to get involved in one of his research projects! Information about his research group can be found here.