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LINGUIST List 23.2284

Fri May 11 2012

Support: Cognitive Science: PhD Student, Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Belgium

Editor for this issue: Xiyan Wang <xiyanlinguistlist.org>

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Date: 11-May-2012
From: Bart de Boer <bartarti.vub.ac.be>
Subject: Cognitive Science: PhD Student, Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Belgium
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Department: Artificial Intelligence Department
Web Address: https://ai.vub.ac.be/members/bart/ABACUSPhD2

Level: PhD

Duties: Research

Specialty Areas: Cognitive Science
Language Evolution


PhD on individual learning of combinatorial speech

We are looking for someone who has (or who is about to complete) a master's
degree in psycholinguistics, cognitive science or equivalent. You will work on a
PhD project that is part of Bart de Boer's European Research Council ABACUS project.

The ABACUS project
ABACUS is a European Research Council funded project that attempts to advance
our understanding of the evolution of (potentially language-specific) cognitive
adaptations for speech. It focuses on combinatorial speech: the ability to
combine a limited number of building blocks into an unlimited number of
utterances according to learned rules. An important open question is how much of
combinatorial speech is due to general cognitive abilities in combination with
cultural evolution and how much is due to language-specific cognitive biases.
The project combines individual and iterated learning experiments with
computational modeling in order to address this question.

The PhD project
Your work consists of designing, performing and describing individual learning
experiments based on learning and reproduction of continuous, speech-like
signals. You will closely cooperate with computational modelers and (PhD)
students investigating iterated learning.

We are looking for candidates with a serious interest in a scientific career,
with good writing skills and with experience in doing experiments with human
participants. Experience with speech/language research as well as affinity with
computational models are a plus.

Theme: Experimental investigation of language-specific biases in learning

Aim: Design and execution of learning experiments that investigate hypotheses
about language-specific biases. The focus will be on biases in learning of
sequential signals.

Research questions: Can one use individual learning biases to predict how
systems of (speech) signals will change culturally? What learning strategies do
humans use for learning (speech) signals? Are these biases specific to language
and communication? Do these biases depend on the social setting and the
population structure?

Method: Experimental learning studies

You apply for a four year PhD scholarship of approximately € 36 000 (before
taxes) per year, with additional money to visit conferences and to hire research
assistants. You will work in a recently formed international and
interdisciplinary research group. The group is part of the computer science
department, but it investigates questions about (the evolution of) cognition and
language, using a combination of experiment and computer modeling. You will be
asked to do a limited amount of teaching and supervision, but that will take up
no more than 20% of your working time. As part of your PhD project, you will
have the possibility to spend a few months at a different institute.

How to Apply
We need a letter of motivation, a CV, a copy of your master's thesis (or in case
you have not completed this, another sample of your writing), a list of your
grades and the contact information of two people who can provide references. You
can send these in pdf format to Bart de Boer: bartarti.vub.ac.be mentioning
"ABACUS PhD2" in the subject. For inquiries you can send a message to this same
address, or phone +32 2 629 3700. The deadline for application is July first, 2012.

Applications Deadline: 01-Jul-2012

Mailing Address for Applications:
        Attn: prof Bart de Boer
        Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Dienst ARTI
        Pleinlaan 2
        Brussels 1050

Web Address for Applications: https://ai.vub.ac.be/members/bart/ABACUSPhD2

Contact Information:
        prof Bart de Boer

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