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LINGUIST List 23.2285

Fri May 11 2012

Support: Computational Ling: PhD Student, Vrije Univesiteit 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: Computational Ling: PhD Student, Vrije Univesiteit Brussel, Belgium
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Department: Artificial Intelligence Department
Web Address: https://ai.vub.ac.be/members/bart/ABACUSPhD3

Level: PhD

Duties: Research

Specialty Areas: Computational Linguistics
Language Evolution


PhD on machine learning of combinatorial speech

We are looking for someone who has (or who is about to complete) a master's
degree in computer science, (cognitive) artificial intelligence, modeling of
language evolution 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, implementing, investigating and describing
computer models for learning and reproduction of continuous, speech-like
signals. You will closely cooperate with (PhD) students doing individual and
iterated learning experiments.

We are looking for candidates with a serious interest in a scientific career,
with good writing skills and with experience in building learning systems.
Experience with speech/language research as well as affinity with experimental
work are a plus.

Theme: Computer modeling of learning and productive use of combinatorial structure

Aim 1: Design and implement learning systems to investigate how combinatorial
structure of continuous, speech-like signals can be learnt and then used in
production and perception.

Aim 2a: Help to generate hypotheses about human behavior.

Aim 2b: Investigate what needs to be put into the models (in the form of a
priori biases, learning biases, representational biases etc.) to get human-like

Methods: Agent based models, focusing on the learning mechanisms of the
individual agents (but in principle able to operate as members of a linguistic

You apply for a four year PhD scholarship of approximately € 36 000 (before
taxes) per year, with additional money to visit conferences. 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 PhD3" 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/ABACUSPhD3

Contact Information:
        Prof Bart de Boer

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