LINGUIST List 23.2639

Thu Jun 07 2012

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

Editor for this issue: Brent Miller <>

Date: 07-Jun-2012
From: Bart de Boer <>
Subject: Cognitive Science: PhD Student, Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Belgium
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Department: Artificial Intelligence Laboratory Web Address:

Level: PhD

Duties: Research,Teaching

Specialty Areas: Cognitive Science Language Evolution

PhD on iterated learning of combinatorial speech

We are looking for someone who has (or who is about to complete) a master'sdegree in psycholinguistics, cognitive science or equivalent. You will work on aPhD project that is part of Bart de Boer's ERC starting grant ABACUS project.

The ABACUS projectABACUS is a European Research Council funded project that attempts to advanceour understanding of the evolution of (potentially language-specific) cognitiveadaptations for speech. It focuses on combinatorial speech: the ability to combinea limited number of building blocks into an unlimited number of utterancesaccording to learned rules. An important open question is how much ofcombinatorial speech is due to general cognitive abilities in combination withcultural evolution and how much is due to language-specific cognitive biases. Theproject combines individual and iterated learning experiments with computationalmodeling in order to address this question.

The PhD projectYour work consists of designing, performing and describing iterated learningexperiments based on learning and reproduction of continuous, speech-likesignals. You will closely cooperate with computational modelers and (PhD)students investigating individual learning.

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

Theme: Experiments on emergence of combinatorial structure in speech.

Aim: To design and perform iterated learning experiments where participantsdevelop repertoires of signals in different modalities and different communicativesettings.

Research questions: Does combinatorial structure emerge in iterated learningthrough transfer from one generation to the next, or through social coordination, orboth? How does this process work? Does the modality of the signals play a role inthis? Does the communicative setting play a role in this?

Method: Experiments in the iterated learning and social coordination framework.

ConditionsYou apply for a four year PhD scholarship of approximately € 36 000 (before taxes)per year, with additional money to visit conferences and to hire researchassistants. You will work in a recently formed international and interdisciplinaryresearch group. The group is part of the computer science department, but itinvestigates questions about (the evolution of) cognition and language, using acombination of experiment and computer modeling. You will be asked to do alimited 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 tospend a few months at a different institute.

The envisaged starting date is September 1st, 2012

How to ApplyWe need a letter of motivation, a CV, a copy of your master's thesis (or in caseyou have not completed this, another sample of your writing), a list of your gradesand the contact information of two people who can provide references. Pleasesend these in pdf format to Bart de Boer: mentioning"ABACUS PhD1" in the subject. For inquiries you can send a message to thissame address, or phone +32 2 629 3700. The deadline for application is July first,2012.

Applications Deadline: 10-Jul-2012

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

Contact Information:         Prof Bart de Boer

Page Updated: 07-Jun-2012