LINGUIST List 28.2232

Wed May 17 2017

Support: Computational Linguistics; Language Acquisition; Phonetics: PhD, Vrije Universiteit Brussel

Editor for this issue: Clare Harshey <>

Date: 17-May-2017
From: Bart de Boer <>
Subject: Computational Linguistics; Language Acquisition; Phonetics: PhD, Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Belgium
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Department: Artificial Intelligence Lab
Web Address:

Level: PhD

Institution/Organization: Vrije Universiteit Brussel

Duties: Research,Project Work

Specialty Areas: Computational Linguistics; Language Acquisition; Phonetics


PhD on modelling acquisition of combinatorial speech

We are looking for someone who has (or who is about to complete) a master’s degree in artificial intelligence, speech technology, computer science or equivalent. You will work on a project that investigates advanced techniques for learning the building blocks of speech, with a focus on spectro-temporal features and dynamic Bayesian networks. It is part of the Artificial Intelligence lab of the Vrije Universiteit Brussel and is supervised by prof. Bart de Boer.

The PhD project:
Speech consists of a limited number of building blocks that are combined into an essentially unlimited number of words. Children acquire the building blocks and the rules to combine them effortlessly. Although modern speech technology, especially that based on deep learning, has made great progress on this task, it still needs much more training data than children do. This PhD project explores the hypothesis that a fundamental problem of speech technology is the separation of spectral (often modeled by MFCCs) and temporal features (often modeled by HMMs). It will investigate an alternative where spectro-temporal features are used, with a learning technique that is based on dynamic Bayesian networks.

- Either one of (and preferably both) a. Knowledge of speech processing; b. Knowledge of Bayesian techniques, especially dynamic Bayesian networks
- Good programming skills, preferably experience with C++11
- An affinity with cognitive and linguistic questions is an advantage

You apply for a four-year PhD scholarship, the exact amount of which depends on your experience, but which is sufficient to live comfortably in Brussels. There is also some additional money to visit conferences and for research costs. You will work in an 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. The envisaged starting date is October 1st, 2017

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. Please send these in pdf format to Bart de Boer: mentioning “DBN PhD” in the subject. For inquiries, you can send a message to this same address, or phone +32 2 629 3755.

Applications Deadline: 01-Jul-2017

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

Web Address for Applications:

Contact Information:
        prof Bart de Boer

Page Updated: 17-May-2017