LINGUIST List 28.2234

Wed May 17 2017

Support: Computational Linguistics; Language Emergence; Sign Languages: PhD, Vrije Universiteit Brussel

Editor for this issue: Clare Harshey <>

Date: 17-May-2017
From: Bart de Boer <>
Subject: Computational Linguistics; Language Emergence; Sign Languages: PhD, Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Belgium
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Department: AI-lab
Web Address:

Level: PhD

Institution/Organization: Vrije Universiteit Brussel

Duties: Research,Project Work

Specialty Areas: Computational Linguistics
Language Emergence, Sign Languages


PhD on modeling an emerging sign language

We are looking for a PhD student to work on modeling the emergence of sign languages, with a focus on modeling the social dynamics underlying existing signing communities. The project relies on specialist expertise of the Kata Kolok signing community that has emerged in a Balinese village over the course of several generations. The emergence of Kata Kolok, and the demographics of the village have been closely studied by geneticists, anthropologists, and linguists. A preliminary model has been built in Python, simulating this emergence. The aim of the project is to investigate, using a combination of linguistic field research and computational modeling which factors – cultural, genetic, linguistic and others – determine the way language emerges. There will be one PhD student in Nijmegen conducting primary field research on Kata Kolok and one based in Brussels (as advertised here) to be involved in the computational aspect of the project. Both positions are part of a FWO-NWO funded collaboration of the Artificial Intelligence lab of the Vrije Universiteit Brussel and the Center for Language Studies at Radboud University Nijmegen and the advertised position is supervised by profs. Bart de Boer and Connie de Vos.

- You have (or are about to complete) a master’s degree in artificial intelligence, computer science, cognitive science, linguistics or a related field.
- You have experience writing computer programs; knowledge of C++11 and parallelization is an advantage.
- Interest and/or prior experience with research of language emergence.
- Prior experience with sign language (research) 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 expenses. 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:
Please send us 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 “Emergent Sign PhD” in the subject. For inquiries, you can send a message to this same address, or phone +32 2 629 3755.

Applications Deadline: 15-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