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Support Announcement:

Level: PhD
Duty: Research
Linguistic Field: Cognitive Science Language Evolution
Application Deadline: 01-Jul-2012
Supporting Institution: Vrije Universiteit Brussel
Artificial Intelligence Department
LL Issue: 23.2284
Posted: 11-May-2012
Support Description: 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: bart Linguist List
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.
Application Mailing Address: prof Bart de Boer
Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Dienst ARTI
Pleinlaan 2
Brussels 1050
Application Web Address:
Contact Information: prof Bart de Boer