The Cognitive Modelling Group of the Artificial Intelligence Department of the University of Groningen (The Netherlands) and the Linguistics Department at Macquarie University (Sydney, Australia) are looking for applicants for a four-year joint PhD position on a project on the L1
The Cognitive Modelling Group of the Artificial Intelligence Department of the University of Groningen (The Netherlands) and the Linguistics Department at Macquarie University (Sydney, Australia) are looking for applicants for a four-year joint PhD position on a project on the L1 acquisition of plural and quantified noun phrases.
The successful applicant is committed to conducting independent and original scientific research, to report on this research in international publications and presentations, and to present the final results of the research in a PhD dissertation. The PhD student will participate in local, national and international training activities, including summer schools and conferences, to maximally develop his/her potential.
In Groningen, as a member of the Graduate School of Science, PhD candidates may participate in courses, seminars and summer schools. As a Higher Degree Research (HDR) student at Macquarie University, the PhD candidate will work closely with the project supervisors, participate and contribute to the Language Acquisition Lab, and become involved with the dynamic and interdisciplinary research environment at Macquarie.
In the research project, the applicant will investigate children’s language acquisition of linguistic expressions that can give rise to so-called homogeneity effects (i.e., where a description of a plural entity applies to the whole group) in non-homogeneous situations where not all members of the whole group have the predicated features. Consider the following:
(1) The circles are black.
(2) The circles aren’t black.
Because plural definites like the circles tend to be interpreted maximally, in a situation with six black circles, (1) is true, and (2) is false. But in a non-homogenous scenario, where only four of the six circles are black, neither (1) nor (2) seems to be clearly true or clearly false for most adults.
In addition to plural definite descriptions like the circles, homogeneity effects have also been associated with bare plurals (e.g. cats are furry), adjectives (e.g. the wall is black, when it is not all black), as well as statements with relative questions (e.g. Ann knows who came to the party). Empirically, the project investigates children’s interpretations of these linguistic expressions in non-homogeneous contexts. Theoretically, the project will develop an account of the developmental time course and the adult state.
The successful applicant will carry out experimental research with preschoolers and young children, primarily in Dutch and English, and use the results to develop a theoretical account of the acquisition path of these expressions in non-homogeneous contexts. They will need a background (or willingness to acquire a background) in semantics and L1 acquisition, and are enthusiastic about designing experiments to test predictions framed in the semantic literature. In addition to offline methods, which have been used so far in prior studies of homogeneity effects, the project will also provide training in online methods that can tell us more about how children (and adult controls) process these expressions in real time, including eye-tracking. At the completion of the project the candidate will have a solid background in acquisition, experimental research and theory development. More details about the project are available in a short proposal that can be found here.
The Artificial Intelligence Department of the University of Groningen and the Linguistics Department at Macquarie University are excellent research centers equipped to strongly support both the empirical and theoretical dimensions of the project. Both supporting institutions will provide substantial training in offline and online psycholinguistic methods, in addition to supporting the candidate with a rich environment for theoretical discussion and inquiry. The project will be further supported theoretically and practically by a sister PhD project investigating homogeneity effects in adults in cooperation with the University of Nantes.
This is a four-year position, where two years will be spent at each institution. After identifying a suitable candidate, it will be determined how exactly these years will be spread over the two institutions.
For more information about the supervisors (see list below) and their research groups, please find descriptions at the following links:
• Bernoulli Institute (Artificial Intelligence), University of Groningen
• Department of Linguistics, Macquarie University
University of Groningen
• a master's degree in linguistics (or related discipline) with an excellent academic record, with preference for candidates with a research master’s degree or a two-year Master’s degree with a major research component
• proven research abilities and motivation
• experience with theoretical semantics is desirable
• experience working with human participants is a plus, in particular experience working with children
• good academic writing skills and excellent command of English (either a minimum of five years of study in English one of the following countries: Australia, Canada, New Zeeland, South Africa, Republic of Ireland, United Kingdom or the United States of America) or an IELTS certificate demonstrating that you have achieved a minimum of 6.5 in all elements or an acceptable, demonstrable equivalent to this, prior to registration.
Conditions of employment
The successful candidate will receive funding support and be located at both universities: the University of Groningen and Macquarie University, spending two years at each institution. Every year, progress is assessed in order to ensure a smooth PhD process that results in a timely PhD thesis. The PhD student will participate in the Postgraduate Training Programme in the Graduate School of Sciences in Groningen (cf. https://www.rug.nl/research/gradschool-science-and-engineering/phdprogramme/) and in Higher Degree Research Training at Macquarie University. The candidate will draw up a personal training and supervision plan. Part of the training consists in following the Career Perspectives curriculum, which aims to prepare students for their (academic or non-academic) careers after the PhD trajectory.
University of Groningen scholarship (subject to satisfactory performance) of € 2,207 gross per month for a total duration of 2 years.
Information about the terms and conditions of the PhD Scholarship Programme can be found via: https://www.rug.nl/education/phd-programmes/phd-scholarship-programme/
Macquarie University scholarship (subject to satisfactory performance) that covers tuition fees and provides $28,500 AUD per year for a total duration of up to 2 years for living allowance, including one return air fare.
The scholarships are available from the date the candidate first registers as PhD student with the university. Scholarships are available for full-time study only and applicants must meet the program entry requirements.
Faculty of Science and Engineering
The University of Groningen: Since its foundation in 1614, the University of Groningen has established an international reputation as a dynamic and innovative university offering high-quality teaching and research. Its 35,000 students are encouraged to develop their own individual talents through challenging study and career paths. The University of Groningen is an international center of knowledge: it is among the best research universities in Europe and is allied with prestigious partner universities and networks worldwide. The Artificial Intelligence Department of the Bernoulli institute is a vibrant research environment where cutting-edge research on human cognition and its computational modelling is carried out.
Macquarie University: Established in 1964, Macquarie University is an internationally recognised university and is consistently ranked in the top two percent of universities in the world and within the top 10 in Australia (Shanghai Jiao Tong Academic Ranking of World Universities). The Department of Linguistics is ranked at number 27 in the world in the QS ranking, and spans a wide range of research areas and disciplines within the domain of theoretical and applied linguistics. The department is recognised for its innovative research in hearing, language processing, child language acquisition, professional communication, speech pathology, adult language learning, and translation and interpreting. The collegial and vibrant research community in the Department of Linguistics makes it the ideal place to pursue Higher Degree Research.
Dr Jennifer Spenader (supervisor, Groningen)
Dr Angeliek van Hout (supervisor, Groningen)