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The PhD positions are part of a new research programme on language development at Utrecht University, the Netherlands: “A sound start: Prosodic development before birth and in the first three years of life”. Children show remarkable knowledge of native prosody (i.e. melody and rhythm in speech) at birth and thrive on it in early language and communication development. This programme investigates how children develop prosodic competence so early. Taking an interdisciplinary and crosslinguistic approach, it aims to discern the role of innate mechanisms, uncover learning mechanisms in the auditory modality underlying development spanning prenatal and after-birth periods, and shed light on the role of visual cues to prosody (i.e. speech-accompanying gestures) in after-birth periods. PhD projects 1 and 2 will be concerned with the first two goals in the learning of prosodic phrasing (i.e. grouping sequences of sounds into meaningful units in speech streams) and prosodic formmeaning mappings (i.e. associating prosodic patterns with communicative functions), PhD project 3 with the third goal in both areas of prosodic development. We are seeking to hire three highly motivated, driven, and talented PhD students to conduct these projects in a period of four years.
In PhD project 1, you will examine the role of innate mechanisms and learning mechanisms underlying development in prosodic phrasing. You will work with preterm and full-term neonates born to German and Dutch-speaking families using EEG. You will also work with Dutch-speaking expecting mothers using a prenatal training paradigm.
In PhD project 2, you will examine the role of innate mechanisms and learning mechanisms underlying development in prosodic form-meaning mappings . You will work with Dutch-exposed newborns using EEG and Dutch-speaking expecting mothers using a prenatal training paradigm. You will also conduct corpus-based research on structured mother-child interactions in Indonesian, Swedish and Dutch and non-structured mother-child interactions in Swedish and Dutch.
In PhD project 3, you will study how availability of visual cues to prosody and visual attention to these cues influence the learning of prosodic phrasing and form-meaning mappings (e.g., prosody-to-focus mapping). You will work with Dutch-learning infants and toddlers using behavioural, eye-tracking and EEG techniques.
In this research programme you will work within an interdisciplinary team, closely collaborating with researchers from linguistics, neuroscience, psycholinguistics, psychology and neonatology. You will receive assistance from student assistants in data collection and/or data processing and have the opportunity to develop your academic teaching skills during your project. The PhD projects are funded by a VICI grant (VI.C. 201.109) from the Dutch Research Council (NWO) to Professor Aoju Chen and will be carried out at the Utrecht Institute of Linguistics OTS, at Utrecht University, the Netherlands.
Tasks for the PhD candidates:
The general requirements are:
Specific requirements for PhD position 1:
Specific requirements for PhD position 2:
Specific requirements for PhD position 3:
A better future for everyone. This ambition motivates our scientists in executing their leading research and inspiring teaching. At Utrecht University, the various disciplines collaborate intensively towards major societal themes. Our focus is on Dynamics of Youth, Institutions for Open Societies, Life Sciences and Sustainability.
The Faculty of Humanities has around 6,000 students and 900 staff members. It comprises four knowledge domains: Philosophy and Religious Studies, History and Art History, Media and Culture Studies, and Languages, Literature and Communication. With its research and education in these fields, the faculty aims to contribute to a better understanding of the Netherlands and Europe in a rapidly changing social and cultural context. The enthusiastic and committed colleagues and the excellent amenities in the historical city center of Utrecht, where the faculty is housed, contribute to an inspiring working environment.
The research is conducted within the Language Acquisition, Processing and Disorders (LAPD) group of the Utrecht Institute of Linguistics OTS (UiL OTS). Other research groups at the UiL OTS focus on Language, Logic and Information, Language Variation, Language and Education, Language and Communication. The UiL OTS research staff comprises approximately 20 full professors, a dozen postdocs and roughly 40 PhD students.
The Department of Language, Literature and Communication offers BA and MA programmes in literary studies, linguistics, communication studies, translation, as well as Dutch, English, German, French, Italian, Spanish and (uniquely in the Netherlands) Celtic languages.
Domplein 29, 3512 JE, Utrecht
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