PhD Candidate: The Use and Social Evaluation of British English Uptalk

PhD Candidate: The Use and Social Evaluation of British English Uptalk

Published Deadline Location
29 Mar 7 May Nijmegen

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Job description

In English, 'uptalk' (the use of pitch rises at the end of statements) can evoke strong reactions; e.g. uptalk is seen as a marker of insecurity and hesitance used primarily by young women. As a PhD candidate, you will critically evaluate the existing literature on British English uptalk and carry out production studies and perception experiments to understand the phonetic forms uptalk can take, its pragmatic functions, and its social evaluation.

We are looking for a PhD candidate in sociophonetics, focusing on the study of prosody, for a project on uptalk in British English. Uptalk is defined as the use of pitch rises (instead of falls) at the end of statements. Stereotypically, uptalk is said to indicate speaker insecurity or a cooperative attitude, while its use has been associated with younger women who are often said to talk as if they are asking questions. 

There are, however, many issues with these stereotypes about uptalk. First, there are many varieties of British English (e.g. in Bristol, Liverpool, and Tyneside) in which rises are used by default at the end of statements. These rises are not considered instances of uptalk on the grounds that they do not convey some special meaning. This implies that uptalk carries such special meaning, but speakers of varieties said to have uptalk (e.g. varieties in New Zealand, Australia, Canada, and California) do not assign special meaning to all instances of uptalk. This begs the question of what counts as uptalk and what criteria can be used to determine if uptalk is a feature of a given linguistic variety. Further, research in uptalking varieties of English suggests that uptalk has diverse uses and that different forms of uptalk may be associated with different pragmatic functions. Finally, these studies also suggest that uptalk is not used exclusively by certain demographic groups, such as young women; in turn, this indicates that uptalk may be wider spread but noticeable only when used by speakers of certain groups because the stereotypes of the listeners lead them to expect uptalk only from these groups. 

Given the above uncertainties, the aim of this project is to critically evaluate the existing research on uptalk from phonetic, pragmatic, and sociolinguistic perspectives, focusing on British English uses and users of uptalk. The goals of the project include a thorough documentation of the forms that uptalk can take, a better understanding of the pragmatics associated with it and of the social evaluation that it leads to, depending on the demographics of the users.  

For this project, you will be supervised by a team of researchers consisting of Prof. Amalia Arvaniti (Chair), Dr Stefan Gronderlaers and Dr Jarret Geenen (co-supervisors). Though the scope of the project is indicated above, it is expected that the final research plan will be developed in collaboration with you to reflect your research interests as well as those of the PhD committee.

Your teaching load will be up to 10% of your working time.


Radboud University


  • You hold a Master's degree in linguistics.
  • You have demonstrable grounding in at least two of the following: phonetics, sociolinguistics, pragmatics.
  • You have an excellent command of written and spoken English.
  • You have an understanding of socially related variation in British English or a sufficient background in the study of variation to quickly acquire the background necessary for this project.
  • You have a good understanding of either corpus-based or experimental methods in linguistics preferably demonstrated by work experience, publications, or a relevant Master's thesis.
  • Demonstrable interest in the study of prosody will be a strong advantage.

Conditions of employment

Fixed-term contract: an initial period of 18 months, after which your performance will be evaluated. If the evaluation is positive, the contract will be extended by 2.5 years (4 year contract).

  • Employment for 1.0 FTE.
  • The gross starting salary amounts to €2,541 per month based on a 38-hour working week, and will increase to €3,247 in the fourth year (salary scale P).
  • You will be employed for an initial period of 18 months, after which your performance will be evaluated. If the evaluation is positive, the contract will be extended by 2.5 years (4 year contract).
  • You will receive 8% holiday allowance and 8.3% end-of-year bonus.
  • You will be able to use our Dual Career and Family Care Services. Our Dual Career and Family Care Officer can assist you with family-related support, help your partner or spouse prepare for the local labour market, provide customized support in their search for employment and help your family settle in Nijmegen.
  • Working for us means getting extra days off. In case of full-time employment, you can choose between 30 or 41 days of annual leave instead of the legally allotted 20.
Work and science require good employment practices. This is reflected in Radboud University's primary and secondary employment conditions. You can make arrangements for the best possible work-life balance with flexible working hours, various leave arrangements and working from home. You are also able to compose part of your employment conditions yourself, for example, exchange income for extra leave days and receive a reimbursement for your sports subscription. And of course, we offer a good pension plan. You are given plenty of room and responsibility to develop your talents and realise your ambitions. Therefore, we provide various training and development schemes.


As a PhD candidate, you will be affiliated with Radboud's Centre for Language Studies (CLS). You will join a CLS research group (either the Speech Production and Comprehension Group or the Language Variation in 4D Group, depending on your specific interests), participating in the group's meetings, events, and training opportunities afforded to the group's members. You will also be part of and closely collaborate with the staff of SPRINT, an ERC project that focuses on the study of intonation.

The Faculty of Arts is committed to knowledge production with a significant scientific and social impact. With over 500 academic and support staff, we teach and conduct research in the fields of history and art, languages and cultures, and linguistics and communication, using innovative methodologies and working in close collaboration between the disciplines. Our research is embedded in two research institutes: the Centre for Language Studies (CLS) and the Radboud Institute for Culture & History (RICH). We currently have approximatively 2,500 students, enrolled in three departments: the Department of History, Art History and Classics, the Department of Modern Languages and Cultures, and the Department of Language and Communication. We aim to contribute to a more sustainable and inclusive world, which is why we especially seek applications from candidates who bring diverse perspectives, backgrounds, and skills that will be assets to our study programmes and research profiles.

Radboud University

We want to get the best out of science, others and ourselves. Why? Because this is what the world around us desperately needs. Leading research and education make an indispensable contribution to a healthy, free world with equal opportunities for all. This is what unites the more than 24,000 students and 5,600 employees at Radboud University. And this requires even more talent, collaboration and lifelong learning. You have a part to play!


  • PhD
  • Language and culture
  • €2541—€3247 per month
  • University graduate
  • 1207883



Houtlaan 4, 6525 XZ, Nijmegen

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