PhD position in Natural Language Processing: verbal expression of quantities (0.8 - 1.0 FTE)

PhD position in Natural Language Processing: verbal expression of quantities (0.8 - 1.0 FTE)

Published Deadline Location
24 Apr 29 May Utrecht

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Design Computational Models of Vague Expressions!

Job description

Vagueness is the pervasive phenomenon in which words have imprecisely defined boundaries, which are applied differently in different contexts and by different people. For example, when a patient report describes a baby’s blood pressure as “too high”, or her condition as “stable”, these terms are interpreted differently by different clinicians. This PhD project will study mathematical and computational models of uncertainty and vagueness. In recent years, the literature in this area has shifted away from 2-valued towards multi-valued models, based on modern versions of Zadeh-style fuzzy set theory,  on Gardenfors-style conceptual spaces, or on probabilistic models. But these models have rarely been tested with real data. This PhD project will use existing “big” datasets to find out which models predict and explain the data best. You get the opportunity to partly shape this project based on your own preferences; for example, you can focus on the interpretation or on the production (i.e., computational generation) of vague utterances.

This PhD position is one of six inter-connected PhD positions focussing on uncertainty in Natural Language Processing (NLP), under Utrecht University’s AiNed project “Dealing with Meaning Variation in NLP”, which will be led by Professor Massimo Poesio. We are simultaneously recruiting for another of the six PhD positions in this project. We invite you to also check out this interesting vacancy on our website.


Utrecht University


You are a motivated researcher with a curious and critical mindset. You hold a Master’s degree in an area relevant to this project; this could be Artificial Intelligence, Computational Cognitive Science, Computing Science, or Linguistics. A good mastery of NLP is essential as well as excellent English communication skills (verbal and written). We would also like you to take a strong interest in “fuzzy” and other models of natural language meaning and in machine learning.

Conditions of employment

  • A position for 4 years;
  • A full-time gross salary that starts at €2,541 and increases to €3,247 per month (scale P of the Collective Labour Agreement Dutch Universities (CAO));
  • 8% holiday bonus and 8.3% end-of-year bonus;
  • A pension scheme, partially paid parental leave, and flexible employment conditions based on the Collective Labour Agreement Dutch Universities.

In addition to the employment conditions laid down in the CAO for Dutch Universities, Utrecht University has a number of its own arrangements. For example, there are agreements on professional development, leave arrangements and sports. We also give you the opportunity to expand your terms of employment via the Employment Conditions Selection Model. This is how we like to encourage you to continue to grow.

For more information, please visit working at Utrecht University.


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You will join the Natural Language Processing (NLP) Group, which is part of the AI and Data Science division of the Department of Information and Computing Sciences.

The NLP group was founded in 2018, when Professor Kees van Deemter and Dr. Dong Nguyen joined Utrecht University (UU). Over the years, various people joined the NLP group, broadening its range and reinforcing its focus on empirical and theoretical aspects of NLP, covering both symbolic and statistical approaches. An important recent focus is explainability of NLP models.

Our currents research strengths include a theme called NLP and Society, a theme called Natural Language Generation and, connected with the latter, a theme Vision and Language. In all these areas we work closely with the UU’s Language Sciences department. It is foreseen that all PhD projects in the AiNed project “Dealing With Meaning Variation in NLP” will be jointly supervised with Language Sciences. The NLP group contributes to various areas of teaching, for example via the UU’s cross-faculty Bachelor and Master’s degrees in Artificial Intelligence. The group is strongly aligned with the UU’s focus area Human-centred Artificial Intelligence .


  • PhD
  • Natural sciences
  • 38—40 hours per week
  • €2541—€3247 per month
  • University graduate
  • 1209236



Padualaan 8, 3584 CH, Utrecht

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