PhD Position in Modelling Word Order and Cognitive Constraints

PhD Position in Modelling Word Order and Cognitive Constraints

Published Deadline Location
15 May 31 May Amsterdam

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Job description

Do you enjoy working in an interdisciplinary research environment? Are you interested in using state of the art language technology to advance research in cognitive science and linguistics? If you imagine yourself in a PhD position at the crossroads of experimental research and natural language processing, then you should apply for this position.

The Institute for Logic, Language and Computation (ILLC) ( currently has a vacant PhD position as part of the UvA starter grant Word Order Variation and Cognitive Constraints: experiments and distributed semantic modelling, led by principal investigators Dr. Marieke Schouwstra and Dr. Jelke Bloem. The ILLC is one of the six Research Schools within the Amsterdam Institute for Humanities Research (AIHR).

Research at the ILLC is organized into six research units (Research units ILLC). This interdisciplinary project is based in the Language and Music Cognition (LMC) and Natural Language Processing & Digital Humanities (NLP&DH) research unit. This position will connect to the LMC group’s work on understanding the cognitive processes that have shaped language and music, as well as NLP&DH’s work on applying language modelling methods as a tool for better understanding human language processing.

The languages of the world show a wide range of variety, but this variety is often constrained. In this project you will combine experiments and distributed semantic modelling to investigate patterns of variation in word order (e.g. the order of Subject, Object and Verb) in the languages of the world, and the cognitive/learning biases that drive these patterns.

What are you going to do?
  • You will conduct online language learning experiments, as well as analysis of structures in existing languages using quantitative corpus data and distributional semantic modelling.
  • You will develop ways to test learning biases and for analysing word order in various languages.
  • You will put the combination of corpus based and experimental work to its best possible use to uncover drivers of structure and variation.

Tasks and responsibilities:
  • performing research on the cognitive science and artificial intelligence topics outlined above
  • submission of a PhD thesis within the period of appointment;
  • participating in meetings of the project research group and developing a shared database;
  • presenting intermediate research results at workshops and conferences;
  • producing high quality research articles;
  • organising knowledge dissemination activities;
  • Participation in the ILLC and Faculty of Humanities PhD training programmes;
  • (Co-)teaching courses at the BA-level in the 2nd and 3rd year of the appointment (max. 0,2FTE per year)

What do you have to offer?

Your experience and profile
Candidates need to have the following qualifications:
  • a completed Master's degree in linguistics, artificial intelligence, computer science, cognitive science or any related programme. You may apply if you have not yet completed your Master's degree only if you provide a signed letter from your supervisor stating that you will graduate before 01 September 2024;
  • a demonstrable interest in interdisciplinary research on the intersection of linguistics and artificial intelligence;
  • demonstrable experience with either natural language processing methods or state-of-the-art corpus linguistics methods, and quantitative research methodologies more broadly;
  • excellent research skills demonstrated by an outstanding Master's thesis and a demonstrable capacity to develop a track record of publishing in major international venues;
  • a strong cooperative attitude and willingness to engage in collaborative research;
  • enthusiasm for communicating academic research to non-academic audiences;
  • a professional command of English and good presentation skills.

Experience with conducting language experiments with human participants and quantitative data analysis are preferred.

Please note that if you already hold a doctorate/PhD or are working towards obtaining a similar degree elsewhere, you will not be admitted to a doctoral programme at the UvA.

What can we offer you?
We offer a temporary employment contract for the period of 48 months. The first contract will be for 16 months, with an extension for the following 32 months, contingent on a positive performance evaluation within the first 12 months. The employment contract is for 38 hours a week. The preferred starting date is 01 September 2024 or as soon thereafter.

Your salary, depending on relevant experience on commencement of the employment contract, ranges from € 2,770 up to a maximum of € 3,539 gross per month on the basis of a full working week of 38 hours. This sum does not include the 8% holiday allowance and the 8,3% year-end allowance. Favourable tax agreements may apply to applicants moving from abroad. The Collective Labour Agreement of Dutch Universities is applicable.

What else do we offer?
  • PhD candidates receive a tuition fee waiver;
  • PhD candidates have free access to courses offered by the Graduate School of Humanities and the Dutch National Research Schools;
  • excellent possibilities for further professional development and education;
  • an inspiring academic and international work environment in the heart of Amsterdam;
  • an enthusiastic and professional academic team.

About us
The University of Amsterdam is the largest university in the Netherlands, with the broadest spectrum of degree programmes. It is an intellectual hub with 42,000 students, 6,000 employees and 3,000 doctoral students who are all committed to a culture of inquiring minds.

The Faculty of Humanities provides education and conducts research with a strong international profile in a large number of disciplines in de field of language and culture. Located in the heart of Amsterdam, the faculty maintains close ties with many cultural institutes in the capital city. Research and teaching staff focus on interdisciplinary collaboration and are active in several teaching programmes.

The Institute for Logic, Language and Computation (ILLC) is a research institute at the UvA in which researchers from the Faculty of Science and the Faculty of Humanities collaborate. Its central research area is the study of fundamental principles of encoding, transmission, and comprehension of information. Research at ILLC is interdisciplinary and aims at bringing together insights from various disciplines concerned with information and information processing, such as logic, mathematics, computer science, linguistics, natural language processing, cognitive science, artificial intelligence, music cognition, and philosophy.

Want to know more about our organisation? Read more about working at the University of Amsterdam.

If you have any questions about the position or the department, please contact during office hours:

Job application
If you feel the profile fits you, and you are interested in the job, we look forward to receiving your application. You can apply online via the link below. We will accept applications until 31 May 2024.

Your application should include the following information:
  • A letter of motivation
  • A full academic CV;
  • A list of all Master-level modules you have taken, with an official transcript of grades;
  • A half page description of a study or project that you think would fit well with the research topic specified in the advertisement text.
  • The names and email addresses of two references, including your advisor, who may be approached by the selection committee.

Please submit the required information in 1 pdf by uploading in the required field ‘CV’.

The first round of interviews will be held in the second half of June.

The UvA is an equal-opportunity employer. We prioritise diversity and are committed to creating an inclusive environment for everyone. We value a spirit of enquiry and perseverance, provide the space to keep asking questions, and promote a culture of curiosity and creativity.

No agencies please.


University of Amsterdam (UvA)


  • PhD
  • Language and culture
  • max. 38 hours per week
  • €2770—€3539 per month
  • University graduate
  • 13006


University of Amsterdam (UvA)

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Kloveniersburgwal 48, 1012CX, Amsterdam

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