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AISB opportunities Bulletin Item

PhD Position, University of Amsterdam, within the NWO funded project 'Modelling the evolution of speech'


*PhD position *(1 fte) within the NWO funded project /Modelling the evolution of speech /

Project supervisor: dr Bart de Boer (http://home.medewerker.uva.nl/b.g.deboer/)

*Project description *We are looking for a PhD student who will build a computer model that is capable of modelling the acoustics of ape vocal tracts, including sub-laryngeal air sacs. The model will be used  among other things  to investigate the abilities of potential ancestral vocal tracts to produce distinctive speech sounds.

The aim of the larger project of which the PhD project will be part, is to unravel the origins of human speech and its relation to grammar. Speech is the main physical medium of human language, and therefore a signalling system that, through its reliability and flexibility, has allowed humans to share and transmit knowledge at an unprecedented scale. The project uses an innovative methodology, where detailed computer simulations are used to deal with the wealth of empirical data available from palaeontology, linguistics, cognitive science and comparative biology. It builds on current developments in language evolution research, where questions that have long fascinated scholars are beginning to yield to serious scientific investigation. The project consists of three parts, which deal with the evolution of the vocal tract, the interaction between speech sounds and grammar and the evolution of the ability to acquire complex combinatorial speech. These subprojects thus deal with three sources of complexity in the speech code: the physics of speech production and perception, the complexity of the dynamics of biological and cultural evolution, and the complexity of language data itself.

*Tasks *The PhD candidate needs to carry out the research within three years and needs to write a dissertation.

*Requirements *MA in artificial intelligence, bioacoustics, linguistics (or equivalent), obtained no longer than five years ago. Furthermore, the PhD candidate has to have experience with computer programming, and knowledge of either speech acoustics or bioacoustics, as well as an affinity with the questions of human evolution and the evolution of language. As the research will be very interdisciplinary, the PhD candidate must also have an ability and willingness to acquire knowledge about a number of related subjects, such as anatomy, archaeology, linguistics and evolutionary biology.

*More information *The document /Guidelines for applying for an internal PhD position /gives precise information about the application procedure. This document can be found on the ACLC website (www.hum.uva.nl/aclc) under PhD candidates. NB Incomplete applications will be automatically rejected so please read the guidelines carefully. Further information can be obtained from the project supervisor, dr Bart de Boer, phone +31 20 525 2182, e-mail B.G.deBoer@uva.nl or from the managing director of the research institute dr. Els Verheugd, phone +31 20 525 2543, e-mail E.A.B.M.Verheugd-Daatzelaar@uva.nl .

*Appointment *The PhD candidate will be appointed for a period of three years (full time), beginning September 1st 2008 (or earlier), at the Faculty of Humanities of the University of Amsterdam under the terms of employment currently valid for the Faculty. A contract will be given in the first instance for one year, with an extension for the following two years on the basis of an evaluation of, amongst other things, a written piece of work. It is possible to work part-time (75%); in that case the appointment will be as of June 1st. The salary (on a full time base) will be  2.279 during the first year (gross per month) and will reach  2.502 during the third year, in accordance with the CAO for Dutch universities.

*Applications *Applications for this position should be sent before March 15^th 2008 to the ACLC office aclc-fgw@uva.nl or to the director of the ACLC, prof. dr A.E. Baker, Spuistraat 210, 1012 VT Amsterdam. Please state the vacancynumber. Applications received after this date or those that are incomplete will not be taken into consideration.

*The Faculty of Humanities *The Faculty of Humanities undertakes teaching and research with a strong international orientation in a large number of disciplines within the field of language and culture. The faculty is situated in the centre of Amsterdam and maintains close contacts with many cultural institutions in the city. It employs almost a thousand staff members and its courses are attended by approximately 6,500 students. The Amsterdam Centre for Language and Communication (ACLC) focuses on the description and explanations for variation in languages and language use. Despite their enormous variety, languages show a remarkable degree of similarity, which can be described in terms of a set of language universals. A key feature of the ACLC approach is that these universals are studied from the widest possible variety of perspectives, both descriptive and theoretical, in order to ensure that the findings are not accidental, but are truly representative of the basic parameters that govern the organization of natural languages. The ACLC includes both functional and formal approaches to language description and encourages dialogue between these approaches. Studies cover all aspects of speech and languages: phonetics, phonology, morphology, syntax, semantics and pragmatics - in a search for the Language Blueprint. Language typology, including that of creole and signed languages, plays an important part in the ACLC programme. Language variation in terms of time, space and context is also a specialisation. The study of variation in the different types of language user - from the child learning her first language to the adult second language learner including also different types of language pathology  is a clear focus. * *