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AISB opportunities Bulletin Item

Research Fellowship in The Theory and Processing of Figurative Language, Birmingham


The Theory and Processing of Figurative Language
University of Birmingham - School of Computer Science

We invite applications for a postdoctoral(*) research post within an
interdisciplinary, basic-research project entitled "Metaphor and
Metonymy: Addressing a Debate and a Neglected Problem." The project is
funded by a three-year grant from the Leverhulme Trust, and is led by
Prof. John Barnden (School of Computer Science, University of
Birmingham, UK).  This is an interdisciplinary project involving
Artificial Intelligence, Linguistics, Philosophy and (optionally)

The project is about the meaning of human language and how it may be
processed by human minds or by AI systems. It is centred on certain
problems arising from, or exacerbated by, metaphorical expression. The
project will look at the interactions of metaphor with (1) other types
of figurative language, such as metonymy, hyperbole and irony and (2)
with utterance contexts that report people's mental states. However,
both of these directions have implications for language
semantics/pragmatics in general, going well beyond specialised concerns
of figurative language.

The project involves theoretical critique and theory-development in AI,
Linguistics and Philosophy, the collection of relevant discourse data,
and the development and expansion of an existing AI system for metaphor
understanding. The Research Fellow will work in close association with
Barnden. We seek a person who is suited to doing work that is broadly
interdisciplinary while being intellectually deep in each discipline
involved, and who is able both to perform precise, specialised technical
work and to see the big picture.

We welcome applications from candidates who already have or will soon
have a doctoral degree in Artificial Intelligence, Computer Science,
Linguistics, Philosophy, Psychology or a closely related field, or who
have equivalent research experience. Programming skills (especially in
an AI-orientated programming language such as Prolog) and experience
with advanced linguistic/philosophical theory are highly desirable
though not essential. Experience with the precise topics of the research
is not expected though it would of course be desirable.

The School in general welcomes basic research that crosses between
computer science and the humanities. The School provides a friendly,
exciting and flexible environment in which to do research, distinguished
by a lack of rigid boundaries between groups and by open, consensual
management of research support. The School ranked 7th, as regards the
proportion of its research that is rated 4* (highest-quality), out of
all UK Computer Science Departments in the recent national Research
Assessment Exercise (RAE 2008).

The post is available for three years with an anticipated start date of
between July and September 2010. Formal applications should be submitted
via the University's job site (below). Informal enquiries (only) should
be addressed to John Barnden (, +44 (0)121 414

Starting salary of 27,319 a year, in the range of 27,319 to 35,646 a
year (potential progression on performance once in post to 37,839).

Further details about the research and the School environment can be
found at the following website:

Closing date:  16 June 2010     
Reference (= University's job number):  43545

To download further details and submit an electronic application online
Alternatively information can be obtained from +44 (0)121 415 9000.

(*) Although the position is essentially postdoctoral, someone can be
appointed before actually receiving a doctorate if there is sufficiently
strong evidence that a doctorate will shortly be awarded.