PhD position in the Group ‘Language Evolution and Adaptation in Diverse Situations'

We are looking for a full-time PhD candidate to join the newly founded Minerva Group ‘Language Evolution and Adaptation in Diverse Situations’ (LEADS), led by Dr. Limor Raviv, at the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics. The ‘Language Evolution and Adaptation in Diverse Situations’ (LEADS) group is embedded in the Language & Genetics department of the MPI for Psycholinguistics.

Doctoral supervisor: dr. Limor Raviv
(Co-)Promotors: prof. dr. Simon Kirby & prof. dr. Simon Fisher

Job description

The 4-year PhD project will combine experimental and computational methods to investigate the role of age and gender diversity in shaping language innovation and change. Specifically, you will investigate whether different linguistic tendencies are associated with speakers of different gender and age who are situated in diverse communities, and whether women and adolescents really lead the process of language change from the initial stages of language emergence. These questions will be addressed using two complementary methods: 1. Group communication games, in which mini-societies of interacting participants come to the lab and create new artificial languages to communicate with each other; And 2. Computational models, in which populations of simulated hierarchical Bayesian agents interact with each other over generations.

  • The position is available from September 2021, though later starts in 2021 are possible.

What we expect from you

  • Candidates should have, or shortly expect to obtain, a high-quality (Research) Master’s degree or equivalent in a relevant field (e.g., linguistics, sociolinguistics, cognitive science, experimental/computational psychology, artificial intelligence, computer science).
  • Experience in data analysis/statistical analysis/programming in R and/or Python.
  • An interest in empirical research.
  • An interest in computational modeling.
  • An interest in language evolution, sociolinguistics, language learning and/or communication.

Desirable (traits that would give you an advantage)

  • Experience in language evolution, sociolinguistics, language learning and/or other related fields.
  • Experience in empirical research (e.g., experimental design, recruitment, participant testing, quantitative data analysis, report writing).
  • Experience in computational modelling (e.g., agent-based models, cognitive learning models).
  • Experience in programming with the experiment software Presentation/PsychPy.
  • Existing publications and conference presentation experience.

What we have to offer

The PhD position is fully funded for 4 years (starting gross salary is € 2.673,71 per month). The institute provides fully equipped research facilities, technical support, as well as a conference and travel budget. PhD students participate in the International Max Planck Research School for Language Sciences, which involves core and individually chosen coursework to complement the PhD research and training in soft skills such as writing and presentation. You are entitled to 30 holiday days per year (on the basis of fulltime employment), as well as Dutch and German institute holidays.

Work environment / employer

The MPI for Psycholinguistics conducts interdisciplinary research into the psychological, social and biological foundations of language. Scientists at the Institute study a variety of topics including how children and adults acquire language, the role of genetic factors, how speaking and listening happen in real time, how the brain processes language for communication, and how language connects to cognition and culture. The Institute's approach to the science of language and communication is unique, addressing these fundamental issues at multiple levels, from molecules and cells to circuits and brains, all the way through to the behaviour of individuals and populations.

We are situated on the campus of the Radboud University in Nijmegen, and have close collaborative links with the Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behaviour and the Centre for Language Studies at Radboud University. Staff and students at the MPI have access to state-of-the art research facilities (including audio-visual equipment, EEG, fMRI, eye tracking, virtual reality labs, molecular biology labs, and a child development lab).

The Institute is part of the Max Planck Society, an independent non-governmental association of German-funded research institutes dedicated to fundamental research in the natural sciences, life sciences, social sciences, and the humanities.

The MPI for Psycholinguistics recognizes the positive value of diversity, promotes equality and challenges discrimination. We are committed to redressing systemic problems with diversity in science, and therefore welcome applications from individuals from minority groups and from groups that are otherwise underrepresented.

How to Apply

Applications should include:

  1. One-page statement of why you are interested in this post, why you consider yourself
    a good match for the post, your qualifications, and what your research interests are
  2. One-page summary of your MA/MSc dissertation.
  3. CV including publication list.
  4. Names and email addresses of at least three referees who would be willing to provide letters of recommendation (upon request).
  5. Details of your availability for interview via Zoom between May 27th and June 10th 2021.

The deadline for applications is May 17th, 2021.

Please apply here

For questions and informal enquiries, contact Dr. Limor Raviv (limor.raviv [at]

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