What would we be without language? What would science be without language? How would we be able to communicate without language?
Our ability to communicate with each other, our ability to organise our thoughts, is really at the heart of what makes us human.
Without language, we would not be able to share knowledge, accumulate knowledge, and exchange information. These are crucial aspects of modern life. Therefore, it is essential for understanding where we are in modern society and in our culture to really understand the basic capacity that underlines all this, and that is human language.
The Max Planck Institute in Nijmegen is entirely devoted to psycholinguistics – the study of how we produce and understand language, and how we acquire these skills as first or second language learners. Our MPI is one of the few institutes of the Max Planck Society located outside Germany.
Ever since the Institute was established in 1980, our researchers have been pursuing answers to questions such as: How do our minds and brains process language? How does language interact with other aspects of the mind? And how we can learn completely different languages?
We are located on the Radboud University campus, and have close collaborative links with the Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behaviour and the Centre for Language Studies, both part of Radboud University.
The study of language is thoroughly multidisciplinary. Our researchers have backgrounds in various disciplines, ranging from anthropology, linguistics, and psychology to neuroscience, genetics, computer science, and archiving technology.
The MPI for Psycholinguistics has a very international atmosphere. Our researchers and operations staff come from all over the world - around 25 nationalities are represented! - and we have many active partnerships with colleagues in the UK, Europe, the USA, Australia, Korea, China, and Japan. And it goes without saying that we also collaborate with other Max Planck Institutes.
Paolo Devanna, Research Assistant and PhD student, Neurogenetics of Vocal Communication research group:
“The challenge to understand how the genetic code allows humans to have such a complex form of communication is what brought me to the MPI in Nijmegen. Here, researchers have the resources and the intellectual drive to investigate all the facets of human language. They engage in multidisciplinary projects and coordinated efforts that make every day at the Institute a new, exciting learning opportunity.”
Kartikeyan Devaraju, Postdoctoral Researcher, the Language & Genetics research group:
“One or a few genes, if disturbed, can affect our speech and language skills. I create human neural networks in the lab and observe their structure and language, hoping to find out what happens when genes are disturbed that affect speech and language. Working here has been a pleasant experience and I enjoy working in a multidisciplinary setup.”
Monique Flecken, Senior Investigator, Neurobiology of Language department:
“What drives me is the enormous diversity among the languages of the world. Most psycholinguistic research studies ‘the usual suspects’, i.e., Dutch, German, and English, but the MPI for Psycholinguistics has a rich tradition of investigating a wide variety of understudied languages. I think it is very important that research on language, focuses on languageS (plural!).
The great thing about working at the MPI for Psycholinguistics is the unique combination of skills. We learn a lot from each other. For example, I am one of a number of linguists working in the Neurobiology of Language department - I think my colleagues and I complement each other in our knowledge of language on the one hand, and of the brain on the other.
The MPI for Psycholinguistics is THE place to be in the world for researching psycholinguistics; this means that we can attract highly-renowned guests and speakers from all over the world; there is so much to learn here!”
Jan Achterberg, Facility Manager, Operations department:
“The MPI is a great place to work. Our main task is to provide the scientists with all the facilities they need. In doing so, we get plenty of support from the Max Planck Society in the form of money and resources. We are also supported by the other departments.
In the scientific world, I have the impression that you only come across friendly and understanding people - which makes our work very enjoyable.
We work in a sector that is developing very fast, making this a challenging job in which we have the opportunity to work with a diverse range of young scientists from all over the world.”
All of this makes the MPI for Psycholinguistics in Nijmegen a fantastic place to work!
If you are interested in working at the MPI, check out our current job openings to see if there is a suitable position available for you.