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PhD position announcement

Subject: PhD position announcement
From: Dave Mellinger <>
Date: Thu, 21 Feb 2008 08:41:09 -0800
This is forwarded from Bart be Boer, 

Dear colleagues,

I have a PhD position available at the university of Amsterdam. The
project will be to model the role of supralaryngeal air sacs in
vocalization and investigate the impact of this role on the evolution of
the vocal tract. Please find the text of the job announcement below.
Feel free to send it to anyone who might be interested.

Best regards,
Bart de Boer

PhD position (1 fte) within the NWO funded project Modelling the
evolution of speech
Project supervisor: Dr Bart de Boer

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.

 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 (
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  or from the managing director of
the research institute dr. Els Verheugd, phone +31 20 525 2543, e-mail

 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

 Applications for this position should be sent before March 15th 2008
to the ACLC office  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.

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