The General Linguistics research group at the Department of Language, Literature and Communication of the VU Faculty of Humanities is seeking to fill two PhD positions. The positions are part of the ERC-funded project ‘Papuans on the move. The linguistic prehistory of the West Papuan languages’, which is devoted to the documentation of putative West Papuan languages in Indonesia and the reconstruction of their history by means of comparative analysis. Both projects will be carried out in close collaboration with the project’s principal investigator, Antoinette Schapper, and will involve documentary fieldwork in collaboration with local Indonesian scholars and communities. The positions include ample funding for research and travel. Short descriptions of each of the projects are provided below. Candidates are strongly encouraged to read the project descriptions carefully when preparing their applications.
PhD project 1: The North Halmahera languages
The Papuan languages of North Halmahera have been subject to significant descriptive work from the 19th century onward. Their linguistic relationship to one another is considered uncontroversial in the Papuan linguistic literature. However, there is still little known about the properties of their ancestral language, Proto-North Halmahera. Through an in-depth lexical and morphological reconstruction of Proto-North Halmahera, this project will seek to understand processes of diversification and change in the family. In particular, this project will look to disentangle strata of Austronesian grammatical and lexical influence at different points in the North Halmaheran family. Fieldwork for this project will involve documentation of the West Makian language, but much of the project will be concerned with comparative analysis of the extensive materials which already exist for many languages in the family.
PhD project 2: The West Bird’s Head languages
This project will be concerned with the West Bird’s Head languages, a lexically divergent group with comparatively little documentation. This project will involve survey work on the whole West Bird’s Head group as well as in-depth fieldwork on one or two of the languages. Methodologically, the project will be engaged with issues surrounding lexical replacement and semantic shifts, and how these can drive language divergence and obscure linguistic relationships.
- conduct research on the topic of the project, resulting in a PhD thesis and in journal publications
- conduct fieldwork on languages relevant to the project
- contribute data to the larger project’s research outputs
- participate in and contribute to the activities of the project, including conference/workshop organization
- the candidate should have a Master’s or Research Master’s degree in the field of Linguistics. The candidate will have a strong academic record and affinity with language description and historical linguistics
- familiarity with Malay/Indonesian would be a plus, as both projects will involve fieldwork in Indonesia. If the candidate has no knowledge of Indonesian, s/he will be expected to develop it in the first 6 months of the project
- for “PhD project 1”, reading knowledge of Dutch will be highly advantageous.
- excellent spoken and written English as well as strong academic writing skills are essential
WHAT ARE WE OFFERING?
A challenging position in a lively project team. The salary will be in accordance with university regulations for academic personnel and amounts € 2.395 gross per month during the first year and increases to € 3.061 gross per month during the fourth year, based on a full-time employment.
The appointment will initially be for 1 year. After a satisfactory evaluation of the initial appointment, the contract will be extended for another 3 years.
Additionally, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam offers excellent fringe benefits and various schemes and regulations to promote a good work/life balance, such as:
- a maximum of 41 days of annual leave based on full-time employment
- 8% holiday allowance and 8,3% end-of-year bonus
- solid pension scheme (ABP)
The position will start on 1 September 2021.
ABOUT VRIJE UNIVERSITEIT AMSTERDAM
The ambition of Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam is clear: to contribute to a better world through outstanding education and ground-breaking research. We strive to be a university where personal development and commitment to society play a leading role. A university where people from different disciplines and backgrounds collaborate to achieve innovations and to generate new knowledge. Our teaching and research encompass the entire spectrum of academic endeavour – from the humanities, the social sciences and the natural sciences through to the life sciences and the medical sciences.
Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam is home to more than 26,000 students. We employ over 4,600 individuals. The VU campus is easily accessible and located in the heart of Amsterdam’s Zuidas district, a truly inspiring environment for teaching and research.
We are an inclusive university community. Diversity is one of our most important values. We believe that engaging in international activities and welcoming students and staff from a wide variety of backgrounds enhances the quality of our education and research. We are always looking for people who can enrich our world with their own unique perspectives and experiences.
Faculty of Humanities
The Faculty of Humanities links a number of fields of study: Language, Literature and Communication, Art & Culture, History, Antiquities and Philosophy. Our teaching and research focus on current societal and scientific themes: from artificial intelligence to visual culture, from urbanization to the history of slavery, from ‘fake news’ in journalism to communication in organizations. We strive to ensure small group sizes. Innovative education and interdisciplinary research are our hallmarks.
Working at the Faculty of Humanities means making a real contribution to the quality of leading education and research in an inspiring and personal work and study climate. We employ more than 250 staff members, and we are home to around 1,300 students.
About the research group
The General Linguistics Research group is led by Prof. Lourens de Vries.
The group is concerned with three central research questions: what characteristics are shared by languages; within what limits do languages vary; and how can we explain both the universal characteristics and the differences between languages? In trying to find answers to these questions we look at the limits set by human cognition, the organs of articulation and hearing, and the brain, as well as investigating the circumstances within which languages function (situational, cultural and historical contexts), the evolution of language, language learning, language loss, language pathology and language contact.
Are you interested in these positions? Please apply via the application button and upload your curriculum vitae including academic transcripts, a cover letter including two references (names and emails) and a writing sample in English of circa 5000 words before May 15, 2021. In your cover letter you should describe which PhD project you are applying for, and your motivation and qualifications.
Interviews will be conducted remotely at the end of May.
Applications received by e-mail will not be processed.
If you have any questions regarding this vacancy, you may contact:
Name: Dr. A.C.J. (Antoinette) Schapper
Position: Associate Professor Language