PhD candidate in Humanities

Research / Academic

The Faculty of Humanities invites applications from excellent candidates who wish to conduct research on cross-linguistic diversity in the grammatical behaviour of alternating verbs. The PhD position is part of the NWO-funded project Exceptions rule! Lexical restriction on grammatical structure led by dr Eva van Lier (University of Amsterdam).

According to usage-based linguistic theory, verb-argument constructions are not formed by abstract rules operating on the entire verbal lexicon, but rather emerge from speakers' experience with specific verbs in communicative context. However, in linguistic typology verb-specific grammatical structures have often, until recently, been treated as exceptions.

Psycholinguistic experiments confirm that language users have highly verb-specific grammatical knowledge, but these experiments assess only a few constructions in mostly Germanic languages.

In this project, the focus will be on alternating verbs, which require speakers to choose between multiple argument-coding frames. The PhD candidate will carry out detailed analyses of alternating verbs in a range of genetically and areally diverse languages, to be selected on the basis of existing literature and availability of sources (grammars/dictionaries, corpora, specialists, native speakers). For each language s/he will study the frequency of specific verbs and associated argument-coding frames, the size and composition of verbal sub-classes, and factor determining choice of coding frame. The resulting cross-linguistic database will be mined to detect cross-linguistic clustering of verbs and constructions, as well genetic/areal/structural effects.

The PhD project is integrated into a larger project, which aims to show the relevance of verb-specific grammatical knowledge in a wide variety of languages. The candidate will work in a team with the PI, a post-doc specializing in experimental research, and various specialists on specific languages.

Tasks of the PhD candidate include:

  • collecting, analysing, and interpreting cross-linguistic data on alternating verbs, including corpus-data;
  • creating and maintaining an open access typological database;
  • completing and defending a PhD thesis within four years;
  • regular presentations of intermediate research results at workshops and conferences;
  • publication of peer-reviewed articles;
  • collaboration in research team;
  • co-organization of expert meetings;
  • teaching in year 2 and 3 of the PhD project (max. 0,2 fte);
  • participation in the training program of the research school.


- MA (or equivalent) with excellent grades in general linguistics.
- Specialized knowledge of:

  • linguistic typology;
  • morpho-syntax;
  • functional (usage-based) linguistic theory;
  • corpus linguistics;
  • statistics

- Excellent research skills.
- Excellent academic writing and presentation skills.
- Excellent communicative, social, and organisational skills.
- Excellent proficiency in English.

Salary Benefits:

The PhD candidate will be appointed at the Faculty of Humanities. The appointment is for 4 years for 1,0 fte under the terms of employment currently valid for the Faculty. In the first instance, a contract will be given for 16 months, with an extension for the following 32 months on the basis of a positive evaluation. The intended starting date of the contract is 1 January 2020. The gross monthly salary will be €2,325 during the first year to €2,972 during the fourth year, based on 38 hours per week, in accordance with the Collective Labour Agreement of Dutch Universities.

Work Hours:

38 hours per week


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