PhD Positions in Language

Utrecht University

PhD Positions in Language


Job description
The PhD positions are part of a round of a new project financed by European Research Council (ERC). The title of the project is “Memory access in language: how we store and retrieve linguistic information”.

We are seeking to hire highly motivated, driven, and talented PhD students to carry out this project in a period of four years. The project will be carried out at the Institute for Language Sciences (ILS) at Utrecht University. You will be working in an interdisciplinary team with researchers from the fields of linguistics, psychology and artificial intelligence.

Project description:
This project aims to develop, implement and test a general model of memory that can provide insights into how we store and retrieve linguistic information and how our language use is intertwined with memory when we communicate. The model to be developed and tested will be hybrid in the sense that it merges linguistic factors uncovered in computational and theoretical linguistics with general cognitive mechanisms. The overarching goal is to find out how the model of memory can be generalised across various linguistic domains, from the lexicon through syntax to discourse semantics, and how the memory model can help us predict diverse quantitative data in linguistics and cognitive science.

There are two components in the project: an empirical one and a computational one. The empirical component of the project will consist in developing, carrying out and analysing experiments that collect behavioral data (e.g., reaction times, eye fixations) or EEG data. The computational modelling component will involve simulating behavioral and neural data connected to processing and memory retrieval.

The project will involve 2 PhD students and 2 post-doctoral researchers. While the focus of the PhD students should be on the empirical component of the project, they will be encouraged to cross over to the computational component of the project. The following links provide more information:

Tasks for the PhD students:
  • Completion and defense of an article-based PhD thesis within four years;
  • Publication of peer-reviewed articles in established international journals;
  • Regular presentation of intermediate research results at workshops and conferences;
  • Co-organization of project workshops, language training and conferences;
  • Participation in training programs and international expert meetings;
  • Participation in relevant training programmes provided by the Institute for language sciences (ILS) and the Utrecht University Graduate School, the National Graduate School of Linguistics (LOT) and other organisations.

We are looking for two PhD students with:
  • a Master degree (or equivalent) in linguistics, psychology or artificial intelligence in hand by the starting date;
  • demonstrable knowledge in at least one of the following areas: experimental research, statistical analyses, linguistic theories, computational linguistics;
  • high proficiency in academic English;
  • ability to work both as an independent researcher and as a team member;
  • affinity with interdisciplinary research;
  • strong organisational, social and communication skills;
  • ability to meet deadlines;
  • readiness to learn new experimental methods and statistical analyses;
  • prior experience with reaction-time experiments, reading experiments (e.g., eye tracking) or EEG experiments (is a plus).


We offer:

  • a position (1.0 FTE) for 1 year, with an extension to a total of four years upon successful assessment;
  • a full-time gross salary between €2,770 in the first year and €3,539 in the fourth year of employment in scale P of the Collective Labour Agreement Dutch Universities;
  • 8% holiday bonus and 8.3% end-of-year bonus;
  • a pension scheme, partially paid parental leave, and flexible employment conditions based on the Collective Labour Agreement Dutch Universities.

In addition to the employment conditions from the CAO for Dutch Universities, Utrecht University has a number of its own arrangements. These include agreements on professional development, leave arrangements, sports and cultural schemes and you get discounts on software and other IT products. We also give you the opportunity to expand your terms of employment through the Employment Conditions Selection Model. This is how we encourage you to grow.

For more information, please visit working at Utrecht University.

About the organization

A better future for everyone. This ambition motivates our scientists in executing their leading research and inspiring teaching. At Utrecht University, the various disciplines collaborate intensively towards major strategic themes. Our focus is on Dynamics of Youth, Institutions for Open Societies, Life Sciences and Pathways to Sustainability. Sharing science, shaping tomorrow.

The Faculty of Humanities has around 7,000 students and 1,100 staff members. It comprises four knowledge domains: Philosophy and Religious Studies, History and Art History, Media and Culture Studies, and Languages, Literature and Communication. With its research and education in these fields, the Faculty aims to contribute to a better understanding of the Netherlands and Europe in a rapidly changing social and cultural context. The enthusiastic and committed colleagues and the excellent amenities in the historical city centre of Utrecht, where the faculty is located, contribute to an inspiring working environment.

The faculty strives for diversity among its employees and students and is committed to creating a safe and inclusive environment for everyone, as can be read in Utrecht University's Equality, Diversity and Inclusion policy.

The core values of the faculty for Humanities are professionalism, transparency, responsibility, connectedness and safety. These values apply to everyone and we uphold these values in our work and in our communication with each other and with others.

Additional information

For more information about this position, please contact Dr Jakub Dotlacil (Assistant Professor at the department of  Languages, Literature and Communication) at or Dr Maaike Schoorlemmer (Research Coordinator at ILS) at

Everyone deserves to feel at home at our university. We welcome employees with a wide variety of backgrounds and perspectives. 

If you are interested in applying for the advertised PhD positions, please submit digital copies of (individual documents, not zipped):
  • a CV including full personal and academic details;
  • a motivation letter clearly supporting your interest in this PhD position, copies of relevant diplomas and academic transcripts;
  • your (draft) Master’s thesis and other relevant publications you can provide;
  • names and full contact details of two academic referees.

Please include your name and a reference to the position you are applying for in the filenames and use the application button to apply.

If applicable, you will be invited for an interview by the end of November. Interviews will be conducted at the beginning of December, during week 49.

The application deadline is