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Two PhD candidates in formal semantics and pragmatics

Publication date
28 October 2013
Level of education
Salary indication
€2,083 to €2,664 gross per month
Closing date
15 December 2013
38 hours per week
Vacancy number

The Institute for Logic, Language and Computation (ILLC) is a research institute at the University of Amsterdam, in which researchers from the Faculty of Science and the Faculty of Humanities collaborate. Its central research area is the study of fundamental principles of encoding, transmission and comprehension of information. Research at ILLC is interdisciplinary, and aims at bringing together insights from various disciplines concerned with information and information processing, such as computational linguistics, logic, mathematics, computer science, linguistics, cognitive science, artificial intelligence and philosophy.

Both PhD positions are part of the larger ERC interdisciplinary ESSENCE project on the grounding of a shared semantics, which is one of the Marie Curie Initial Training Networks. Prof. Dr. Robert van Rooij is the principle investigator of this project in Amsterdam, and will also be the supervisor of both PhD candidates.

Project description

One successful candidate is expected to work on (the evolution of) Categorization, the other on Pragmatics (in particular on social constraints on succesful communication).

Position 1

The task of the PhD candidate working on Categorization is to investigate requirements for the possibility of shared categorization and conventional meaning. This research might take various directions depending on the interest of the candidate. It could, for instance, concentrate on agent's cognitive architectures, by searching for constraints of conceptual spaces, or on the nature of the communicative constraints. But the research might also be more philosophical, investigating what the world must be like such that it can be meaningfully categorized in the first place. In any case, the candidate should concentrate not just on simple, but also on complex categories and/or kinds.

Position 2

The task of the PhD candidate working on Pragmatics will be to determine what are effective persuasion strategies, given the goals of the communicator and the relevant interpersonal relationships with his or her addressees. The aim is to come up with a formal model, making use, for instance, of game theory.

Both PhD students are expected to:

  • complete and defend a PhD thesis within the official appointment duration of three years;
  • regularly present intermediate research results at international conferences and workshops, and publish them in proceedings and journals;
  • collaborate with the other team and project members on common research targets;
  • collaborate with the researchers in other relevant parts of the ESSENCE project and the ILLC;
  • assist in relevant teaching activities.


The candidate should have:

  • a Master's degree with excellent grades in a relevant field including artificial intelligence, philosophy and linguistics;
  • good academic writing and presentation skills;
  • good social and organizational skills;
  • strong interest in a scientific career;
  • working on an international and interdisciplinary research project.

The candidates have to fulfill the rules that apply to Marie Curie ITN fellows:

  • no more than 12 months spent in the last 3 years in the Netherlands, counting from date of recruitment (1st of February 2014). The fellow can be from any country in the world, including a national from the Netherlands itself (as long as they have been mostly away in the last three years);
  • no PhD and within at most 4 years from the diploma that gives the rights to embark in a doctoral degree, counting from date of recruitment.

Further information

Informal enquiries may be directed to:


The full-time appointments will be on a temporary basis for a maximum period of four years (18 months plus a further 18, or possibly 30, months after a positive evaluation) and should lead to a dissertation (PhD thesis). An educational plan will be drafted that includes attendance of courses and (international) meetings.

The gross monthly salary will range from €2,083 in the first year to €2,664 (assuming a four year position) in the final year, according to the Dutch salary scales for PhD students. The collective employment agreement (CAO) of Dutch universities is applicable.

The successful applicant will work under the daily supervision of Prof. Dr. Robert van Rooij. The preferred starting date is 1 February 2014.

Job application

Applications may only be submitted by electronic mail by clicking the Apply now-button below or by sending your application to To process your application immediately, please quote the vacancy number 13-360 and the position you are applying for in the subject-line.

Applications (PDF only, all information in a single file) for the PhD positions should include a letter of interest, a curriculum vitae, a research proposal of 1000-1500 words (excluding references), certificates, a transcript of courses taken (including grades) and two letters of recommendation. The deadline for applications is 15 December 2013.

Please note that this newsitem has been archived, and may contain outdated information or links.