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PhD candidate in Semantics, Pragmatics and Cognition

10 januari 2014
€2,083 to €2,664 gross per month
2 februari 2014
38 hours per week

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.

The PhD position is part of the larger Dutch research consortium 'Language in Interaction'. This research consortium brings together researchers from nine different research institutions in the Netherlands, with complementary expertise in a highly interdisciplinary area of research. This PhD project will be supervised by Prof. Dr. Robert van Rooij (ILLC) and Prof. Dr. Herbert Schriefers (Donders Institute, Radboud University Nijmegen), assisted by Dr. Jakub Szymanik (ILLC).

Project description

Processing vague expressions: The interplay between semantics, pragmatics, and cognition.

A vague term like `big' can be easily used and processed when there is a clear gap between bigger and smaller objects. We will test the hypothesis that a gap in distribution is the default criterion used in the processing of vague words in classificatory tasks, but that other criteria might also come into play. Secondly, we will test whether a similar default exists for the processing of quantity expressions like `most': use the approximate number system, if there is a gap, and precise counting otherwise. The ultimate goal is a unified theory of the processing of vague expressions.

The PhD candidate is expected to:

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


The candidate should have:

  • a Master's degree with excellent grades in a relevant field including cognitive science, philosophy and linguistics;
  • strong motivation;
  • good academic writing and presentation skills;
  • excellent skills in written and spoken English.

The ideal candidate has, on the one hand, a strong background in logical semantics and a very good knowledge of experimental cognitive psychology, of statistical data analysis, and preferably has hands-on experience with the measurement of ERPs and analysis of ERP data. However, applications from excellent candidates with a less than ideal profile will be equally considered.

Further information

Informal enquiries may be directed to:


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

The gross monthly salary will range from €2,083 euos in the first year to €2,664 in the final year, according to the Dutch salary scale for PhD candidates). The collective labour 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 spring 2014.

Job application

The administration of the Language in Interaction project is being carried out by the Radboud University in Nijmegen. N.B.: Applicants should consult the vacancy notice for nine PhD positions for the Language in Interaction project and apply according to the instructions given there. The deadline for applications is 2 February 2014.

No agencies please

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