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PhD candidate in Semantics, Pragmatics and Cognition

Publication date
15 December 2014
Level of education
Salary indication
€2,083 to €2,664 gross per month
Closing date
1 February 2015
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.

The PhD position is part of the larger Dutch NWO Gravitation 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 project will involve collaborative work to be carried out at the Institute of Logic, Language, and Computation (ILLC) at the University of Amsterdam (Prof. Van Rooij) and the Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behaviour at Radboud University (Prof. H. Schriefers). The position will be embedded in the ILLC. Both involved institutes offer an international research.

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.


We are looking for a highly motivated, creative and talented PhD candidate to enrich a unique consortium of researchers that aims to unravel the neurocognitive mechanisms of language at multiple levels. The goal is to understand both the universality and the variability of the human language faculty from genes to behaviour.

The selection criteria include:

  • a Master's degree in any relevant field;
  • a strong interest in language and meaning and a strong background in either (a) Experimental cognitive psychology and statistical data analysis (with preferably hands-on experience with the measurement of ERPs and analyses of ERP data), or (b) logical semantics;
  • strong motivation;
  • excellent proficiency in written and spoken English.

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 in the first year to €2,664 in the final year, according to the Dutch salary scale for PhD students). The collective labour agreement (CAO) of Dutch universities is applicable.

The successful applicant will work under the daily supervision of Prof. Robert van Rooij.

Job application

The administration of the Language in Interaction project is carried out by the Radboud University in Nijmegen. N.B.: Applicants should consult the vacancy notice for this PhD position on the Language in Interaction website, and apply according to the instructions given there. The deadline for applications is 1 February 2015.

No agencies please

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