PhD position Morphological productivity in polysynthetic languages (0.8 FTE)


Faculty of Arts


University of Groningen

Since its foundation in 1614, the University of Groningen has established an international reputation as a dynamic and innovative university offering high-quality teaching and research. Its 36,000 students are encouraged to develop their own individual talents through challenging study and career paths. The University of Groningen is an international center of knowledge: it belongs to the best research universities in Europe and is allied with prestigious partner universities and networks worldwide.

The Graduate School for the Humanities is the home to all PhD candidates of the Faculty of Arts (circa 250), and is committed to creating and maintaining excellent conditions for PhD research in all fields of the humanities. In addition to organizing local courses, the GSH works closely with 16 national research schools which offer regular courses and seminars by national and international top researchers.

The Centre for Language and Cognition of the University of Groningen (CLCG) is the institutional home for all the linguistic research carried out within the Faculty of Arts. The Theoretical and Empirical Linguistics group of CLCG provides a vibrant working atmosphere with state-of-the-art research in all major areas of Theoretical Linguistics.

Job description

We are offering a 60-month PhD position (0.8 FTE) within the project ‘Shades of grammar: The cognitive basis of morphological productivity in polysynthetic languages’, funded by the Dutch Research Council (NWO) with a five-year VIDI grant (Principal Investigator: Dr Maria Mazzoli, University of Groningen). The appointed candidate will have an expertise in polysynthetic languages and corpus analysis, and a strong interest in morphology and collaborative fieldwork.

The project (henceforth SHADES) aims to establish how morphological productivity works in polysynthetic languages, as a new line of interdisciplinary research using insights from experimental psycholinguistics (morphological priming), fieldwork techniques (elicitation of acceptability judgements) and community-based work. Polysynthetic languages are defined within the scope of this project as languages featuring noun incorporation and lexical affixation within the verb stem as it is the case in Algonquian, Eskimo-Aleut or Munda languages. In addition to the Principal Investigator and the PhD position advertised in this vacancy, the SHADES team will feature a Postdoc with a psycholinguistics background (36 months, 2023-2025). The PhD will focus on corpus analysis and the elicitation of acceptability judgements of neologisms, in collaboration with the Principal Investigator.

SHADES includes a substantial knowledge utilization component, which means a close collaboration with Indigenous communities and the integration of community-oriented goals within the scope of the project (e.g. through the supporting of community-based programs).

This PhD project offers a unique opportunity to work in an international research environment as well as to acquire valuable teaching experience: the PhD candidate is expected to conduct 0.3 FTE teaching during the second, third and fourth year of their appointment (0.1 FTE yearly).

Tasks and responsibilities:

- carrying out a corpus-based analysis of word formation patterns (i.e. noun incorporation, lexical affixation, derivation) and their productivity on an existing corpus or one put together by the applicant
- conduct fieldwork and data collection on a polysynthetic language (six months to one year)
- contributing to the activities of the SHADES project, such as the conference series and networking with interested language speaking communities and Indigenous stakeholders
- presenting research results at workshops and conferences, and publishing academic articles
- engaging in public outreach and knowledge utilization activities related to the project
- participating in regular meetings with the other project team members, and assisting the Principal Investigator in communication tasks (e.g. co-managing project website, writing blog posts)
- conducting 0.3 FTE teaching during the second, third and fourth year of their appointment (0.1 FTE yearly).


- (Research) MA degree in Linguistics (possibly with a focus on a polysynthetic language) or another related discipline
- availability for fieldwork six months to one year
- the candidate has some familiarity with the study of polysynthetic languages and/or morphology
- a demonstrable interest/experience in fieldwork and collaborative community-based methodologies
- excellent research skills (as shown, for instance, by the candidate’s MA thesis)
- enthusiasm for communicating academic research to non-academic audiences
- good command of English.

Preferential qualifications:

- the candidate identifies as Indigenous person of a community speaking a language which could be relevant to the project (e.g. featuring noun incorporation and/or lexical affixation to the verb)
- the candidate speaks a polysynthetic language
- the candidate has familiarity with fieldwork elicitation techniques and statistical data analysis
- the candidate has a demonstrable interest or experience in the framework of Relational Morphology.

Conditions of employment

Contract length: 12 months.

We offer you in accordance with the Collective Labour Agreement for Dutch Universities (CAO NU):

- a salary of € 2,541 gross per month in the first year, up to a maximum of € 3,247 gross per month in the final year, based on a full-time position
- a holiday allowance of 8% gross annual income
- an 8.3% end-of-the-year allowance
- a temporary 0.8 FTE appointment for a specified period of five years. The candidate will first be appointed for twelve months. After six months, an assessment will take place of the candidate’s results and the progress of the PhD project, in order to decide whether employment will be continued.

The prospective starting date is 1 February 2023

You will be enrolled in the Graduate School for the Humanities (GSH) of the Faculty of Arts at the University of Groningen. The GSH offers the organizational infrastructure within which PhD candidates participate in advanced training and supervised research:

You will be carrying out your research in the context of the Center for Language and Cognition Groningen Research Institute (CLCG).

Job Application

You may apply for this position until 30 October 11:59pm / before 31 October 2022 Dutch local time (CET) by means of the application form (click on “Apply” below on the advertisement on the university website)

Applications should include:

1. A letter of motivation (max. 800 words), explaining why you are a suitable candidate for this PhD position, possibly highlighting your expertise in the study of polysynthetic morphology(ies) and motivating your interest in morphological productivity. Please also mention whether you have familiarity with a specific polysynthetic language, or you have a connection to an Indigenous language community speaking a language relevant to the project;
2. A curriculum vitae demonstrating your academic excellence, including a list of publications and presentations (if applicable);
3. A proof of writing, such as an academic paper or a chapter from your MA thesis;
4. Certified copies of your BA and MA degrees (in case of an on-going MA degree, please include a letter from your thesis supervisor, certifying that the degree will be obtained before 1 February 2023);
5. Contact information of two academic referees who are familiar with your work, and whom we may contact directly if we need more information.

Applications have to be submitted electronically in PDF format by means of the application form. Applications that are incomplete will not be taken into account.

The selection interviews will take place in the first or second week of November 2022.

The University of Groningen strives to be a university in which students and staff are respected and feel at home, regardless of differences in background, experiences, perspectives, and identities. We believe that working on our core values of inclusion and equality are a joint responsibility and we are constructively working on creating a socially safe environment. Diversity among students and staff members enriches academic debate and contributes to the quality of our teaching and research. We therefore invite applicants from underrepresented groups in particular to apply. For more information, see also our diversity policy webpage:[…]/

Our selection procedure follows the guidelines of the Recruitment code (NVP): and European Commission's European Code of Conduct for recruitment of researchers:

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Additional information

For additional information, please contact:

Dr Maria Mazzoli (for questions about the position and the research project)

Dr Liset Rouweler (for questions regarding the submission procedure)

In your application, please always include the job opening ID 222656

Digital application form