PhD in Low-Resource Natural Language Processing & Computational Modeling


Faculty of Arts


Rijksuniversiteit Groningen, University of Groningen, V24.0068

Job description

Applications are invited for a 4-year salaried PhD position within the research project “Polyglot Machines: Human-like Learning of Morphologically Rich Languages”, financed by a NWO-VIDI Talent Grant and coordinated by Principal Investigator (PI) dr. Arianna Bisazza. This is an interdisciplinary project at the intersection of Computational Linguistics/Natural Language Processing (NLP), Computational Psycholinguistics and Language Acquisition.

The PhD Project
Despite the impressive advances made possible by neural networks, current NLP systems are still far from displaying the learning abilities of humans in many languages. By contrast, children around the world acquire extremely diverse languages in comparable time spans and from considerably less linguistic input than that required by neural networks.

This project aims to improve language modeling for low-resource morphologically rich languages, taking inspiration from child language acquisition insights. Among other methodologies, an artificial language learning paradigm will be used to simulate the learning of typologically diverse languages and evaluate the effect of known properties of child-directed language on the acquisition of morphology and other language aspects. Other possible research directions include: the design of better input segmentation methods; language acquisition inspired curriculum learning; and leveraging existing language resources (like dictionaries or morphological analyzers) to boost the learning process in very low-resource settings.

This PhD project offers a unique opportunity to work in an international environment and to acquire valuable research experience: You will be carrying out research in the context of the Computational Linguistics group, which is part of the Centre for Language and Cognition of the University of Groningen (CLCG).

You will be asked to:
- carry out research, present your results and author scientific articles on the above mentioned topics
- collaborate with other members of the team, including postdocs and other PhD candidates
- review Language Acquisition literature relevant to the project’s goals
- engage and collaborate with Language Acquisition researchers interested in the simulation of human language learning with neural networks
- gain teaching experience.

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 31,000 students are encouraged to develop their own individual talents through challenging study- and career paths. The University of Groningen is an international centre of knowledge: It belongs to the best research universities in Europe and is allied with prestigious partner universities and networks worldwide.

The Faculty of Arts is a large, dynamic faculty in the heart of the city of Groningen. It has more than 5000 students and 700 staff members, who are working at the frontiers of knowledge every day. The Faculty offers a wide range of degree programmes: 15 Bachelor's programmes And over 35 Master's specialisations. Our research, which is internationally widely acclaimed, covers Archaeology, Cultural Studies, History, International Relations, Language and Literary Studies, Linguistics and Media and Journalism Studies.


- a Master’s degree in computational linguistics, artificial intelligence, computer science information science, or related area
- excellent communication and academic writing skills in English
- team player mindset and aptitude for interdisciplinary research
- machine learning skills are mandatory
- experience with training and/or designing neural networks for language processing tasks is strongly desired
- research experience in low-resource NLP and/or modeling of morphologically rich languages is a plus.

Conditions of employment

Contract length: 48 months.

In accordance with the Collective Labour Agreement for Dutch Universities, the University of Groningen offers you:

- a salary of € 2,770 gross per month in the first year, up to a maximum of € 3,539 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 1.0 FTE appointment for a specified period of four 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 PhD candidate is expected to conduct a total of 0.4 FTE teaching, spread over the course of the second, third and fourth year of their appointment
- excellent work-life balance
- willingness to move and reside in the Netherlands.

The appointment will commence in September 2024. We allow 3 months from selection in case of VISA applications.

Job Application

Applications must be made in English and contain the following materials: - Curriculum Vitae - copy of Master thesis - if available, copy of a scientific publication that best represents your work - a short statement (between 500 and 1000 words), explaining your motivation for applying - a short research proposal fitting to the theme of the project and reflecting your own research interests (between 500 and 1000 words, excluding references) - copies of Master degree and list of grades - contact details of two academic referees (no letters of recommendation are needed for the application process) If you haven't graduated yet, please attach another sample of academic writing and clearly indicate in your cover letter when you expect to graduate. Attaching a formal letter from your master thesis supervisor is recommended. Please send in your application as three PDF files: - one for the CV - one for the Master thesis (and selected publication, if available) - one for all other documents. NOTE: Incomplete applications may be desk rejected. You may apply for this position until 11 March 11:59PM / before 12 March 2024 Dutch local time (CET) by means of the application form (click on "Apply" below on the advertisement on the university website). Interviews with shortlisted candidates will be held indicatively in the second or third week of April. 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: We provide career services for partners of new faculty members moving to Groningen. Unsolicited marketing is not appreciated.

Additional information

For additional information, please contact:

Drs. Merel Lobo, for questions regarding the submission procedure

Dr. Arianna Bisazza, for information about the project

In your application, please always include the job opening ID V24.0068

Digital application form