Job: PhD position in historical computational linguistics, KU Leuven

A PhD position is offered as part of the FWO-funded project « Population developments co-determine diffusional language change: a close-up view on West-Germanic languages », under the supervision of Prof. Freek Van de Velde and Prof. Hubert Cuyckens (co-supervisor). The project is to be carried out within the research group ‘Quantitative Lexicology and Variational Linguistics’ (QLVL), which is part of the Department of Linguistics. QLVL has a strong tradition in language variation and change. The group focuses on advanced quantitative methods for studying lexical and constructional variation.

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This project investigates the relation between urban population developments and morphological changes in three major West-Germanic languages, English, Dutch, German, from the beginning of Early Modernity to the end of Classical Modernity (1500-1900). The main hypothesis is that morphological simplification accelerates when urban populations grow. Put more succinctly: word structure becomes simpler when cities grow. The reason is that the growth in this period is brought about mainly by immigration involving speakers from different dialects and different languages, resulting in what linguists call ‘koineisation’ (dialect leveling) with a decrease in morphological complexity. We take a decidedly quantitative approach, relying on linguistic databases (text corpora) as well as on demographic databases.


An eligible candidate should

  • have successfully completed a Master’s Degree in Linguistics, a Master’s Degree in Language & Literature, a Master’s Degree in Digital Humanities (or equivalent). Students finishing their MA degree in the summer of 2019 are also encouraged to apply.
  • have an interest in and demonstrable background knowledge on the history of the Germanic languages (minimally English and German)
  • have an interest in quantitative approaches to linguistics
  • have hands-on experience with coding in R and/or Python.
  • be proficient in English, including mastery of academic writing
  • be willing and able to deepen their knowledge of theories of language change and language variation.

Familiarity with historical corpora of Early New High German is a plus.


A full-time PhD position is offered for 1 year (starting in October 2019), with the perspective of prolongation with another 3 years. The successful candidate will become part of a small team of researchers investigating language variation and language change. S/he will author international scientific publications. S/he will be able to develop a variety of skills, including programming, statistics, knowledge of earlier stages of English, German, and Dutch, but also writing and presentation skills as well as organizational skills. S/he will be able to attend international meetings and to meet and collaborate with enthusiastic fellow linguists. Teaching load is limited to up to 10% of the time. The starting net monthly salary is about 2000 euros.


For more information and/or a detailed description of the project, please contact Prof. dr. Freek Van de Velde <>. Applicants should include a CV, a letter of motivation and one piece of academic writing demonstrating their skill as a linguist and researcher.

You can apply for this job no later than July 07, 2019 via the online application tool on the website:

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