PhD Scholarship 'Acquiring social meaning of language variation: an experimental exploration'

Vrije Universiteit Brussel


July 11, 2021


PhD Scholarship 'Acquiring social meaning of language variation: an

experimental exploration'

Category: PhD

1 - Working at the VUB

For already 50 years, the Vrije Universiteit Brussel has stood for freedom, equality and connectedness. These values are strongly present on our campuses, in our students as well as our staff. At the VUB, you'll find a diverse collection of personalities: pure innovators and especially people who are 100% their authentic selves. With about 3.500 employees , we are the largest Flemish-speaking employer in Brussels , an international city with which we are all too happy to be connected, and around which our four campuses are located.

Our education and research are grounded in the principles of free research with an eye on human progress. We disapprove of every purely authoritative argument and guarantee the free formation of judgement that is necessary for this basic principle to be incorporated in the community.

The VUB is autonomous and managed democratically. As such, we guarantee fundamental freedoms within our university, as well as the right of the university community to be involved in making and checking university policy.

The mission of the university includes:

  • the development, the transfer and the application of high-standing academic education and scientific research, free from any prejudice;
  • community integration of this in a spirit of social compassion;
  • critical development of everyone in light of the responsibilities borne in the community.
  • 2 - Position description

    The Faculty of Faculteit Letteren en Wijsbegeerte , Department Linguistics and Literary Studies , in collaboration with the research group ‘Quantitative Lexicology and Variational Linguistics' (QLVL) of the Faculty of Arts at KU Leuven , is looking for a PhD-student with a doctoral grant.

    More concretely your work package, for the preparation of a doctorate, contains:


    Language varies in many different ways. People for instance use different words to refer to the same object or they pronounce words in various ways. Listeners often associate this language variation

    with presumed social attributes of the speaker (e.g. level of education). This is referred to as the social meaning of language variation.

    This project studies how people learn this type of sociolinguistic meaning. More concretely, the project aims to answer four questions about this acquisition process.

  • What is the role of memory in the acquisition process of sociolinguistic meaning and which linguistic factors influence retention and attrition of newly acquired meanings?
  • Do adults need a more robust link between linguistic form and social meaning than children- to ensure acquisition?
  • How quickly are second order indexical meanings inferred from newly learnt first order indexical meanings?
  • What type of linguistic feature gets most easily imbued with new social meanings?
  • Tasks:

  • Development and execution of the proposed research project:
  • Conduct literature review;
  • Design and conduct experiments;
  • Analyze data in light of the objectives (four case studies);
  • Present results at national and international conferences;
  • Report results in international refereed journals;
  • Follow specialized courses through the research school;
  • Provide teaching assistance at undergraduate level and assist in the supervision of undergraduate students (maximum 10-15%);
  • You will be working under the supervision of Prof Dr Laura Rosseel (Vrije Universiteit Brussel) and Prof Dr Eline Zenner (KU Leuven).

    For this function, our Brussels Humanities, Sciences & Engineering Campus (Elsene) will serve as your home base.

    3 - Profile

    What do we expect from you?

    You've attained a master's degree in either Linguistics or in Linguistics and Literature or other relevant master's degrees;

  • An outstanding record of undergraduate and Master's level work is an asset.
  • You have the following qualifications:

  • a curious, enterprising, and creative mind; excellent analytical skills and a passion for research;
  • an interest in and talent for working in the field of experimental and developmental sociolinguistics;
  • a good command of (written and spoken) English; willingness to learn some basic Dutch;
  • the ability to present research results at international conferences and to publish in academic journals;
  • a cooperative attitude and the ability to work independently as well as in a team;
  • previous experience in experimental design is considered an asset.
  • You have not performed any works in the execution of a mandate as an assistant, paid from operating resources, over a total (cumulated) period of more than 12 months.

  • 4 - Offer

    Are you going to be our new colleague?

    You'll be offered a full-time PhD-scholarship , for 12 months (extendable up to max. 48 months, on condition of the positive evaluation of the PhD activities), with planned starting date 01/09/2021.

    You'll receive a grant linked to one of the scales set by the government.

    IMPORTANT: The effective result of the doctorate scholarship is subject to the condition precedent of enrolment of the fellow as a doctorate student at the university.

    At the VUB, you're guaranteed an open, involved and diverse workplace where you are offered opportunities to (further) build on your career.

    As well as this, you'll enjoy various benefits:

  • Full reimbursement for your home-work commute with public transport according to VUB-policy, or compensation if you come by bike;
  • Cost-free hospitalisation insurance ;
  • The space to form your job content and continuously learn via VUB LRN;
  • Excellent facilities for sport and exercise ;
  • Ecocheques ;
  • Delicious meals at attractive prices in our campus restaurants ;
  • An open, family-friendly work environment where attention is paid to work- life balance, and exceptional holiday arrangements with 35 days of leave (based on a fulltime contract).
  • 5 - Interested?

    Is this the job you've been dreaming of?

    Send us ONLINE and at latest on 02/07/2021 :

  • your application letter, detailing your motivation and experience as relevant to this job offer (in English or Dutch);
  • your Curriculum Vitae (in English or Dutch);
  • a list of your course grades;
  • the highest degree you've attained (not applicable for VUB alumni).
  • Do you have questions about the job content? Contact prof. dr. Laura Rosseel at

    Interviews with a selection of the candidates will take place between 9 and 16 July 2021. If you are not available in that period, please state that explicitly in your application letter and also mention when you will be available again.

    Would you like to know what it's like to work at the VUB? Go to www. and find all there is to know about our campuses, benefits, strategic goals and your future colleagues.