Vacature: promovendus syntactische variatie, Nijmegen en Leuven

The Department of Linguistics of the KU Leuven and the Centre for Language Studies at the RU Nijmegen are looking for a


for a project (funded by an LN&L-grant) entitled

North and South, bottom to top.
Using big data to model syntactic variation in Belgian and Netherlandic Dutch.

Project outline

While Belgians and Dutchmen are well aware that they use different words, and that their pronunciation diverges, they are mostly oblivious to the fact that there are also grammaticaldiscrepancies between Belgian and Netherlandic Dutch. Few Belgians, for instance, will realize that the preposition voor in Jan maakte (voor) haar een boterham is optional for them, whereas it is indispensable for almost all the Dutch.

How come there are such outspoken syntactic differences between two varieties (in a comparatively small language area) which did not begin to diverge before the 16th century? And where do these differences come from? In order to answer these questions, we draw on large subtitle and newspaper corpora, and marshal machine translation, machine learning, and automated semantic classification technologies to access the syntactic motor, or motors, of Dutch.

What we offer

Full-time position for 4 years (remuneration is in accordance with the official Belgian scales for academic personnel and bursaries – see the KU Leuven jobsite for more information).

The PhD-candidate will be stationed at the KU Leuven, but the position includes internships at the Meertens Institute Amsterdam and the RU Nijmegen.


We are looking for a PhD-candidate with

  • experience in big data analysis and natural language processing (such as statistical machine translation, machine learning, automatic semantic classification,…);
  • experience with variationist linguistics and (preferably functional) syntax;
  • experience with different types of fixed- and mixed-effects regression analyses;
  • a good deal of mobility (in view of the required internships) good communication skills (both written and oral – the candidate will be asked to present his or her work at conferences, and to write papers), as well as strong interpersonal skills.

Candidates who do not speak Dutch are expected to acquire a good proficiency in the (early) course of the project.


If you are interested in this PhD-project, please send your curriculum vitae and a motivation letter to by August 10. Shortlisted candidates will be invited for an interview at the end of August. The project is scheduled to start on October 1 2017.

For more information about this project, or a more extensive project description, please email Stefan Grondelaers ( or Dirk Speelman (