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PhD Position in the NWO project: Unravelling East Africa’s Early Linguistic History

Omvang (fte)
Geplaatst op
6 augustus 2019
31 augustus 2019 Vacature gesloten

PhD Position in the NWO project: Unravelling East Africa’s Early Linguistic History

Project description
The PhD candidate will be working on a subproject within the project Unravelling East Africa’s Early Linguistic History, funded by the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO), and directed by dr. Maarten Mous (professor of African linguistics at Leiden University).

Unravelling East Africa’s Early Linguistic History is a research project that aims to reconstruct the earliest possible linguistic history of East Africa with focus on Tanzania and Kenya and to provide a comprehensive overview of its linguistic history in the last five thousand years. In the traditional view, East Africa was populated by KhoiSan speaking hunter-gatherer communities before successive populations of Cushitic, Bantu, and Nilotic people moved in, bringing agriculture, animal husbandry, and iron. Recent advances in archaeology show a more complex picture. Also, genetic studies have become available, including studies on ancient human and cattle DNA. Furthermore, historical linguists no longer consider the various East African Khoi-San languages as related to each other. It is therefore time to fully reconsider how the linguistic evidence relates to the early populations.

Over the last decades, new lexical and grammatical data has become available. This project provides an open online database containing this lexical material with a critical evaluation of its origins (sub-project 1 PD and PI). In order to establish a new timeline for the language history of East Africa, we develop a revised and drastically expanded linguistic reconstruction of Proto Core Cushitic (sub-project 2 PhD), and of South Omotic (sub-project 3 Addis Ababa PhD). This results in an overview of which language groups were where and in which chronology based on linguistic evidence which serves as input for an interdisciplinary workshop with archaeologists and geneticists that will provide a new and detailed picture for the peopling of East Africa, linking linguistic groups with archaeological finds and DNA results.

Aims of the PhD subproject is a revised and drastically expanded linguistic reconstruction of Proto Core Cushitic. We are looking for an excellent, highly motivated, enterprising and enthusiastic PhD candidate to join the project team. The PhD candidate is expected to revise and expand the current reconstruction of Lowland East Cushitic bringing in new material from relevant languages, establish the genetic position of Southern Cushitic (including evidence from historical morphology) and provide a reconstructed lexicon and phonology of the common ancestor. It may be needed to do some fieldwork to fill lacunae in the lexical data.

Key responsibilities

  • Completing a PhD thesis within four years;
  • Publishing at least one article in a peer-reviewed journal;
  • Participation in meetings of the project research group;
  • Presenting papers at conferences;
  • Organizing and participating in the training program of the LUCL Graduate School and the National Research School in Linguistics (LOT) and other relevant discussion groups, seminars, workshops, and events;
  • Participation in staff meetings and the intellectual life of the LUCL community;
  • Contributing to the organization of the events and activities within the project;
  • Some teaching in the second and third years of the appointment.

Selection criteria

  • An MA in Linguistics or similar subject that contained training in the comparative method. Affinity with Cushitic linguistics;
  • Experience in historical linguistic research;
  • Demonstrable knowledge of or interest in Cushitic and East Africa’s linguistic past;
  • Well-developed research skills, including the ability to formulate creative research questions, descriptive and analytical skills, and a clear and persuasive style of writing;
  • Excellent competence in English;
  • Independent thinker and team player;
  • Demonstrable experience of or the potential to engage with wider/non-academic community and generate research impact beyond the strictly academic context;
  • Ability to finish the proposed PhD research in 4 years;
  • The research should result in a doctor’s degree from the Faculty of Humanities of Leiden University under the supervision of Professor Maarten Mous and a second supervisor to be determined later.

Our faculty 
The Faculty of Humanities is a unique international centre for the advanced study of languages, cultures, arts, and societies worldwide, in their historical contexts from prehistory to the present.  Our faculty is home to more than 6,000 students and 800 staff members. For more information see https://www.universiteitleiden.nl/en/humanities.

The Leiden University Centre for Linguistics (LUCL) is one of the seven Research Institutes of the Faculty of Humanities. LUCL has a longstanding tradition in the teaching of and research into the world’s languages and features unique linguistic expertise.

Terms and conditions
PhD project, 4 years, starting date 1 October 2019. Initially the employee will receive a one-year contract, with extension for the following 36 months on condition of a positive evaluation. Salary range from € 2.325,- to € 2.972,- gross per month for a fulltime appointment depending on prior education and working experience (pay scale for Phd’s, in accordance with the Collective Labour Agreement for Dutch Universities).

Leiden University offers an attractive benefits package with additional holiday (8%) and end-of-year bonuses (8.3%), training and career development. Our individual choices model gives you some freedom to assemble your own set of terms and conditions. Candidates from outside the Netherlands may be eligible for a substantial tax break. For more information: http://www.workingat.leiden.edu/.

Leiden University is strongly committed to diversity within its community and especially welcomes applications from members of underrepresented groups.

Enquiries can be addressed to the project leader, Dr. Maarten Mous, email: m.mous@hum.leidenuniv.nl, and to the Institute Manager, Maarit van Gammeren, e-mail: m.s.k.van.gammeren@hum.leidenuniv.nl. See for more information about LUCL.  

Submit your application online via the blue button in our application system no later than 31 August 2019. Please ensure that you upload the following additional documents in a single PDF, quoting the vacancy number:

  • Letter of application with a motivation statement of 1000 words max, in which you formulate your special interest in the PhD project and some first ideas about how you would frame/approach it;
  • Your CV, listing education and possibly employment history, and any other academic achievements (conference presentations, publications, organization of events, etc.);
  • Names, positions and contact information for three referees (no reference letters). Please only list these in the PDF and not in the dedicated fields in the online application system;
  • A copy of your MA-thesis;
  • Copies of relevant course assessments;
  • Your MA degree certificate.

Enquiries from agencies are not appreciated

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