PhD position on the grammar of Senegalese drum languages Utrecht University, Department of Language, Literature and Communication Netherlands

PhD position on the grammar of Senegalese drum languages (1.0 FTE)


Job description

We are looking for an excellent candidate for a PhD position in a research project on Senegalese drum languages. Candidates should be able to carry out outstanding fieldwork with Senegalese musicians, and do theoretical linguistic work on the relation between grammar and music in drum language.


The project is funded by NWO by way of a Free Competition project awarded to the principal investigator Prof. Y. Winter. It is the first extensive linguistic and experimental study of the drum languages used by Senegalese musicians.


This PhD project aims to develop a linguistic theory of Senegalese drum language. It follows previous work done by the PI (Winter, Y., Language 90, 2014). Candidates are expected to have an excellent background in theoretical linguistics or another relevant discipline. In addition, candidates should be able and prepared to carry out fieldwork in Senegal for a period of six months.


The tasks for the PhD candidate will include:

  • carrying out fieldwork among Wolof speaking musicians in Senegal;
  • embedding the results within a coherent theory of drum languages, informed by recent advances in theoretical linguistics and cognitive science;
  • presenting results at workshops and conferences, and publishing them as peer-reviewed articles in international journals;
  • taking part in documenting Senegalese drumming traditions;
  • participation in selected training programme scheduled for the research Institute, graduate School and the National research School;
  • teaching undergraduate courses as part of the PhD training;
  • completing and defending a PhD thesis within four years.

For more details on this research project: Sabar: the Drum Language of Senegal




  • a (soon to be completed) research Master’s degree in linguistics or another relevant sub-discipline of Cognitive Science. Excellent candidates with a background in Computer Science or Mathematics may also be considered;
  • excellent proficiency in spoken and written English;
  • an outstanding record of work in the Master's degree;
  • interest in fieldwork research, and readiness to live in Senegal for over a period of six months as part of the project;
  • excellent communicational skills and ability to work in a heterogeneous team;
  • fluency in Wolof or French, or a proven ability to quickly master foreign languages is a strong advantage;
  • proven musical experience is a strong advantage.



Internship: The selected candidate will be required to undergo a training period of three months as an employed research assistant in the project, prior to definitive selection for the PhD position. Positive evaluation in this training, including the candidate’s ability to do successful fieldwork, will be a pre-condition for the selected candidate to be offered the PhD position. The research assistant position will start on October 1, 2017 at the latest.


PhD position: The PhD position will be offered at 1,0 FTE, starting on January 1, 2018 at the latest, initially for a period of 15 months. Upon good performance and a positive evaluation, the contract will be extended for the remaining period of 33 months (4 years in total). The gross monthly salary starts at €2,191 in the first year, and ends at €2,801 in the fourth year, on a full-time basis. Salaries are supplemented with a holiday bonus of 8 % and a year-end bonus of 8.3 % per year. We offer a pension scheme, collective insurance schemes and flexible employment conditions (multiple choice model). More information: working at Utrecht University.


About the organization

A better future for everyone. This ambition motivates our scientists in their leading research and inspiring teaching. At Utrecht University, the various disciplines collaborate intensively towards major societal themes. Our focus is on Dynamics of Youth, Institutions for Open Societies, Life Sciences and Sustainability.


The Faculty of Humanities has around 6,000 students and 900 staff members. It comprises four knowledge domains: Philosophy and Religious Studies, History and Art History, Media and Culture Studies, and Languages, Literature and Communication. With its research and education in these fields, the Faculty aims to contribute to a better understanding of the Netherlands and Europe in a rapidly changing social and cultural context. The enthusiastic and committed colleagues and the excellent amenities in the historical city center of Utrecht, where the Faculty is housed, contribute to an inspiring working environment.

Researchers at UiL OTS are distributed across 6 research groups, focusing on the following range of linguistic subdomains: Language Variation, Language, Logic and Information, Linguistic Theory and Language Acquisition, Language Processing and Language Pathology, Language and Education, Language and Communication. It comprises approximately 20 full professors, a dozen postdocs and roughly 40 PhD students.

The Department of Language, Literature and Communication offers BA and MA programmes in literary studies, linguistics, communication studies, translation, as well as Dutch, English, German, French, Italian, Spanish and (uniquely in the Netherlands) Celtic languages.


Additional information

For further information, please feel free to contact Prof. Yoad Winter or the research coordinator at UiL OTS, Dr. Maaike Schoorlemmer.



Interested candidates are asked to apply for the position using the button below. Your application should include digital copies of:
- application form - to be downloaded from here;
- CV including full personal and academic details;
- certified copies of relevant diplomas and grade transcripts;
- master’s thesis (or a draft thereof), and any other publication you can provide;
- names and full contact details of two academic referees.


The application deadline is

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