PhD Position on Drum Languages – Empirical, Computational and Musicological Perspective
Utrecht University, Faculty of Humanities

PhD position on drum languages – empirical, computational and musicological perspectives (1.0 FTE)


Job description

We are looking for an excellent candidate for a PhD position in a research project on drum languages. Candidates should be able to carry out outstanding academic work in one of the following areas: linguistic fieldwork and theorizing, computational linguistics or cognitive musicology. 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, specifically as used by Senegalese musicians.

This PhD project aims to study drum language from one of the following perspectives: empirical, computational or musicological. It follows previous work done by the PI (Winter, Y., Language 90, 2014). Candidates are expected to have an excellent background in linguistics (theoretical, computational or descriptive) or in cognitive musicology. Ideally, candidates should be able and prepared to carry out fieldwork for a period of six months.


The tasks for the PhD candidate will include:

  • analyzing existing data, and/or carrying out fieldwork among Wolof speaking musicians in Senegal, and/or with other communities using drum language;
  • organizing and documenting the data collected during fieldwork in a reusable format;
  • embedding the results within a coherent theory of drum languages, informed by recent advances in theoretical linguistics, musicology and cognitive science;
  • presenting results at workshops and conferences, and publishing them as peer-reviewed articles in international journals;
  • participation in selected training programme scheduled for the research Institute, graduate School and the National research School;
  • teaching undergraduate courses;
  • completing and defending a PhD thesis within four years.



  • We are looking for a PhD candidate with:
  • a (soon to be completed) research Master’s degree in (theoretical, computational or descriptive) Linguistics or Cognitive Musicology;
  • excellent proficiency in spoken and written English;
  • an outstanding record of work in the Master's degree;
  • excellent communicational skills and ability to work in a heterogeneous team;
  • proven experience in fieldwork and/or analysis of raw data collected from speakers of understudied languages and/or cognitive musicology is a strong advantage;
  • proven musical experience is a strong advantage;
  • fluency in Wolof or French, or a proven ability to quickly master foreign languages is a strong advantage.



The PhD position will be offered for 1.0 FTE, starting on November 1, 2019 at the latest, initially for a period of 18 months. Upon good performance and a positive evaluation, the contract will be extended for the remaining period of 30 months (4 years in total). The gross monthly salary starts at €2,325 in the first year, and ends at €2,972 in the fourth year, on a fulltime basis (scale P Collective Labour Agreement Dutch Universities). Utrecht University offers a pension scheme, a holiday allowance of 8% per year, an end-of-year bonus of 8.3% and flexible employment conditions. Conditions are based on the Collective Employment Agreement of the Dutch Universities. More information is available here: working at Utrecht University.

About the organization

A better future for everyone. This ambition motivates our scientists in executing 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, Life Sciences and Sustainability.

The Faculty of Humanities has approximately seven thousand students and nine hundred staff members. It comprises four Research Institutes: The Institute of Philosophy and Religious Studies, Institute of History and Art History, Institute of Cultural Inquiry (ICON), and the Utrecht Institute of Linguistics OTS (UiL OTS). 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 centre of Utrecht, where the Faculty is housed, contribute to an inspiring working environment.


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.

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 candidates.

Additional information
For more details on this research project, click here. For further information, please feel free to contact Prof. Yoad Winter (for his email address see or Dr. Maaike Schoorlemmer, Research Coordinator at UiL OTS.

Your application should include digital copies of:

  • application form - to be downloaded from;
  • a 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.

Interviews, in person or otherwise, will be held during the week starting September 1.


The application deadline is

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