PhD position at University of Zurich

The Department of Comparative Linguistics and the Department of Psychology of the University of Zurich invite applications for a full-time PhD student position. The successful applicant will participate in the project “Ergativity in comprehension and production: language typology and processing”, funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation.

Description of the project

The research project investigates the processing of ergative structures in both sentence production and sentence comprehension in a diverse set of languages (Hindi, Tuvaluan, Basque). Different methodologies, including EEG and eye tracking, are used in production and comprehension experiments. The project team includes Balthasar Bickel, Martin Meyer and Sebastian Sauppe (all at U Zurich) as well as Ina Bornkessel-Schlesewsky (University of South Australia) and Itziar Laka (University of the Basque Country).

The successful applicant will work towards a dissertation in Comparative Linguistics/Psycholinguistics or Psychology (supervised by Prof. Balthasar Bickel and Prof. Martin Meyer). S/he will conduct both sentence production and sentence comprehension experiments on the processing of ergative structures in Basque and work on reviews of the state of the field. Extensive support (technical expertise, stimulus creation) can be provided by the other members of the project team and by the collaborators. The experiments on Basque will be carried out at Prof. Itziar Laka’s lab at the University of the Basque Country.

The preferred starting date is January 1, 2017 or later, by arrangment.

The PhD research will be carried out at the Department of Comparative Linguistics, University of Zurich. The department brings together psycholinguists (working on both processing and language acquisition), typologists and evolutionary linguists.

The candidate should 

* hold a master’s degree in linguistics, psychology, cognitive science, cognitive neuroscience, or a similar field; all degree requirements must be fulfilled by the start of the appointment

* be highly interested in experimental research on language processing

* have an excellent track record

* be highly motivated to work towards a PhD

* have working knowledge of Basque or the willingness to quickly acquire it

* be fluent in English (reading and writing)

* have excellent communication skills and be an organised worker

* be a good team worker but also able to work efficiently independently

Experience with psychological/psycholinguistic experimentation is an advantage.

The candidate is expected

* to conduct experimental studies and corpus analyses, in close collaboration with the team

* participate in the preparation of a series of review papers

* write individual and joint publications for international scientific journals and present his/her work at international conferences

* prepare a (cumulative) PhD thesis on the basis of the project

We offer

* full funding for initially two years, with a likely but non-guaranteed extension to three years

* work in a highly innovative project in a vibrant, international department (

* generous travel funding

* the chance to live and work in the city with the second highest living quality in the world (

How to apply

Applicants are request to submit

* a letter of application

* CV

* transcript of the master’s degree

* contact details of one reference

* one piece of writing (student paper, master’s thesis or publication) in English or German which demonstrates the applicant’s academic competence

Applications are to be sent by email, preferentially merged into one single PDF file, to Prof. Balthasar Bickel (, no later than December 12, 2016. Please use “Application Ergativity” in the subject line of your email.

More information

If you have any questions regarding the position or the project, please contact Profs. Balthasar Bickel ( or Martin Meyer (