PhD fellowship in Corpus Linguistics and Second Language Acquisition at UCLouvain


The Centre for English Corpus Linguistics has an opening for a PhD fellowship for a total period of four years, starting as of October 2018 (later is also a possibility).

The position is part of the UCLouvain FSR-funded research project Particle placement and genitive alternations in EFL learner spoken syntax: core probabilistic grammar and/or L1specific preferences? (Promotor: Dr. Magali Paquot). The project stems from collaborative work between the promotor, Prof. B. Szmrecsanyi (KU Leuven) and Dr. J. Grafmiller (University of Birmingham) (e.g. Paquot, Grafmiller & Szmrecsanyi (2017)).

The PhD student will investigate the extent to which English as a Foreign Language (EFL) learners share a core probabilistic grammar (cf. Bresnan, 2007) with users of first and second language varieties of English by analyzing variation in grammatical constraints on the particle placement alternation (for transitive phrasal verbs) and the genitive alternation in corpora of EFL learner spoken language. Methodologically, the candidate will build on annotation guidelines developed by Szmrecsanyi, Grafmiller and colleagues to describe the predictors that may influence speakers’ choice governing the alternations; s/he will also be expected to use a range of variationist analysis techniques.

Job description:

The research project is a joint venture between the Centre for English Corpus Linguistics (CECL) at the UCLouvain and the Quantitative Lexicology and Variational Linguistics (QLVL) group at the KU Leuven. The candidate will be affiliated to the Institut Langage et Communication (ILC, UCLouvain) and will also prepare a joint UCLouvain-KU Leuven PhD in Linguistics.

Activities that the candidate will perform include:

-        develop and implement (i) theoretical concepts in line with the focus of the research project and (ii) appropriate methodological procedures for investigating these concepts;

-        conduct corpus-based analyses of L1 and L2 writing and spoken samples;

-        interpret the results of the analyses and report on the project in conference presentations and academic publications;

-        carry out a research stay at the University of Birmingham (to work in close collaboration with Dr. J. Grafmiller too);

-        by the end of the four-year term, submit and defend a PhD dissertation based on the project.

Requirements and profile:

-    Master degree in Linguistics, Applied Linguistics, Language & Literature, Natural Language Processing or in Language Learning and Teaching;

-    excellent record of BA and MA level study;

-    excellent command of English. 

-    excellent and demonstrated analytic skills;

-    ability to work with common software packages (including MS Word, Excel and PowerPoint);

-    basic knowledge of corpus-linguistic techniques is a requirement

-    knowledge of statistics and statistical software is an asset;

-    programming skills in Perl, Python or R are also an asset;

-    excellent and demonstrated self-management skills, ability and willingness to work in a team;

-    willingness to live in or near Louvain-la-Neuve and to travel abroad (for short-term research stays and to attend international academic conferences).

Terms of employment:

-    The contract will initially be for one year, three times renewable, with a total of four years.

-    The candidate receives a doctoral fellowship grant (starting at approx. EUR 1900 net per month) and full medical insurance.

-    The candidate will be expected to apply for a FNRS position after the first year.

-    The position requires residence in Belgium.

-    Applicants from outside the EU are responsible for obtaining the necessary visa or permits, with the assistance of UCLouvain staff department.

Application Deadline: Review of applications will begin on 20 August 2018, and continue until the position is filled

Please include with your application:

-    a cover letter in English, in which you specify why you are interested in this position and how you meet the job requirements outlined above;

-    a curriculum vitae in English;

-    a concise academic statement in English in which you outline your expectations about and plans for graduate study and career goals;

-    a copy of BA and MA diplomas and degrees;

-    a copy of your master thesis and academic publications (if applicable);

-    the names and full contact details of two academic referees.


Shortlisted candidates will be invited for an interview (in situ or via video conferencing) in September 2018 (or later).

Applications (as an email attachment) and inquiries should be addressed to:                                                                                                    

Dr. Magali Paquot                                                      

Centre for English Corpus Linguistics

Université Catholique de Louvain




Bresnan, J. (2007). Is syntactic knowledge probabilistic ? Experiments with the English dative alternation. In S. Featherston and W. Sternefeld (eds). Roots: Linguistics in Search of its Evidential Base. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter, 75-96.

Paquot, M, Grafmiller, J. & B. Szmrecsanyi (2017).Particle placement alternation in EFL learner speech vs. native and ESL spoken Englishes: core probabilistic grammar and/or L1-specific preferences? Paper presented at the 4th Learner Corpus Research Conference, 5-7 October 2017, Bolzano, Italy.

Published on July 12, 2018