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PhD position in Data-Driven Computational Semantics and Geographic Information Systems (1.0 FTE)

Utrecht University's Faculty of Humanities is looking for a PhD position in Data-Driven Computational Semantics and Geographic Information Systems (1.0 FTE). Are you interested? Then please read the full profile and apply.

3 maanden geleden


Domplein, Utrecht, Utrecht
Tijdelijk contract / Tijdelijke opdracht
Uren per week:
38 - 40 uur
€ 2222 - € 2840 per maand


The Utrecht Institute of Linguistics (UiL OTS) invites applications for a PhD position in data-driven computational semantics. The project will use large corpora and machine learning methods to acquire meanings of spatially-based concepts, which will be used as part of a natural language interface to Geographic Information Systems (GIS). The project will enrich an initial model of spatial meanings (Kracht 2002, Mani & Pustejovsky 2012, Zwarts & Winter 2000) with a selected set of semantic, syntactic, and pragmatic parameters. To train this model, the project will acquire a large dataset of language use with spatial language, including ordinary texts and expert interactions with GIS. These data will be employed for training and evaluating the initial model. This novel combination of semantic representation, data-driven learning and evaluation against a real-life problem is expected to substantially advance the ability of users to interact with geographic databases.

The project will be supervised by Dr. Tejaswini Deoskar and Prof. Yoad Winter, in collaboration with Dr. Joost Zwarts and NLP researchers from the Language and Computation group at the ILLC, University of Amsterdam (Prof. Khalil Sima’an, Dr. Jelle Zuidema). The empirical study of elicited user data will be carried out in collaboration with Prof. James Hampton (Psychology, City, University of London). Work at the UiL OTS will be part of the ROCKY project, financed by an ERC Advanced grant to Prof. Yoad Winter.


Tasks for the PhD candidate will include:

  • completion and defence of a PhD thesis within four years;
  • regular presentation of intermediate research results at workshops and conferences;
  • publication of peer-reviewed articles in established international journals or conference proceedings;
  • help with organizational tasks connected to the project, such as the organization of conferences and workshops;
  • participation in training programmes and expert meetings scheduled for the project;
  • participation in selected training programmes scheduled for the Research Institute, Graduate School and the National Research School.


Kracht, M., 2002. On the semantics of locatives. Linguistics and Philosophy, 25(2), pp.157-232.
Mani, I. and Pustejovsky, J., 2012. Interpreting motion: Grounded representations for spatial language. Oxford U.P.
Zwarts, J. and Winter, Y., 2000. Vector space semantics: A model-theoretic analysis of locative prepositions. Journal of logic, language and information, 9(2), pp.169-211.


The successful applicant for this position should have a strong background in artificial intelligence, machine-learning and computer science as well as an interest in formal semantics. Applicants should ideally hold, or be about to complete, an excellent Master's degree in Computational Linguistics or a related domain (Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning and/or Computer Science). Good programming skills, proficiency in spoken and written English, as well as a keen interest in problem solving and research are essential.


The successful candidate will be appointed on a fixed-term full-time basis (38 hours per week/1,0 FTE), starting 1 September 2018 or soon thereafter. The appointment is 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 €2,222 in the first year, and ends at €2,840 (Scale P Collective Labour Agreement Dutch Universities) gross per month for a full-time employment.

Salaries are supplemented with a holiday bonus of 8 % and a year-end bonus of 8.3 % per year. We offer a pension scheme, (partly paid) parental leave, collective insurance schemes and flexible employment conditions (multiple choice model). More information is available at: working at Utrecht University.

Additionele informatie

If you are interested, please contact the Project Director (Yoad Winter) or the Research Coordinator at UiL OTS (Maaike Schoorlemmer) for more information.