05 February 2012

University of Cambridge invites applications for PhD studentships in Linguistics

University of Cambridge, Faculty of Modern and Medieval Languages

Applications are invited for three PhD studentships covering the period 1 October 2012 to 30 September 2015, working under the general supervision of Professor Ian Roberts in the Faculty of Modern and Medieval Languages (although each student will in fact be assigned to a four-member PhD committee). This award has become available as a result of an ERC Advanced Grant “Rethinking Comparative Syntax” (see http://www.mml.cam.ac.uk/dtal/research/recos/). Successful applicants for these awards are expected to begin PhD study on 1 October 2012 and will receive a student stipend sufficient to meet the fees and maintenance requirements.

Qualification requirements

Candidates should hold or be in the process of obtaining a Master's degree (or equivalent) in Linguistics, with a specialisation in Syntax, and have attained or expect to obtain a mark of distinction. Excellent writing skills in English and knowledge of some language(s) other than English are desirable. Eligible candidates must submit an advanced proposal of research relevant to the “Rethinking Comparative Syntax” project, specifying how their research would contribute to the typological and theoretical goals of the project. Applicants are encouraged to look at the project website (http://www.mml.cam.ac.uk/dtal/research/recos/) to identify one or more areas of research to which they feel they would be able to contribute via their doctoral work. Applicants can be from the UK, EU or overseas.

Closing date 14 March 2012.

Application Procedure

Candidates will fall into two brackets:

1. You may already be applying/have applied for a PhD in the Department of Theoretical and Applied Linguistics, and have timed your application to meet funding deadlines such as that set for the AHRC (13 January 2012).

2. You may only be interested in applying for this studentship.

1. If you have already made an application for the PhD through the Board of Graduate Studies, please email Siobhán Carew (sw334@cam.ac.uk) and give her your Application Number. Please note that applicants who have already submitted a PhD application will need to write a 500-1000 word research proposal specifically for this application, along the lines outlined above and below. ALL supporting documents must be uploaded by 14 March 2012 at the very latest.

2. Applications from candidates who intend to apply only for this studentship should be made directly to the Faculty of Modern & Medieval Languages. Successful candidates will be asked to make a formal application through the Board of Graduate Studies. Applications should be made on the University graduate application form (GRADSAF), available at: http://www.admin.cam.ac.uk/offices/gradstud/prospec/pdf/gradsaf1213.pdf, and include the following supporting documents: two academic references transcripts or degree certificates English Language Score Report (if English is not your first language) 500-1000 word research proposal Completed applications should be emailed or posted to Ms Siobhán Carew, Faculty of Modern and Medieval Languages, Sidgwick Avenue, Cambridge CB3 9DA, tel: (01223) 335010, email: sw334@cam.ac.uk, by the closing date of 14 March 2012. Incomplete applications will not be considered.

In the Research Statement, candidates are required to outline their original research proposal and explain how it will fit the Project, “Rethinking Comparative Syntax”. Applicants should specify Professor Ian Roberts as supervisor on their application forms and are encouraged to contact Professor Roberts (igr20@cam.ac.uk) to discuss the ERC project, Cambridge College selection, and their applications.

The ERC project

The ERC Advanced Grant “Rethinking Comparative Syntax” endeavours to reconceptualise principles-and-parameters theory along new lines. The central idea is to organise parameters into hierarchies, which define the ways in which properties of individually variant categories may act in concert; this creates macroparametric effects from the combined action of many microparameters. The highest position in a hierarchy defines a macroparameter, a major typological property, lower positions define successively more local properties. Parameter- setting in language acquisition starts at the highest position as this is the simplest choice; acquirers will "move down the hierarchy" when confronted with primary linguistic data incompatible with a high setting. Hence the hierarchies simultaneously define learning paths and typological properties. The project aims to investigate five hierarchies: those determining word-order, null arguments, word structure, discourse-configurationality and case/agreement alignment. These five hierarchies, although not exhaustive, combine to give a typological footprint of many languages, as well as providing the basis for the study of the interaction of micro- and macroparametric interactions. In this way, the claim that formal comparative syntax has little to offer typological studies can be met. Also, a clear diagnostic is provided for showing that these hierarchies represent genuine syntactic variation, and not merely morphophonological variation as suggested by Berwick & Chomsky (2011). Last, a more purely theoretical component of the project aims to show that the nature of the hierarchies is determined, not directly UG, but by UG interacting with "third-factor" principles of simplicity and efficiency.