PhD Studentships in Early Language Acquisiton at University of Manchester

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PhD Studentships in Early Language Acquisiton at University of Manchester

Max Planck Child Study Centre – University of Manchester: job description
The Max Planck Child Study Centre (MPCSS) invites applications for two fully-funded PhD studentships commencing in September 2011. The studentships provide three-year funding covering a tax-free stipend equating to approximately 16,000 Euros per annum plus generous support for travel and equipment. UK/EU tuition fees will also be covered. The MPCSS, based in the School of Psychological Sciences, is part of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig. Research is focused upon children`s early language acquisition, carried out through both experimental studies and analysis of naturalistic data.

Our studentships are not tied to pre-defined projects, however the topic of the PhD must be within the field of first language development using naturalistic and/or experimental data. Our focus is on children learning either English or German although we have ongoing studies of Polish, French, Russian and Finnish. We are increasingly conducting comparative studies in different languages. We are also interested in how children learn to use pragmatically appropriate language (for example, using appropriate referring expressions) and in the relation between social cognition and language development.

Our research concerning naturalistic studies involves tracking the sources of children`s developing constructions, including transitives, questions and complex sentences as well as conducting quantitative analyses of the children`s input.

Experimental studies focus on a number of aspects of language acquisition, such as the development of general syntactic categories (such as noun and verb), constructions (such as transitives and questions) and the development of inflectional morphology. We also look at how children learn the pragmatics of language (comprehension and production of referring expressions, answering questions appropriately and registering given/new relations in an utterance).

Previous examples of PhD research conducted within the Centre include:

  • How children learn to identify referents for their listeners
  • Cross-linguistic comparisons of early language development
  • The pragmatics and syntax of argument omission
  • English pronouns and how they help children understand constructions
  • Explaining children`s errors (e.g. Me do it instead of I do it, I want go there instead of I want to go there)

Our aim is to further develop constructivist approaches to language development to the point that our understanding of typically developing children`s development in English and other languages allows us to inform the many relevant applied areas such as multilingualism and bilingualism in early development, language delay and speech therapy.

There is the possibility for students to spend short periods of time in Leipzig, designing and, if appropriate, running their studies.
Typical next destinations for PhD graduates of the Centre are University lectureships and postdoctoral research fellowships, followed, in some cases, by training programmes in Clinical or Educational Psychology.

Applicants should have, or expect to obtain, a minimum 2:1 degree (or equivalent) in psychology, linguistics or an associated discipline. A Masters degree in a similar area would be an advantage.

Interested individuals are encouraged to contact Professor Elena Lieven with a brief summary of their academic/professional background and any research proposal they would be keen to conduct within the Centre: [email protected].

Applicants are encouraged to express interest as early as possible as studentships will be allocated on an ongoing basis.

Further information on the Centre and our 2011 PhD studentships can be found on the Max Planck website:

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