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Job offer : Post Doc in “Experimental material for field linguistics / typological studies” | Labex EFL

The Iranian and Indian World Laboratory of the Sorbonne Nouvelle University and the Inalco Language Structure and Dynamics Laboratory (SeDyl) are recruiting a postdoctoral researcher “Experimental material for field linguistics / typological studies” for a 12-month contract under Strand6 / Operation Labex EFL LR4.1.

The deadline to apply is Septembre 5th 2019.

Job title:

Experimental material for fieldwork/typological studies. Developing sentence production protocols for the quantitative study of word order variation with relation to the information structure in a cross-linguistic perspective in the languages of Western Asia

Job rank: Post Doc
Duration: One year
Job Location: Paris
University/laboratory: Sorbonne Paris Cité University, “Mondes iranien et indien” and (http://www.iran-inde.cnrs.fr/?lang=fr) and SeDyL (https://www.vjf.cnrs.fr/sedyl/presentation.php?langue=en) laboratories
Salary: 2000 to 2400 euros per month (according to the applicant’s experience), net of taxes
Application deadline: 5 September 2019
Starting date: November 1st or December 1st 2019

Contacts for application: Pollet Samvelian (pollet.samvelian@univ-paris3.fr), Anaïd Donabedian (adonabedian@inalco.fr) and Cédric Gendrot (cedric.gendrot@univ-paris3.fr).

Job description

Research in theoretical syntax has a long methodological tradition of relying on grammaticality judgments, and introspection of the researchers became the main resource of data in theoretical syntax ever since. On the other hand, research on linguistic typology also traditionally built on elicited data obtained mainly by relying on the native speakers’ intuition to distinguish between grammatical and ungrammatical sentences of her native language. These methods have proved to be successful in many areas and has permitted great achievements in the field of syntax as well as linguistic typology. Nevertheless, in the past few decades studies on syntactic variation have highlighted the limits of such methodologies when it comes to the study of phenomena that are more nuanced in nature. These studies show that in cases where the difference between available alternatives does not involve clear- cut changes of grammaticality, intuitions are less stable and are shown to be sensitive to extra-syntactic factors. Consequently, traditional methods of collecting data, with little methodological precautions and no control for conflating factors, are not deemed to be sufficiently reliable for the study of such phenomena, while the use of rigorous experimental protocols (aka as formal/quantitative methods), is shown to be significantly more reliable (e.g. Arnold et al. 2000; Wasow 2002; Wasow and Arnold 2005; Bresnan 2007; Bersnan et al. 2007; Featherston 2007; Gibson and Fedorenko 2013; Schütze 2016). Indeed, technological advances have facilitated the use of quantitative methods for researchers in several domains of linguistics and nowadays, while linguistic intuition remains a valuable source of data, many researchers in theoretical linguistics agree on the need for hypothesis-testing using quantitative methods.

The goal of this project is to develop sentence production protocols for the quantitative study of word order variation with relation to the information structure in a cross-linguistic perspective for the languages of the Anatolia-Iran-Caucasus area. Although most languages in the are typically characterized by a basic SOV word order, they nevertheless display significant differences with respect to the possibility for constituents to occur in a non-canonical order (i.e. word order variation), before or after the verb. So far, these word order variations have been mainly accounted for in terms of information structure (focus/topic marking, etc.). However, robust quantitative studies are needed to evaluate the extent of variation triggered by information structure while controlling for other potential sources of variation in each language in order to also achieve a more accurate description of the SOV type.

There exists a growing body of literature for the empirical study of information structure with specific guidelines for the collection of relevant speech data (e.g. Skopeteas 2012; Adamou et al. 2018). There are also available stimuli/questionnaires for the study of Information structure, such as those provided by Skopeteas et al. (2006). Building on these available guidelines, the idea is to provide hands-on material for collecting relevant quantitative data in order to study word order variations as well as the different parameters involved in ordering preferences in the languages of the area. For example, by running a series of cross-linguistic experimental studies designed to pin down the effect of different factors as well as their interactions.

Required Qualifications

Applicants should have a PhD in linguistics. Familiarity with experimental methods is required. Knowledge of at least one of the languages of area is highly appreciated.

Job Context

The project is a part of the work package LR41 (Morphological and syntactic resources for Iranian languages), of the strand 6 of the Labex EFL. It will be carried out under the joint supervision of Pollet Samvelian and Anaid Donabedian.

Application submission

Applicants are invited to send to Pollet Samvelian (pollet.samvelian@univ-paris3.fr), Anaid Donabedian (adonabedian@inalco.fr) and Cédric Gendrot (cedric.gendrot@univ-paris3.fr):

  • A cover letter
  • A CV including their list of publications
  • The name and the contact of two referees
  • A link for downloading their publications


Adamou E., Haude K., Vanhove M. (eds.) (2018). Information Structure in Lesser-described Languages – Studies in prosody and syntax, Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

Arnold, J. E., Wasow T., Losongco A. & Ginstrom R. (2000). Heaviness vs. newness: The effects of complexity and information structure on constituent ordering. Language 76(1). 28–55.

Bresnan J. (2007). Is syntactic knowledge probabilistic? Experiments with the English dative alternation. In Featherston, S. & Sternefeld, W. (eds.), Roots: Linguistics in search of its evidential base, (Studies in generative grammar) Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter, pp. 75-96.

Bresnan, J., Cueni, A., Nikitina, T., & Baayen, H. (2007). Predicting the dative alternation. In G. Boume, I. Krämer & J. Zwarts (ed.), Cognitive foundations of interpretation, pp. 69-94. Amsterdam: KNAW. Featherston S. (2007). Data in generative grammar: the stick and the carrot. Theoretical Linguistics 33. 269–318.

Gibson E. & Fedorenko E. (2013). The need for quantitative methods in syntax and semantics research. Language and Cognitive Processes 28(1-2). 88-124.

Schütze, C. T. (2016). The empirical base of linguistics: Grammaticality judgments and linguistic methodology. Language Science Press.

Skopeteas S., Fiedler I., Hellmuth S., Schwarz A., Stoel R., Fanselow G., Féry C. and Krifka M. (2006). Questionnaire on Information Structure (QUIS). Interdisciplinary Studies on Information Structure, vol. 4. Universitätsverlag Potsdam, Germany.

Skopeteas S. (2012). The empirical investigation of information. In The expression of information structure. Krifka M. and Musan R. (eds), pp. 216-246. Berlin: Mouton De Gruyter.