Prospective PhD-students

Information for prospective students interested in doing PhD research at LUCL.

Introduction to Leiden University Centre for Linguistics

The Leiden University Centre for Linguistcs (LUCL) has a longstanding tradition in research in the world’s languages and features unique linguistic expertise. The mission of LUCL is to study linguistic diversity from different theoretical perspectives. In doing this, LUCL aims to encourage the interaction of data-driven and theory-driven linguistic research, thus capitalising on its broad coverage of the world’s languages, and to further develop an interdisciplinary approach to linguistic phenomena, see: The languages and language families which are studied within LUCL are: Indo-European Languages (e.g. Germanic, Slavic, Romance, Hittite, Sanskrit, Tocharian), Semitic languages, African Languages, Chinese, Japanese, Indonesian (and the larger Malayo-Polynesian Group), Papuan languages.

LUCL has expertise in the following domains:

Theoretical linguistics
Theoretical research at LUCL is aimed at understanding the nature of language and language variation with theoretical and experimental tools. Syntacticians, morphologists and phonologists develop and refine models of the human language faculty that aim to account for typological and dialectal variation among individual languages.

Experimental linguistics
Research in experimental linguistics is focused on (a) phonetical research (the production, acoustics and perception of speech; comparative studies in this area investigate pronunciation, intonation and temporal organisation cross-linguistically) and (b) psycho and neurolinguistics (examining the visual and auditory recognition of words, and the relation between orthography and reading, as well as the brain processes that are active in language production at the phonological, morphological and syntactic levels). 
Language description and documentation 
Research aiming at in-depth analyses of the world’s languages based on newly collected data with a strong emphasis on actual usage, taking account of cultural factors that shape grammar and language use. The main areas currently studied are: the Andes, the Guyanas, Berber, West Africa, Cushitic, Eastern Indonesia and East Timor. The researchers in this domain strive to expand the regions of expertise in order to improve the coverage of the world’s linguistic diversity. Leiden University has a long and strong tradition in producing solid grammars of understudied languages. Language documentation is broader than description: it entails the establishment of searchable annotated audio and video corpora including the most relevant cultural practices, but also involves reflection on data and on the nature of variation.

Language use
Researchers in this domain aim at a deeper understanding of both processes and products of language use in various contexts. Research topics comprise the causal factors constraining these processes and products, and the consequences of language use. Specific topics include: (a) the role of grammatical constructions in discourse, as instruments that people use in coordinating thoughts, feelings and actions; (b) the rhetorical effects of the choices made by speakers and writers from their verbal repertoire in relation to their communicative goals and the institutional and genre characteristics of the context (narrative, judicial , political  etc.); (c) the analysis and evaluation of argumentative discourse in different contexts (scientific, judicial, political etc.); (d) processes of conventionalisation by which patterns of language use, through repeated usage, turn into more or less fixed rules for the use of language in a (cultural) community (including grammatical rules); (e) the relationship between language use and culture, for example what strategies and conventions are considered socially appropriate in different cultures and linguistic communities. The languages in which these topics are mostly studied are Chinese, Dutch, English, Japanese and Russian.

Historical comparative linguistics and philology
This research group entails: (a) reconstruction of the Indo-European proto-language and of the intermediate stages between Proto-Indo-European and the modern Indo-European languages, including etymological and philological research; (b) reconstruction, etymology and philology in the field of Northwest Semitic (the language sub-family comprising the idioms of Ancient Syria-Palestine); (c) historical grammar of Dutch and other Germanic languages; and (d) historical grammar of Dutch, English, Russian and other Indo-European languages, and of Hebrew and Aramaic.

Historical sociolinguistics
This multifaceted research comprises various topics: (a) standardisation processes (codification and prescriptivism) in England and the Netherlands; (b) the study of Dutch and English private letters (17th and 18th centuries); (c) the study of Old Russian birchbark letters and other pre-modern Russian data (inscriptions, charters, conversation manuals); and (d) the broader (socio)linguistic environment of Hebrew and Aramaic, taking account of cognate languages such as Ugaritic and Phoenician, and multilingualism in the Ancient World.

PhD Possibilities

PhD-positions are divided into three different types of affiliation: paid positions, contract positions, and external positions.

Paid positions
Under current law, Dutch universities can fund PhD research by giving PhD candidates employee status. Hence, academic ranks of employment at Dutch universities include the rank of PhD-student. A PhD position constitutes a four-year full time (or five year 0,8 fte part time) research position, with full funding sufficient for general subsistence.

Application to a paid position is in response to advertisement by the university. Vacancies are advertised on the LUCL and Leiden University websites, and other online channels. They become available through external research funding (e.g. from NWO or EU) with the university acting as grant-holding institution and employer. Alternatively, positions will be available through special projects on institute, faculty or university level.

Contract positions 
The research of many of your PhD candidates is self-funded, meaning that they bring their own funding for general subsistence, from sources other than Leiden University. Self-funded candidates bring private funding and/or scholarships from foundations, government-supported internationalization programs, etc.

Candidates applying for a contract position are required to pay an annual fee of €4000,-. This fee entitles the PhD student to:

  • supervision by at least two LUCL members,

  • a personal teaching program with courses for didactics, academic writing, etc.

  • a personal budget for conference visits and/or field-work (under approval of the institute manager),

  • access to all courses within LUCL,

  • membership of LOT and access to summer and winter school,

  • a (shared) workspace, including a computer account and a University Library card, 

  • yearly progress interviews

  • access to all professional and social meetings of LUCL,

  • contribution to the costs for the publication of the dissertation.

External positions

External PhD candidates are accepted on the basis of their previous training. They are not entitled to any facilities or financial support by LUCL, except for a contribution towards the publication of their dissertation. However, if an external candidates requires help in finding a supervisor or promotor (thesis director), LUCL can offer assistance.

Here you can find a schematic overview of the PhD categories.  

Application and Admission

The requirements for admission to a PhD programme offered by the Graduate School of Humanities can be found here. Information about the admission procedure can be found here.

When applying for a PhD position with LUCL, the application procedure is as follows.

In addition to the requirements set by the Graduate School of Humanities, applicants are also required to provide the following items:

  • A preference for a supervisor. You may mention this in your research proposal. Possible supervisors can be found through the list of LUCL staff. Detailed information on individual expertise can be found on the personal pages.

  • A research outline (200-500 words), containing a working title; an introduction, including an explanation of your research questions; any relevant information on primary sources; scholarships to date; theory and methodology; etc.

  • A (brief) CV, listing education and employment history, and any relevant publications, as applicable.

  • Names and contact information of two academic referees. LUCL will ask these referees for a recommendation.

  • Proof of proficiency in English, in the form of a TOEFL or IELTS examination, or a Cambridge certificate of Proficiency in English.

The application procedure also includes an interview, if necessary by telephone or Skype.

Candidates are requested to submit their application using this form:

When applying for a contract or external PhD position, prospective supervisor(s) should declare their availability and support for the candidate’s work before they enter the formal application procedure. PhD candidates will apply to the office of the Graduate School for Humanities, with LUCL as the institute of their choice. Once the office has ascertained that their application is complete, it will forward the application to LUCL. Please find the relevant form here.

Additional information


If you require any additional information, please write to:

Last Modified: 09-12-2015