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PhD student in Basque phonetics & historical phonology M/W

This offer is available in the following languages:
Français - Anglais

Date Limite Candidature : mardi 1 décembre 2020

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General information

Reference : UMR5478-ANDEGU-001
Workplace : BAYONNE
Date of publication : Tuesday, November 10, 2020
Scientific Responsible name : Ander Egurtzegi
Type of Contract : PhD Student contract / Thesis offer
Contract Period : 36 months
Start date of the thesis : 1 February 2021
Proportion of work : Full time
Remuneration : 2 135,00 € gross monthly

Description of the thesis topic

The aim of this position is to contribute to a research project that seeks to improve our current understanding of Basque historical phonology by incorporating recent advances in theories of phonetically based sound change. We aim to combine the historical-comparative method with phonetic detail and quantitative typological data for studying the historical sound patterns of a language isolate such as Basque, in which the comparative method finds most difficulties.
For this purpose, the candidate is expected to study one of the topics of the project, namely the opposition between sibilants. This study will include the following tasks:
- Recording of native speakers from different Basque regions;
- Annotation and analysis of the recordings;
- Reconstruction of older features and proposal of likely sound changes;
- Devising experiments to find potential evidence of sound-change.
The candidate will join the IKER (UMR 5478) lab in Bayonne (France) as a researcher in the Modern Approaches to Diachronic Phonology Applied to Basque (MADPAB) ANR project, financed by the ANR, and led by Ander Egurtzegi (CNRS-IKER). The student will work under the supervision of Ander Egurtzegi, and in collaboration with the other members of the project: Juliette Blevins (City University of New York), Christopher Carignan (University College London), and Gorka Elordieta (University of the Basque Country).
This project will result in a better understanding of sound patterns that have been subject of discussion for years in Basque historical phonology, and it will advance our knowledge of general typologies of sound change with a thorough analysis of the uncommon sound changes that will be studied. The areas of interest cover the evolution of the opposition between /h/ and /h̃/, changes in the phonetic cues underlying the opposition between the two stop series, changes in the place of articulation of sibilants, the evolution of vowel inventories, and changes in the accentual system. For each topic under study, the employed methodology will combine philological work comparing the dialectal variants attested in older stages of the language and analysis of acoustic and articulatory data.
Experiments will be devised to find coarticulatory patterns that might have yielded sound change in the past, including analyzing reconstructed sequences that are not found in the modern language (e.g. #st-) as pronounced by speakers of modern Basque. The project methodology will also include other data-based approaches, such as computer-based segment co-occurrence searches of big corpora to find potential biases in the phonotactic distribution of the segments under study and searches for typological parallels of each process.

- Building on the existing literature, establishment of a 'state of the art' on the relevant issues in the topic under study.
- Recording, segmentation and annotation of acoustic and articulatory data.
- Comparison and statistical analysis of the relevant data.
- Characterization of the specific phonetic features of Basque sibilants in the different varieties under study, and hypothesizing which were the oldest, common features of these segments.
- Exploration of the hypothesis that modern Basque sibilants are the result of older splits, i.e. exploring whether the place opposition is required for older stages of the languages. This will involve both historical as well as experimental approaches to sound change.
- Outreach: presentation of the results of the research at international conferences, publication of at least one article in a leading international journal.
- Involvement in the diverse tasks related to the project: organizing seminars, conferences, publications, and other potential management-related tasks.

Required skills:
- MA in linguistics or equivalent (completed by the starting date of the contract).
- Strong background in the phonetics and (historical) phonology of Basque.
- Fluency in Basque and English.

Highly valued skills:
- Research experience in Basque phonology and/or phonetics.
- Knowledge and experience with fieldwork and/or experimental methodologies and techniques.
- Experience with Praat and R. Experience with other relevant software will also be valued.

Work Context

This postdoc is funded by the ANR project Modern Approaches to Diachronic Phonology Applied to Basque (MADPAB), which involves UMR 5478 (IKER), in partnership with researchers from the City University of New York (USA), University College London (UK) and the University of the Basque Country (Spain).
The IKER lab (http://www.iker.cnrs.fr/), located in Bayonne (64), specializes in the study of the Basque language and its texts.
The general goal of the project is to improve our understanding of some of the major current issues in Basque historical phonology that could not be resolved by the classical methods alone. I aim to achieve this by benefiting from the advancements in theories of sound change, contact linguistics and phonological typology and by using innovative quantitative and experimental techniques. This general aim incorporates four more delimited objectives: 1- To improve the current reconstruction of the historical phonology of the Basque language. 2- To contribute to general theories of sound change on very different areas of interest. 3- To develop a method of historical investigation based on phonetics that can then be applied to other languages in which the comparative method finds most difficulties, including language isolates and languages with very small families. 4- To find the initial evidence to develop a list of heuristics that help us identify sound change in situations of contact from language-internal sound change.

Constraints and risks


Additional Information

The application file, submitted via the CNRS' Portail Emploi platform, will include a CV, a report on the candidate's previous research activities, and possibly an example of their work (e.g. a paper or MA thesis).

Starting date: 01/02/2021 or as soon as possible thereafter (to be agreed with the selected candidate).

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