4 positions as Postdoctoral Research Fellow/Researcher in Multilingualism

The positions

Four Postdoctoral/Researcher positions in Multilingualism are available in the Department of Language and Culture at UiT – The Arctic University of Norway. The positions are affiliated with the AcqVA Aurora Centre (Language Acquisition, Variation & Attrition): The Dynamic Nature of Languages in the Mind. The positions will start no later than Sept 1st 2020, or earlier if mutually agreed. Click here to apply.

The appointments are fixed term positions for a period of three and a half years.

Each of the four advertised positions will be linked to one of the four themes of AcqVA Aurora (see below).

Applicants may apply for more than one of the postdoc/researcher positions. If so, a 1-2-page proposal on how the candidate will contribute to the research in the theme must be submitted, one for each position applied for (see details below).

The AcqVA Aurora Centre currently consists of 30 active researchers, including seven professors/associate professors, a lab manager, seven researchers/postdoctoral fellows, three MSCA postdocs, four PhD students, and eight Professor II positions (20%), who are top, internationally recognized leaders in our field. The group members are involved in a number of research projects both locally and internationally, e.g. the MiMS and SALT projects financed by the Research Council of Norway, the MultiGender project funded by the Centre for Advanced Study, and the HeLPiNG project funded by the Tromsø Research Foundation. For further information about the group’s work and activities, see the website of AcqVA Aurora.

AcqVA Aurora is a UiT Aurora Centre, funded for the period 2020-2024. The highly competitive UiT Aurora Centre scheme provides funding to research groups that demonstrate excellence, in order to strengthen their capacity to be successful in the competition for larger external funding. AcqVA Aurora will add 10 outstanding researchers to the current team: The four advertised Postdoctor/Researcher positions, four Professor II positions, one lab manager and one associate/full Professor.

The advertised Postdoctor/Researcher positions are funded directly by the Aurora Centre grant and will give the successful candidates the opportunity to work closely with an outstanding team of linguists.

The appointed Postdoctor/Researcher must have her/his daily workplace at the UiT, campus Tromsø.

The positions’ field of research

The following is a brief description of the work in AcqVA Aurora:

Humans are unique among animals in that we have language, a complex system enabling com­muni­cation about any topic, be it past, present or future. In fact, humans are not limited to one language, but can acquire several under the right conditions. Nevertheless, bi- and multilingualism is not an either-or pheno­menon, as multi­lingual minds may (and typically do) undergo numerous changes across the lifespan, as a result of linguistic and non-linguistic factors. This means that multilingual minds comprise dyna­mic linguistic systems, as co-existing languages affect each other in a multi­tude of ways, both in the acquisition process and beyond. The AcqVA Aurora Center conducts ecolo­gi­cally valid research, re­flect­ing today’s globa­lized world, where learning mul­tiple lan­guages at various points in the lifetime has become increasingly common. Our research focuses on a range of multi­lingual speaker groups and thus feed into current chal­lenges related to migration, education, and health, addressing important and yet unanswered questions for science and society. AcqVA Aurora combines solid empi­ri­cal work with advanced theoretical (and statistical) model­ing in three domains: A) Acquisition: how multilingual minds develop in children and adults, B) Variation: how and why languages may differ considerably across indivi­duals and groups in space and time, and C) Attrition: how and why language erosion may occur over the course of the lifespan. The three domains are studied within four cross-cutting themes, focusing on inter­related issues of multi­lingualism: 1) how linguistic and non-linguistic experiential factors shape linguistic and cognitive outcomes, 2) how multiple languages in the same mind influence each other, 3) how clo­sely related varieties co-existing in the same mind are processed, and 4) how representing and juggling multiple languages manifest and result in adaptations at the neurological and domain-general cognitive levels.

The advertized postdoc/researcher positions will be linked to each of the four themes of AcqVA Aurora.

Theme 1: MutiLingual Minds and Factors Affecting MultiLingual Outcomes

Theme 1 investigates multilingual minds and factors affecting multilingual experience. The Principal Investigators are Dr. Yulia Rodina and Dr. Fatih Bayram. Adjunct professor Cecile De Cat (University of Leeds) is also part of Theme 1. Our research focuses on how linguistic as well as non-linguistic factors shape multilingual states of linguistic knowledge and competence/performance, contributing to observed individual variation (in linguistic competence, language processing, and mind/brain adaptations). We also investigate to what extent the correlations between linguistic outcomes and individual language experiences differ for each language of the multilingual speaker, across different age groups, domains of grammar, and modalities of testing. Theme 1 uses experimental and semi-longitudinal methodological designs with participants from age 4 to 50+. Individual language experiences are investigated in a systematic and comprehensive way via a bespoke language background questionnaire based on a combination of some of the most widely used questionnaires in the literature, cf. BiLEC (Unsworth 2013), LSBQ (Anderson et al. 2017), and Leap-Q (Marian et al. 2007). This questionnaire is expected to be used in all four themes of AcqVA Aurora for comparability as well as achieving a more comprehensive view of individual differences across the lifespan.

The postdoc/researcher for Theme 1 is therefore expected to document a background within bi-/multilingualism, using primarily psycholinguistic approaches. Candidates interested in the effects of bi-/multilingualism across the lifespan including a broad range of language combinations and in how experiential factors shape their linguistic and cognitive performance are especially welcome to apply. Knowledge and experience with bi-/multilingual measures of proficiency, cognition, language background and a high command of complex statistical analysis are highly desirable. Close collaboration with Themes 2, 3, and 4 is expected.

Qualification requirements

  • A completed PhD in (Psycho)Linguistics, Cognitive Science, Psychology or another relevant field.
  • Demonstrable experience with empirical methods such as offline behavioral and online (processing) experimentation (e.g., eye-tracking, EEG).
  • High command/competence of statistical modelling and knowledge of relevant programs.
  • Excellent command of spoken and written English.
  • Experience working with bi-/multilingual young and adult populations.

Theme 2: MultiLingual Minds and Crosslinguistic Influence

Theme 2 is led by Professor Merete Anderssen and Dr. Natalia Mitrofanova and also includes Adjunct Professor Ludovica Serratrice (University of Reading) as well as several other members from the AcqVA Aurora Centre. The aim of the theme is to establish the nature and extent of cross-linguistic influence (CLI) in multilingual minds. In doing so, we will work on various populations and different age groups with the aim of teasing apart CLI from other factors affecting the outcome in multilingual acquisition. For heritage speakers, we propose a new methodology which will enable us to disentangle CLI from the effects of reduced input. We will go beyond comparing bilingual children to monolinguals and make a comparison across multiple bilingual populations. In doing this, we will keep one language – the target – constant and vary the second language parametrically (based on the presence and absence of certain grammatical features). We will match the participants by their exposure to the target language, thus making sure that the only difference between the groups is their other language(s). This means that if we find any differences in the way the bilingual groups comprehend or produce the target language, we will be able to confidently attribute these differences to the influence coming from their other languages. In our investigation of the role of CLI in non-native languages, we will also aim to control for other factors, such as amount of exposure and cognitive abilities. The findings of the project will have important implications for the theoretical field of multilingualism, as well as practical implications for language teaching.

We solicit proposals on different linguistic phenomena, language combinations and populations, the latter including both language acquisition (2L1, child and adult L2, L3, etc.) and attrition (in adults and children). We especially, but not exclusively, welcome projects that consider one or more of the following: (i) what role structural overlap plays in crosslinguistic influence; (ii) how experiential factors and general processing load can be teased apart from crosslinguistic influence; and (iii) how comparisons between heritage speakers of the same language with different majority languages (rather than comparisons to monolinguals) can help us isolate crosslinguistic influence from other factors determining language outcomes. Projects involving any language combinations are welcome. However, proposals on English, Norwegian and Russian together and in combination with other languages (e.g. German, Spanish or Swedish) are of particular interest, as these languages are likely to play an important role in Theme 2.

Qualification requirements

  • A completed PhD in Linguistics, Cognitive Science, Psychology or another relevant field
  • Demonstrable experience with previous research within language acquisition, attrition, heritage languages and/or multilingualism
  • Excellent command of spoken and written English
  • Knowledge of Norwegian, Russian, German, Spanish or Swedish is desirable
  • Experience with a broad range of relevant methodologies, ranging from traditional behavioral approaches to experimental techniques, is desirable

Theme 3: MultiLingual Minds and Closely Related Varieties (MultiLectal Minds)

Theme 3 is led by Professors Øystein A. Vangsnes and Terje Lohndal and also includes Adjunct Professor Elma Blom (Utrecht University). The aim of the theme is to develop a model of the grammatical architecture in individuals who possess knowledge of two or more closely related linguistic varieties. We will investigate different types of language ecologies that make it possible to probe how speakers use and process minimally different varieties. In particular, we will focus on the emergence (acquisition), variation and attrition of such varieties at the individual and group level. We address the question of how multilectal knowledge is organized in the mental grammar of the individual. Is the knowledge of one lect integrated in the grammar of another lect, or are they kept apart? How, if at all, does literacy and writing practices influence this? And what does the social status of the various lects contribute? Through close and in-depth studies of different kinds of multi­lectal speakers in Norway and beyond we aspire to inform long-standing questions of the nature of bilingual grammars.

The postdoc for Theme 3 should document a background suitable for working on issues concerning closely related linguistic varieties, and previous experience with such research will be highly valued, as will familiarity with different methodologies, ranging from traditional dialectological and sociolinguistic approaches to experimental, cognitive techniques. Knowledge of a Scandinavian language will be an advantage, but comparative studies are very relevant. Thus, candidates with a strong background related to other multilectal situations are encouraged to apply.

Qualification requirements

  • A completed PhD in Linguistics, Cognitive Science, Psychology or another relevant field
  • Demonstrable experience with previous research on closely related varieties
  • Excellent command of spoken and written English
  • Knowledge of a Scandinavian language is desirable
  • Experience with a broad range of relevant methodologies, ranging from traditional dialectological and sociolinguistic approaches to experimental techniques, is desirable

Theme 4: MultiLingual Minds and Neurocognitive Adaptations

Theme 4 is the newest research concentration area in AcqVA Aurora. The Principal Investigator is Professor Jason Rothman, director of the Psycholinguistics of Language Representation (PoLaR) lab.  The group includes Adjunct Professors Jubin Abutalebi (Vita Salute San Raffaele) and Jon Andoni Duñabeitia (Nebrija), and will be supplemented by the filling of a professorship specifically in the Neurocogition of Bilingualism currently underway.  In addition to many involved members of AcqVA Auora, this theme links to colleagues in the Department of Psychology and the faculty of Medicine at UiT. This theme is primarily focused on investigating and understanding the cognitive and neurological outcomes of bilingual experience across the lifespan. In doing so, we are especially interested in understanding what determinants of bilingual competence and language use (across different types of bilinguals) relate to potential effects on the mind and brain in typical development from childhood through older age as well as various types of neurodegeneration. We are interested in understanding how and why bilingualism might result in neuroanatomical changes in the brain, differential efficiency in task performance at the brain level and potentially affect executive control processes more generally. Our labs house state-of-the-art equipment such as in-house eye-tracking and EEG, and we have access to T3 MRI facilities, currently via the University hospital, but soon via a collaborative research-only scanner.

The postdoc/researcher in Theme 4 will work primarily under the Bilingualism and NeuroCognition theme of AcqVA Aurora. While this position with be an integrated member of the entire AcqVA Aurora enterprise, this postdoctoral position will work most closely under the supervision of Professors Rothman, Abutalebi and Duñabeitia. We seek an early-career scholar with interest in the neurocognitive and/or neurobiological study of bilingualism. Those interested in brain effects of bilingualism in typical ageing, neurodegeneration and/or how experiential factors related to language use and proficiency differentially shape bilingual brains are especially welcome to apply. Previous training in linguistics is desirable. Previous experience and expertise in MRI methods are required, especially working with structural analyses, e.g. volumetric analyses such as VBM and analyses related to diffusion such as TBSS. Knowledge and experience with task-related and/or resting state functional analyses and/or Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy and related analyses are highly desirable. Knowledge and/or interest in EEG, especially ERP and neural oscillation analyses are also highly desirable.

Qualification requirements

  • A completed PhD in (Psycho/neuro-)linguistics, Cognitive Science, Neuroscience, Psychology or another relevant field.
  • Demonstrable experience with MRI research methods (in particular as described above), preferably as related to bilingual populations.
  • High command/competence of statistical modelling and knowledge of relevant programs, programming and analyses suites.
  • Excellent command of spoken and written English.
  • Interest/experience working with bilinguals in ageing populations and/or neurodegeneration populations is desirable.
  • Experience with other empirical methods such as offline behavioral experimentation, eye-tracking and/or EEG is desirable.

The applicants must provide a general contextualizing statement/proposal (2 pages maximum), indicating how they see their background and experience fitting into AcqVA Aurora, especially in relation to the research questions and aims of the Aurora Centre. Please also indicate which languages and what domains of grammar you might wish to study and why, always in relation to the research questions and aims.

Please contact the PIs of each theme (see contact details below) for access to the full research proposal and any questions you might have.

Contact

For further information about the positions and the AcqVA Aurora Centre, please consult the website and/or contact one of the PIs of each theme via E-mail:

Theme 1: Associate Professor Yulia Rodina, yulia.rodina@uit.no

Theme 2: Professor Merete Anderssen, merete.anderssen@uit.no

Theme 3: Professor Øystein A. Vangsnes, oystein.vangsnes@uit.no

Theme 4: Professor Jason Rothman, jason.rothman@uit.no

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