Doctoral fellow

Last application date
Dec 20, 2023 00:00
LW21 - Department of Languages and Cultures
Limited duration
Occupancy rate
Vacancy type
Research staff

Job description

Applications are invited for two PhD research positions of one-year, starting as early as possible in 2024 and renewable once with three additional years, to carry out (historical-comparative) linguistic research within the ERC-funded CongUbangi project led by Prof. Dr. Sara Pacchiarotti at the Department of Languages and Cultures at Ghent University in Ghent, Belgium ( Within this department, both students will operate in the UGent Centre for Bantu Studies (, associated with the UGent African Studies program ( All nationalities are welcome to apply; selected candidates are expected to relocate to Ghent, Belgium.

Brief Project Description
[For more information or a full project description contact]
The Congo-Ubangi watershed : An interdisciplinary approach to the genesis of a linguistic accretion zone in Central Africa (project’s acronym: CongUbangi)
Central Africa’s Congo-Ubangi watershed spans multiple ecozones in the northern margins of the rainforest. It is a major hotbed of linguistic, cultural and human genetic diversity with deep occupation history. This linguistic accretion zone is home to a complex mosaic of genealogically and typologically diverse languages spoken by small-size communities with different societal organizations, material cultures, and subsistence specializations. Despite the myriad of new insights it could generate about language evolution and deep human past, it is poorly known due to difficulty of access and an astonishingly intricate configuration.
The aim of CongUbangi is to understand the present-day interconnections between language, material cultures and genes in the Congo-Ubangi watershed and project them as far back into the past as possible through a holistic, localized and locally-enforced interdisciplinary approach. The project team’s core scientific expertise covers linguistics, ethnoarchaeology, and archaeology. Genetic and paleoenvironmental expertise is added through inter-university collaboration. CongUbangi will realize a breakthrough in our understanding of how linguistic diversity correlates with cultural and genetic diversity and why it originated and persisted in this specific ecoregion for millennia.
New bodies of evidence from mutually-feeding disciplines will be integrated to determine whether (i) language shift is an adaptive strategy in response to environmental stress and (ii) past environmental changes impacted the synchronic distribution of linguistic enclaves. By untangling one of the most historically intricate areas of the continent, it will contribute to scores of theoretical and methodological issues in a large array of disciplines and blaze research trails in previously unimaginable directions. Beyond research, it will foster the preservation of small-scale autochthonous languages and cultures facing increasing extinction threats.

Job profile


  • You hold a MA degree in African Languages and/or Linguistics or an equivalent diploma;
  • You have a basic training in African linguistics or you have been exposed to African languages during your training as a linguist;
  • You have good knowledge of English as well as sufficient knowledge of French to do fieldwork in francophone Central Africa;
  • You are willing and able to carry out fieldwork in remote locations in West-Central Africa, including northwestern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), northeastern Republic of the Congo and southwestern Central African Republic to collect first-hand data on undocumented languages;
  • You are a dynamic and enthusiastic team player who adapts to challenging situations;

Additional assets

  • Experience with northwestern Bantu languages and/or Ubangi and/or Central Sudanic;
  • Linguistic fieldwork experience in Africa or outside of Europe;
  • Ability to use specialized software for language analysis (FieldWorks Language Explorer, Toolbox, Elan, Praat, etc.);
  • Training in historical linguistics;
  • Demonstrated ability to analyze and publish first-hand fieldwork data on languages belonging to different language families;
  • A keen interest in interdisciplinary approaches to the African past;

Conditions and benefits

  • The contract as a PhD-student is for an initial term of 1 year. The contract can be extended for additional 3 years subject to favorable evaluation of the previous term
  • Your contract will start on March 1 2024 at the earliest.
  • The scholarship amount is 100% of the net salary of an AAP (Academic Assistant Personnel) member in equal family circumstances. The individual scholarship amount is determined by the DPO (Department of Personnel and Organization) on the basis of family circumstances and seniority. A grant that meets the conditions and criteria of the regulations for doctoral scholarships is considered free of personal income tax. Click here for more information about our salary scales
  • All Ghent University staff members enjoy a number of benefits, such as a wide range of training and education opportunities, 36 days of holiday leave (on an annual basis for a full-time job) supplemented by annual fixed bridge days, bicycle allowance and eco vouchers. Click here for a complete overview of all the staff benefits (in Dutch).

PhD research description

  • You will participate in the project’s fieldwork missions in Central Africa planned between 2024 and 2029 or carry out fieldwork independently;
  • PhD candidate 1 will collect first-hand fieldwork data on an Ubangi enclave variety known as Ndunga(-le) or Mondunga, spoken to the northeast of the city of Lisala, DRC, in order to describe its phonology, basic verbal and nominal morphosyntax as well as specific grammatical subsystems.
  • PhD candidate 2 will work on selected case-studies of multidirectional language shift involving any combination of Bantu, Ubangi, and Central Sudanic languages.
  • The research of both PhD candidates will closely interact with the research carried out by the PhD student in ethnoarchaeology within the CongUbangi project;
  • You will be expected to disseminate research results together with the CongUbangi research team via publications in international peer-reviewed journals, the participation in conferences, etc.

How to apply

How to apply
Applicants should submit a single pdf file containing the following items:
(1) a motivation letter (cover letter) including a short research plan, in which you specify how you would tackle the proposed PhD research
(2) CV
(3) up to two samples of (published) academic work
(4) a recommendation letter from you MA adviser

Send your pdf file to and include “CongUbangi: PhD in linguistics” in the subject line.