PhD Position in The Nwo Project Unravelling East Africa's Early Linguistic History

International students are invited for a PhD scholarship in linguistics at Leiden University. The initial contract for this position is 4 years. Applicants should apply as soon as possible.

Project description

The PhD candidate will be working on a subproject within the project Unravelling East Africa's Early Linguistic History, funded by the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO), and directed by dr. Maarten Mous (professor of African linguistics at Leiden University). Unravelling East Africa's Early Linguistic History is a research project that aims to reconstruct the earliest possible linguistic history of East Africa with focus on Tanzania and Kenya and to provide a comprehensive overview of its linguistic history in the last five thousand years. In the traditional view, East Africa was populated by KhoiSan speaking hunter-gatherer communities before successive populations of Cushitic, Bantu, and Nilotic people moved in, bringing agriculture, animal husbandry, and iron. Recent advances in archaeology show a more complex picture. Also, genetic studies have become available, including studies on ancient human and cattle DNA. Furthermore, historical linguists no longer consider the various East African Khoi-San languages as related to each other. It is therefore time to fully reconsider how the linguistic evidence relates to the early populations.

Over the last decades, new lexical and grammatical data has become available. This project provides an open online database containing this lexical material with a critical evaluation of its origins (sub-project 1 PD and PI). In order to establish a new timeline for the language history of East Africa, we develop a revised and drastically expanded linguistic reconstruction of Proto Core Cushitic (sub-project 2 PhD), and of South Omotic (sub-project 3 Addis Ababa PhD). This results in an overview of which language groups were where and in which chronology based on linguistic evidence which serves as input for an interdisciplinary workshop with archaeologists and geneticists that will provide a new and detailed picture for the peopling of East Africa, linking linguistic groups with archaeological finds and DNA results.

Aims of the PhD subproject is a revised and drastically expanded linguistic reconstruction of Proto Core Cushitic. We are looking for an excellent, highly motivated, enterprising and enthusiastic PhD candidate to join the project team. The PhD candidate is expected to revise and expand the current reconstruction of Lowland East Cushitic bringing in new material from relevant languages, establish the genetic position of Southern Cushitic (including evidence from historical morphology) and provide a reconstructed lexicon and phonology of the common ancestor. It may be needed to do some fieldwork to fill lacunae in the lexical data.

Our faculty

The Faculty of Humanities is auniqueinternational centrefor theadvancedstudy of languages, cultures, arts, and societies worldwide, in theirhistorical contexts from prehistory to thepresent. Our faculty is home to more than 6,000 students and 800 staff members. For more information see The Leiden University Centre for Linguistics (LUCL) is one of the seven Research Institutes of the Faculty of Humanities. LUCL has a longstanding tradition in the teaching of and research into the world's languages and features unique linguistic expertise.

Terms and conditions

PhD project, 4 years, starting date 1 October 2019. Initially the employee will receive a one-year contract, with extension for the following 36 months on condition of a positive evaluation. Salary rangefrom 2.325,- to 2.972,- gross per month for a fulltime appointment depending on prior education and working experience (pay scale for Phd's,in accordance with the Collective Labour Agreement for Dutch Universities). Leiden University offers an attractive benefits package with additional holiday (8%) and end-of-year bonuses (8.3%), training and career development. Our individual choices model gives you some freedom to assemble your own set of terms and conditions. Candidates from outside the Netherlands may be eligible for a substantial tax break. For more information:


Leiden University is strongly committed to diversity within its community and especially welcomes applications from members of underrepresented groups. Information

Enquiries can be addressed to the project leader, Dr. Maarten Mous,, and to the Institute Manager, Maarit van Gammeren, e-mail: See for more information about LUCL. Applications

Deadline: As soon as possible
Apply Link: Please send your application via email.

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