Back to search results
Header Image

PhD Studentship, Interaction Between Gesture and Prosody in Structuring Information

Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics - Multimodal Language Department

Interaction between gesture and prosody in structuring information: The case of negation

A four-year fully funded PhD position in the Multimodal Language Department.

Doctoral supervisors: Prof. Asli Özyürek (MPI, Radboud University), Assoc. Prof. Hatice Zora (MPI, Stockholm University), Dr. Peter Uhrig (TU Dresden).

Job description

For successful communication speakers constantly need to make choices to organize linguistic information in ways fitting their and their interlocutors’ communicative needs at the sentence, discourse and dialogic levels. This is called information structure (IS). Devices that mark IS are diverse ranging from prosodic marking to (morpho)syntactic means as well as gesture. Given the multimodal aspect of communication, the present project aims to investigate gesture (hand, head, facial) as means of expressing IS and its interaction with prosody and morphosyntactic choices in a given language. The project takes an integrated production and perception perspective, even though the emphasis will be on production patterns, and aims to account for language-specific characteristics.

The target language to be investigated is Turkish, which is a verb-final language, with relatively flexible word order driven by information structure, and the linguistic phenomenon to be concentrated on is negation. The main questions to be addressed are i) how do interlocutors use gesture, prosody and morphosyntax in an integrated way to mark negation in Turkish, ii) whether and to what extent gestural marking aligns with prosodic marking iii) how does such multimodal patterning of negation information influence the comprehension and interpretation of negation and its scope.

These questions will primarily be investigated using a corpus-driven approach, and a quantitative and qualitative analysis of a video corpus (e.g. YouTube materials, elicited lab data) in order to gain a systematic understanding of the interplay between gesture, prosody and negation markers in sentence, discourse and dialogic contexts. The candidate will also learn to use automatic machine learning tools (e.g. Open Pose) to detect gestural markers of negation in big corpora. The predictions will then be validated by experimental methods of multimodal language comprehension regarding interactions between prosody and gesture. If time allows, (neuro)psycholinguistic investigation of the integration process from multiple channels in dialogue will be carried out and combined with a cross-linguistic approach.

Project will be led by an interdisciplinary team, by Prof. Asli Özyürek (, an expert in human crosslinguistic multimodal language use and processing at the Multimodal Language Department of Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics and Dr Hatice Zora ( an expert in use, neural and cognitive processing of prosody and information structure and Dr. Peter Uhrig (, an expert in multimodal corpus and computational linguistics.

If you have questions about the post that you wish to discuss before you apply, please email the Multimodal Language Department Director Prof. Asli Özyürek at


Candidates should have:

  • A high-quality Research Master’s degree (to be obtained before the start of the contract) in a relevant field (e.g. experimental psychology, cognitive science, cognitive neuroscience, (computational) linguistics, multimodal linguistics (e.g., gesture), phonetics, computer science, data science).
  • Linguistic-conceptual knowledge and Turkish proficiency as well as excellent command of written and spoken English.
  • A background in corpus linguistics and/or phonetics, gesture (desirable).
  • Affinity with programming (such as Python, Presentation, R) and experience with corpus-linguistic methods and tools for data coding and analysis (such as ELAN, Praat, Red Hen Rapid Annotator) (preferred).
  • Willingness to work in an interdisciplinary project.
  • Willingness to learn neuroscientific or psycholinguistic measures. 

What we offer you

  • Full-time position (39 hours per week). The start date can be negotiable but not later than 1 September 2024.
  • Starting gross salary is €3,008.69 per month.
  • 30 holidays per year, based on a full-time employment. In addition, we honor the Dutch and German public holidays.
  • The institute provides research facilities, technical support, as well as a conference and travel budget. PhD students participate in the International Max Planck Research School for Language Sciences, which involves core and individually chosen coursework to complement the PhD research and training in soft skills such as writing and presentation. The PhD students receive appropriate training, personal supervision, and guidance for their research, which will provide an excellent start to an academic career. All research staff have access to state-of-the art research facilities, including High-Performance-Computing systems, state of the art Vicon Motion Capture Lab (to be installed end 2023) and VR labs, training facilities and a generous conference and travel budget. 

Application procedure

To apply please use our application portal, by clicking the 'Apply' button

The deadline for application is 1 November, 2023, but can be extended till we find a suitable candidate.

Short-listed candidates will be invited to participate, shortly after the deadline, in an online or in-person interview.

Applications should be in .pdf format and should include:

  • Two-page statement of why you are interested in this post and why you consider yourself a good match for the post.
  • One-page summary of your MA thesis.
  • Examples of published work (if any).
  • A CV, which should include a list of publications and the name, email address and contact number of three referees who would be willing to provide letters of recommendation (referees will not be contacted unless you are invited to an interview). 

The employer

About our institute

The Max Planck Institute (MPI) for Psycholinguistics is a world-leading research institute devoted to interdisciplinary studies of the science of language and communication, including departments on genetics, psychology, development, neurobiology and multimodality of these fundamental human abilities.
We investigate how children and adults acquire their language(s), how speaking and listening happen in real time, how the brain processes language, how the human genome contributes to building a language-ready brain, how multiple modalities (as in speech, gesture and sign) shape language and its use in diverse languages and how language is related to cognition and culture, and shaped by evolution.

We are part of the Max Planck Society, an independent non-governmental association of German-funded research institutes dedicated to fundamental research in the natural sciences, life sciences, social sciences, and the humanities.

The Max Planck Society is an equal opportunities employer. We recognize the positive value of diversity and inclusion, promote equity and challenge discrimination. We aim to provide a working environment with room for differences, where everyone feels a sense of belonging. Therefore, we welcome applications from all suitably qualified candidates.

Our institute is situated on the campus of the Radboud University and has close collaborative links with the Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behavior and the Centre for Language Studies at the Radboud University.  We also work closely with other child development researchers as part of the Baby & Child Research Center.
Staff and students at the MPI have access to state-of-the-art research and training facilities.

About the Multimodal Language Department

The Multimodal Language Department in particular aims to understand the cognitive and social foundations of the human ability for language and its evolution by focusing on its multimodal aspect and crosslinguistic diversity. The research at the department combines multiple methods including corpus and computational linguistics, psycho- and neuro-linguistics, machine learning, AI and virtual reality, and is concerned with various populations ranging from speakers of signed and spoken languages, young and older subjects from typical and atypical populations. The department provides opportunities for training in a range of linguistic, conversational state of the art multimodal language analysis (such as motion capture and automatic speech recognition), as well as neuropsychological, psychological methods related to multimodal language and frequent research and public engagement meetings, and support from an excellent team of researchers in linguistics and psycholinguistics. 

Qualification Type: PhD
Location: Nijmegen - Netherlands
Funding for: UK Students, EU Students, International Students
Funding amount: €3,008.69 +
£2,616.95 + converted salary* gross salary per month
Hours: Full Time
Placed On: 29th September 2023
Closes: 1st November 2023
We value your feedback on the quality of our adverts. If you have a comment to make about the overall quality of this advert, or its categorisation then please send us your feedback
Show all PhDs for Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics …
Advert information

Type / Role:

Subject Area(s):


* Salary has been converted at the prevailing rate on the date placed
PhD tools

PhD Alert Created

Job Alert Created

Your PhD alert has been successfully created for this search.

Your job alert has been successfully created for this search.

Ok Ok

PhD Alert Created

Job Alert Created

Your PhD alert has been successfully created for this search.

Your job alert has been successfully created for this search.

Manage your job alerts Manage your job alerts

Account Verification Missing

In order to create multiple job alerts, you must first verify your email address to complete your account creation

Request verification email Request verification email Account Required

In order to create multiple alerts, you must create a jobseeker account

Create Account Create Account

Alert Creation Failed

Unfortunately, your account is currently blocked. Please login to unblock your account.

Email Address Blocked

We received a delivery failure message when attempting to send you an email and therefore your email address has been blocked. You will not receive job alerts until your email address is unblocked. To do so, please choose from one of the two options below.

Max Alerts Reached

A maximum of 5 Job Alerts can be created against your account. Please remove an existing alert in order to create this new Job Alert

Manage your job alerts Manage your job alerts

Creation Failed

Unfortunately, your alert was not created at this time. Please try again.

Ok Ok

Create PhD Alert

Create Job Alert

When you create this PhD alert we will email you a selection of PhDs matching your criteria.When you create this job alert we will email you a selection of jobs matching your criteria. Our Terms and Conditions and Privacy Policy apply to this service. Any personal data you provide in setting up this alert is processed in accordance with our Privacy Notice

Create PhD Alert

Create Job Alert

When you create this PhD alert we will email you a selection of PhDs matching your criteria.When you create this job alert we will email you a selection of jobs matching your criteria. Our Terms and Conditions and Privacy Policy apply to this service. Any personal data you provide in setting up this alert is processed in accordance with our Privacy Notice


Browser Upgrade Recommended has been optimised for the latest browsers.

For the best user experience, we recommend viewing on one of the following:

Google Chrome Firefox Microsoft Edge