ESR1: Categorization of speech sounds as a collective decision process

PhD fellowship

Two participants in a study on conversational interaction, in the sound proof room of the Laboratoire Parole et Langage, Aix-Marseille University


For two people to understand each other, words must refer to the same entities for both of them. How the relations between speech sounds and meanings come to be collectively established within a linguistic community, is an issue at the heart of speech and language. ESR1’s project will be to explore this issue in the laboratory, using—to our knowledge for the first time — a joint-perception experimental paradigm. Groups of participants will be asked to identify speech sounds in word-to-picture matching tasks.

The tasks will be performed on individual computers but each participant will receive information on the other participants’ responses. The main goal will be to determine to what degree perceptual convergence occurs across participants in the categorization of speech sounds. ESR1 will manipulate the way in which response-related information circulates among participants to characterize the effects this manipulation may have on perceptual convergence. A model will be developed of perceptual convergence as a collective decision process. Predictions of this model will be tested using an artificial agent performing the task together with human participants.

Expected results:

  • Significant contribution to the experimental study of the collective establishment of sound-to-meaning relationships;
  • Experimental platform for studies on the joint processing and understanding of spoken language.

Based in Aix-en Provence, France

Full-time three-year contract, starting September 2020

PhD enrolment at: Aix-Marseille University, France

Main supervisor’s institution: Aix-Marseille University, France

Main supervisor: Prof Noël Nguyen


  • DAVI, Puteaux: setting-up of the artificial agent employed in the joint-perception experiments (5,5 months);
  • University of Edinburgh (UEDIN): guidance on how to integrate perceptual convergence processes in a cognitive model of conversation (5 months).

Co-supervisors’ institutions:

  • DAVI, Puteaux, France
  • The University of Edinburgh (UEDIN), UK


The ESR will be contractually employed for 36 months by the main institution, and will be covered under the social security scheme of the enrolling country. She/he will monthly receive a Living Allowance, a Mobility Allowance and a Family Allowance (if applicable) compliant with the applicable EC Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions-ITN general conditions.

Note that the Mobility Allowance is intended to cover the costs associated with the fact that the ESR has moved to another country in order to take her/his position, and is for her/his private use only.

The net salary for ESR1 will be about €2.300-2.700 according to her/his situation.

In addition, funds administered by the host institution will be available to cover the ESR’s participation in the project. This includes:

. Visa and residency card (if needed)
. Registration fees requested by the university in which the ESR will enroll as a PhD student
. Consumable and supplies costs involved in the ESR’s research
. Travel and accommodation expenses associated with the ESR’s stays in places of secondment
. Travel and accommodation expenses associated with the ESR’s participation in the seven COBRA training events
. Registration, travel and accommodation expenses associated with the ESR’s participation in conferences
. Publication fees

Eligibility criteria:

Experience eligibility requirement: Eligible applicants must be in the first 4 years of their research careers (full-time equivalent research experience) at the signature of the contract (measured from the time the Master’s degree has been obtained).

Eligible applicants must not hold a Doctoral Degree yet.

Mobility eligibility requirement

The fellow must not have resided in the main institution’s country for more than 12 months in the 3 years immediately prior to the recruitment date, and not have carried out their main activity (work, studies, etc.) in that country.

Selection process

February 2020: Opening of the call

Applications must contain the following:

  1. An up-to-date CV, without gaps, in order for the selection committee to easily check the mobility and experience requirements. CVs that either do not clearly show the applicant’s past experience, or have gaps, will be considered ineligible;
  2. A letter exposing her/his motivation for a COBRA PhD fellowship, and her preference for two of the fifteen PhD projects proposed in COBRA;
  3. At least 1 reference letter (in English) from one former supervisor and/or professor;
  4. The scan of the degree (usually the master’s degree) which would formally entitles her/him to embark on a doctorate, either in the country in which the degree was obtained, or in the country in which the researcher will be recruited. If the degree has not been obtained yet, the applicant will have to provide a declaration of her/his university stating that the degree will be obtained before the expected starting date;
  5. Transcripts of records (document indicating the applicant’s ranking and/or marks within her/his master’s degree as well as the courses/modules she/he has followed).

The complete application should be provided in the form of one single pdf file, named as follows: lastname-firstname.pdf.

The extended deadline for the submission of applications is 15 April 2020, 5 pm GMT.

Admission timeline

  • April 2020: Selection & ranking of pre-selected candidates
  • May 2020: Pre-selected candidates’ interviews
  • June 2020: Notification of the selected candidates
  • September-October 2020: Beginning of contracts

Additional comments

REQUIRED EDUCATION LEVEL: Master’s degree or equivalent
REQUIRED LANGUAGE: ENGLISH (Good or higher level)

Specific Requirements:

Applications must be in English and will be evaluated against the following criteria:

  • Educational record;
  • Scientific quality of the applicant’s CV;
  • Expected impact and benefit to the fellow and to the project;
  • Previous experiences in the area of the COBRA research programme.

COBRA supports equal opportunity and encourages female researchers to apply for positions.

In the event that the ESR recruited has a disability such that her/his participation in the project is not possible without extra financial support, the host institution will apply for a dedicated Special Needs Lump Sum allowance (SNLS) to the European Commission.

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