PhD in Philosophy and/or Linguistics (Interdisciplinary Project Bitshare)

KU Leuven





The interdisciplinary research will be carried out in the context of a tight collaboration between the Centre for Logic and Philosophy of Science at the Institute of Philosophy and the Research Group on Formal and Computational Linguistics of the Faculty of Arts. The Centre for Logic and Philosophy of Science (CLPS) at the Institute of Philosophy (KU Leuven) focuses on logic and philosophy of science, and also does research on (formal) epistemology, philosophy of mind and philosophy of language. The members of CLPS work within the tradition of analytic philosophy. The Research Group on Formal and Computational Linguistics (ComForT) at the Faculty of Arts conducts theoretical and descriptive research in the fields of formal and computational linguistics, a.o. with a view to its technological applications. The investigation of the patterns and rules constituting the architecture of language and grammar involves formal modelling by means of structural and/or logical-mathematical representations.



Bitstring semantics, which was recently developed in logic, is a formalism for exploring the meaning relations between different expressions. Because it operates in a thoroughly local fashion, this formalism is able to achieve a good balance between high expressivity and low mathematical/computational complexity. The overarching goal of the BITSHARE project is to explore new applications of bitstring semantics in other disciplines that are concerned with meaning and reasoning, viz., philosophy, linguistics, psychology and computer science. Our target applications include some of the most important research topics in these disciplines today, such as scalar implicatures, the semantics/pragmatics interface, collaborative knowledge extraction, and probabilistic causal models. Through these well-chosen target applications, the project will demonstrate that bitstring semantics offers a shared representation formalism for a broad, interdisciplinary community of reasoning researchers, in which the insights from different disciplines can be expressed and combined with each other.

In order to carry out this research, we are looking to hire a total number of four PhD students. The current PhD position is situated at the interface between philosophy and linguistics. Our starting point is the observation that many phenomena and lexical fields display a scalar structure, which can consist of endpoints, intervals and/or midpoints (examples: all – some – no; less than – equal – greater than). Our central theoretical aim is to generalize the formalism of bitstring semantics so that it allows us to capture these types of scalar properties. Next, our central descriptive aim is to analyze the scalar structure underlying natural language quantifiers expressing proportionality (at least 20%/the majority/most of the A are B), evaluation (many/few of the A are B) and normativity (too few/enough/too many of the A are B).


You have a Master’s degree that is relevant toward the interdisciplinary PhD position  (typically: MA in philosophy, MA in linguistics, MSc in logic). You are willing to conduct interdisciplinary research. You are fluent in English.


We offer a full-time PhD position for four years (subject to positive intermediate evaluations), situated in a stimulating scientific working environment within one of Europe's leading research universities. We offer an attractive wage and a budget for research expenses (including small equipment, travel and accommodation costs, the organisation of events).


For more information please contact Prof. dr. Hans Smessaert, tel.: +32 16 32 48 02, mail:, Prof. dr. Jan Heylen, tel.: +32 16 37 68 67, mail:, or dr. Lorenz Demey, tel.: +32 32 88 55, mail:

You can apply for this job no later than November 01, 2019 via the online application tool

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