PhD position: languages writing history FWO funded PhD position in the history of linguistics


(ref. BAP-2020-321)

KU Leuven is advertising a four-year PhD position at the Faculty of Arts as part of the FWO-funded project “Languages writing history: the impact of language studies beyond linguistics (1700-1860)”. The aim of this project is to study the history of the language sciences and the formation of linguistics as a discipline from a ‘post-disciplinary’ point of view: how the study of language evolved from an instrumental subject into an autonomous domain, how it affected other fields of study, and what was lost in the process of discipline formation. The selected candidate will pursue a research project that addresses these issues under the supervision of Dr Toon van Hal (Historical, Comparative, and Applied Linguistics) and Dr Floris Solleveld (Cultural History since 1750). Project Before the study of language was institutionalized, and concentrated, in the discipline of linguistics in the 19th century, languages were central to understanding mankind and, therefore, to scholarship in the humanities. Once historical and linguistic knowledge came to be collected, systematized, categorized, codified, and transmitted in institutionalized disciplines, boundaries arose between the new disciplines. The FWO project “Languages writing History” focuses at the no man’s land between the boundaries of traditional disciplines, with a special focus on the interplay between history and linguistics. Apart from investigating how the transition from the instrumental status of language studies in the Early Modern period to its present autonomy was reflected in scholarly discourse, it also aims to assess the impact which the broadening of the scope of linguistics had on the study of the humanities in general, for instance in historical, religious, and ethnological scholarship.


Within this overarching project, the PhD candidate is expected to develop and carry out his/her own line of research, leading to a PhD dissertation. S/he is expected to present at international conferences and to publish both single-authored and co-authored articles. A small amount of teaching will be encouraged.


• You have a Master’s degree (at the start of your contract) in Linguistics, History, Philosophy, Classical or Modern Languages, or a related field.
• You have an interdisciplinary orientation, with an interest in the history of knowledge as well as in linguistics.
• You have a good oral and written command of English and preferably a working knowledge French, German, and Latin. Knowledge of other languages is an asset.
• You are prepared to do archive and library research abroad, and have the necessary (paleographic/library/language) skills or are willing to acquire them.
• You are interested in Digital Humanities perspectives.
• You are communicative, creative, cooperative, and have a passion for research.
• You are adept at doing research independently as well as working in a team.


The successful candidate will be offered a one-year contract, to be extended a further three years subject to positive evaluations. The starting date is 1 September 2020 or as soon as possible.
The PhD candidate will be employed at KU Leuven under the standard conditions of FWO Research Foundation – Flanders. The starting salary is min. € 2.150 net/month fte., depending on age, professional experience, and family status; in addition, the fellowship provides for social and health benefits, office space, and a budget for research expenses.


Applications should include a cover letter, CV, one-page research statement, and the names of two referees. You can apply until 1 July 2020 using the online application tool.

For questions please contact Dr Toon van Hal ( or Dr Floris Solleveld ( A detailed description of the overarching FWO project is available upon request.

You can apply for this job no later than July 01, 2020 via the online application tool.
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