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PhD position in Gyalrongic (Sino-Tibetan) descriptive and historical linguistics


logo of Gyulha and picture of Western Sichuan


The Trinity Centre for Asian Studies, Trinity College Dublin are offering a 4-year PhD position in descriptive and historical linguistics, focusing on Gyalrongic, a group of Sino-Tibetan languages mainly spoken in Western Sichuan, China. 

The PhD position is part of the GyU-LHA project (Gyalrongic unveiled: Languages, Heritage, Ancestry), supported by an SFI-IRC Pathway programme grant, and is fully funded with an annual stipend of €18,500 and a contribution to fees of €5,750 per annum.

The GyU-LHA project studies one of the most conservative language groups in the Sino-Tibetan family, from both synchronic and diachronic perspectives. The goal of the project is to combine traditional and innovative methods in linguistics in a smooth and effective way. It requires that team members possess skills in neogrammarian historical linguistics, along with a modern mind to solve problems with a computer. 

The project is led by Dr Yunfan Lai and mentored by Prof Nathan W. Hill. We expect most, if not all of the following qualities from candidates:

  • A master's degree (or equivalent) in linguistics, preferably with a background of comparative and historical linguistics and field experience
  • Basic computational skills with at least one of the major programming languages (Python preferred), in addition to LaTeX
  • Proficiency in spoken and written English
  • Basic or advanced skills in at least one Sino-Tibetan language (e.g. Mandarin Chinese, Tibetan, Bantawa, etc.)
  • Commitment to study and work on a new Gyalrongic language and to learn new skills
  • Strong team spirit

If the candidate lacks some of the requirements listed above (except the master's degree which is obligatory), they can still apply as long as they show strong commitment to acquire the missing qualities in their cover letter.

The successful candidate will play a crucial role in the research group and conduct their own research as well as team research. Their main tasks include:

  • Field research on a previously undescribed or insufficiently described Gyalrongic language (a priori a Southern Situ dialect). If the candidate happens to be a native speaker of one of the Gyalrongic languages, they will be asked to study an unintelligible Gyalrongic language for their dissertation (they will be free to work on their own language for other purposes and will get help from the supervisors).
  • Participate in team research, which comprises the finalisation of a Gyalrongic comparative database, contribution to proto-language reconstruction as well as phylogenetic inference of the subgrouping of Gyalrongic
  • Participate in workshops, talks and conferences related to the research topic.
  • Publish first-author as well as co-authored research papers in international journals
  • Finalise their PhD dissertation based on their field research

Candidates should submit their applications including the following components:

  • Cover letter, explaining research experience, interests and motivation (2 pages max.)
  • CV with a list of publications
  • Names and contact information (e.g. email) for 2 referees (e.g. senior researchers/professors familiar with the candidate's work)

Please submit your application to Dr Yunfan Lai ( no later than 31 March, 2022 (before 23:59, GMT+1). We will then process a first round of selection. Short listed candidates will be invited to formally apply for the PhD program in the Centre for Language and Communication Studies ( school-of-linguistic-speech-and-communications-sciences/) and the successful candidate for the scholarship will be selected from those admitted after a test and interview.

Trinity is an equal opportunities employer and is committed to employment policies, procedures and practices which do not discriminate on grounds such as gender, civil status, family status, age, disability, race, religious belief, sexual orientation or membership of the travelling community. On that basis we encourage and welcome talented people from all backgrounds to join our staff community. 

Important dates (actual dates may vary):

  • Deadline for application: 31 March 2022
  • First round results: around 15 April 2022
  • Deadline for formal PhD programme application: around 30 April 2022
  • Deadline for submission of tests: around 21 May 2022
  • Interview: around 30 May 2022
  • Final results: around 5 June 2022
  • PhD start date: 1 September 2022

For more information, please contact Dr Yunfan Lai (