PhD Position F/M 3-year PhD position in Computational Models of Semantic Memory and its Acquisition

March 31, 2023
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2023-05797 - PhD Position F/M 3-year PhD position in Computational Models of Semantic Memory and its Acquisition

Contract type : Fixed-term contract

Level of qualifications required : Graduate degree or equivalent

Fonction : PhD Position

About the research centre or Inria department

The Inria Lille - Nord Europe Research Centre was founded in 2008 and employs a staff of 360, including 300 scientists working in sixteen research teams. Recognised for its outstanding contribution to the socio-economic development of the Hauts-De-France région, the Inria Lille - Nord Europe Research Centre undertakes research in the field of computer science in collaboration with a range of academic, institutional and industrial partners.

The strategy of the Centre is to develop an internationally renowned centre of excellence with a significant impact on the City of Lille and its surrounding area. It works to achieve this by pursuing a range of ambitious research projects in such fields of computer science as the intelligence of data and adaptive software systems. Building on the synergies between research and industry, Inria is a major contributor to skills and technology transfer in the field of computer science.


We invite applications for a 3-year PhD position at the University of Lille in the context of the recently funded research project "COMANCHE" (Computational Models of Lexical Meaning and Change). The position is funded by Inria, the French national research institute in Computer Science and Applied Mathematics.

The position is affiliated with the MAGNET team at Inria, Lille 1 as well as with the SCALAB group at University of Lille 2 in an effort to strenghten collaborations between these two groups, and ultimately foster cross-fertilizations between Natural Language Processing and Psycholinguistics.

1 https: // 2 https: //


COMANCHE proposes to transfer and adapt neural word embeddings algorithms to model the acquisition and evolution of word meaning, by comparing them with linguistic theories on language acquisition and language evolution. At the intersection between Natural Language Processing, psycholinguistics and historical linguistics, this project intends to validate or revise some of these theories, while also de eloping computational models that are less data hungry and computationally intensive as they exploit new inductive biases inspired by these disciplines.

Main activities

The first strand of the project, on which the successful candidate will work, focuses on the development of computational models of semantic memory and its acquisition.

Two main research directions will be pursued. On the one hand, we will compare the structural properties associated to different semantic spaces derived from word embedding algorithms to those found in human semantic memory as reflected in behavioral data (such as typicality norms) as well as brain imagingdata. The latter data will then used as additional supervision to inject more hierarchical structure into the learned semantic spaces.

One the other hand, we intend to experiment with training regimes for word embedding algorithms that are closer to those of humans when they acquire language, controlling the quantity as well as the linguistic complexity of the inputs fed to the learning algorithms through the use of longitudinal and child directed speech corpora (e.g., CHILDES, Colaje). In both cases, both English and French data will be considered.

Benefits package
  • Subsidized meals
  • Partial reimbursement of public transport costs
  • Leave: 7 weeks of annual leave + 10 extra days off due to RTT (statutory reduction in working hours) + possibility of exceptional leave (sick children, moving home, etc.)
  • Possibility of teleworking and flexible organization of working hours
  • Professional equipment available (videoconferencing, loan of computer equipment, etc.)
  • Social, cultural and sports events and activities
  • Access to vocational training
  • Social security coverage
  • Remuneration

    1st and 2nd year : 2 051€ Gross monthly salary (before taxes)

    3rd year : 2 158€ gross monthly salary (before taxes)

    General Information
  • Theme/Domain : Data and Knowledge Representation and Processing Statistics (Big data) (BAP E)

  • Town/city : Villeneuve d'Ascq

  • Inria Center : Centre Inria de l'Université de Lille
  • Starting date : 2023-05-01
  • Duration of contract : 3 years
  • Deadline to apply : 2023-03-31
  • Contacts
  • Inria Team : MAGNET
  • PhD Supervisor : Denis Pascal / [email protected]
  • The keys to success

    The successful candidate holds a Master's degree in computational linguistics or computer science or cognitive science and has prior experience in word embedding models. Furthermore, the candidate will provide strong programming skills, expertise in machine learning approaches and is eager to work across languages.

    About Inria

    Inria is the French national research institute dedicated to digital science and technology. It employs 2,600 people. Its 200 agile project teams, generally run jointly with academic partners, include more than 3,500 scientists and engineers working to meet the challenges of digital technology, often at the interface with other disciplines. The Institute also employs numerous talents in over forty different professions. 900 research support staff contribute to the preparation and development of scientific and entrepreneurial projects that have a worldwide impact.

    Instruction to apply

    Applications will be considered until the position is filled. However, you are encouraged to apply early as we shall start processing the applications as and when they are received. Applications, written in English, should be submitted online and should include: Curriculum Vitae (including your contact address, work experience, publications) Cover letter indicating your research interests and your motivation Contact information for at least 2 referees Applications should be sent to: Aurélien Bellet, Pascal Denis, and Mikaella Keller ([email protected]).

    Defence Security : This position is likely to be situated in a restricted area (ZRR), as defined in Decree No. 2011-1425 relating to the protection of national scientific and technical potential (PPST).Authorisation to enter an area is granted by the director of the unit, following a favourable Ministerial decision, as defined in the decree of 3 July 2012 relating to the PPST. An unfavourable Ministerial decision in respect of a position situated in a ZRR would result in the cancellation of the appointment.

    Recruitment Policy : As part of its diversity policy, all Inria positions are accessible to people with disabilities.

    Warning : you must enter your e-mail address in order to save your application to Inria. Applications must be submitted online on the Inria website. Processing of applications sent from other channels is not guaranteed.

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