PhD Position: The influence of robots on the development of language

The HIT Lab NZ has an opening for a PhD in Human-Robot Interaction entitled: “The influence of robots on the development of language“.

The ‘Wordovators’ project is a three-year project funded by the John Templeton Foundation. The project will conduct large-scale experiments in the form of computerized word games.  These games will be designed to probe the factors underpinning word creation and creativity, and how these develop through the life-span. One strand of the project will probe particular issues surrounding interactions between people and humanoid Robots. How are new words created and adopted in contexts involving such interactions? This PhD position is for a highly motivated student to join the project team, and conduct work that explores the ways that robots might shape human languages. These studies will analyze the factors and processes that might contribute to the influence of robots on the vocabularies of English and of artificial languages in imaginary worlds.

This project is a collaboration between University of Canterbury, New Zealand and Northwestern University, USA.  The PhD candidate will enroll for a PhD degree in the HIT Lab NZ at University of Canterbury, and will be primarily supervised by Dr Christoph Bartneck. (the HIT Lab NZ). Other associated faculty are Professor Jen Hay (NZILBB), Janet Pierrehumbert (Northwestern University / Adjunct Professor NZILBB), and Professor Stephanie Stokes (NZILBB). The PhD student will be encouraged to regularly visit Northwestern University.

Your skills

You should have an interest in human language and have a strong background in robotics or computer science.

The HIT Lab NZ

The Human Interface Technology Laboratory New Zealand (HIT Lab NZ) is world leading research institutions developing and commercializing technology that improves human computer interaction. The HIT Lab NZ has over 50 staff and students and has extensive experience in Human Computer Interaction and Science & Technology Studies. The HIT Lab NZ is located at the University of Canterbury in Christchurch, New Zealand. The University of Canterbury has the top Engineering School in New Zealand, including a highly ranked Department of Computer Science. For more information about the HIT Lab NZ see


The HIT Lab NZ at the University of Canterbury is affiliated with the New Zealand Institute of Language, Brain and Behaviour (NZILBB). NZILBB is a multi-disciplinary centre dedicated to the study of human language. The researchers come from a wide range of disciplines, forging connections across linguistics, speech production and perception, language acquisition, language disorders, social cognition, memory, brain imaging, cognitive science, bilingual education, and interface technologies. More information is available at:


Christchurch is the second largest city in New Zealand and offers an exciting and easy lifestyle for students. It is the most affordable major city to live in. It is easy to get around whether you are biking, walking, driving or using the excellent public transport system. Christchurch also offers outstanding opportunities for outdoor activities, and is close to both surf beaches and ski-fields.

Appointment and Scholarship Support

The PhD scholarship is full time for a duration of three years with an annual scholarship of $25,000 NZD. The scholarship will also cover the tuition fees. The research in this project must be concluded with writing a PhD thesis within the Human Interface Technology PhD program of the HIT Lab NZ. For more information about the PhD program in Human Interface Technology, please see

Further Information and Application

Further information can be obtained by contacting Christoph Bartneck ( Information about the HIT Lab NZ is available at: Please upload your application as one PDF file at Your application must include

  1. a letter explaining your specific interest in the project
  2. an extensive curriculum vitae
  3. your academic records
  4. list of two references.

Applications will be accepted until November 15th, 2012 or until position is filled.

International applicants will be required to arrange for their NZ student visa after an offer of a place. Please check for information about what type of visa might be most suitable and the process of acquiring it. The university has various types of accommodation available on campus. Please check for information about the options and prices. International students should also consult the International Student website at to learn about the cost of living, fees, and insurances.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *