Category: news

We’re hiring – research assistantship heritage language education

Research Assistantship in Heritage Language Education

Vakgroep Linguistics and Literary Studies

Faculteit Letteren en Wijsbegeerte

Vrije Universiteit Brussel


Job description

The Department of Linguistics and Literary Studies in Vrije Universiteit Brussel seeks to appoint a fixed-term research assistant (‘wetenschappelijk medewerker’) for the project entitled “A Digital Collaborative Platform for Minority Language Education in Brussels”.

The project is part of the BeTalky 2021-2022 project call, led by Sven Gatz, minister responsible for the promotion of multilingualism in Brussels. Further background information on the project can be found in the news releases at VUB supports multilingualism in Brussels with BeTalky grant and Brussels initiative aims to preserve the use of non-Belgian languages.

The post is part-time (40%) on a fixed term of 10 months. The post-holder will ideally be in post on 15 September 2021. The post-holder will be employed as a fixed-term ‘wetenschappelijk medewerker’ (salary scale 502).

The post-holder will be responsible for carrying out the project with day-to-day tasks, including coordinating fieldwork arrangements, communicating with the relating institutes of education and stakeholders, contributing to fieldwork data and analysis, literature searching and collecting resources, and implementing the field work data and the selected resources.

Candidates with an interest to pursue a PhD in a topic linked to the project are also welcome to apply, as we can explore possibilities for additional funding for PhD research.

The post-holder will be embedded in the Department of Linguistics and Literary Studies, as part of the Center for Linguistics (CLIN) as well as the Brussels Institute for Applied Linguistics (BIAL), under the supervision of Prof. Dr. Rik Vosters and Dr. Jianwei Xu.



A master’s degree in linguistics, applied linguistics, sociology, gender and diversity studies, social sciences, or a related relevant field, with a demonstrable interest in issues related to the project.


  • Proficient in English, French and/or Dutch, and proficiency in – or experience with – a relevant heritage language in Brussels (e.g. Arabic, Chinese, Romanian, Spanish, etc.) is a plus
  • Strong and effective communication and interpersonal skills
  • Ability to liaise with a range of stakeholders
  • Ability to work independently and use own initiative
  • Ability to summarize and synthesize complex or large amounts of information and distill the most relevant information
  • Ability to manage time effectively and work to strict deadlines

Experience (desirable, not required)

  • Experience in conducting academic research
  • Experience in or familiarity with heritage language education
  • Affinity with technical tools to set up a project website

How to apply

All applicants are asked to submit the following documents and preferably combine them into one PDF document with the candidate’s name:

  • a full CV
  • a cover letter (approx. 2 pages) which details your skills and experience in meeting (or your potential to meet) the criteria set out above
  • a copy of all relevant diplomas
  • a transcript of records of your MA degree
  • an academic writing sample (e.g. scientific publication, research paper, bachelor thesis/master thesis)

Please send your applications to Prof. Rik Vosters ( Informal enquiries can also be directed to Prof. Vosters.

Closing date: 27 June 2021

We will notify you on the status of your application at various points throughout the selection process.

Interviews are scheduled to take place (in person or digitally) on July 1st. Please indicate in your application if and when you are available on this date.


This project is supported with a grant from the government of the Brussels Capital Region – Minister van de Brusselse Hoofdstedelijke Regering Sven Gatz, belast met de promotie van meertaligheid

Historical Sociolinguistics Young Researchers Forum 2021

Historical Sociolinguistics Young Researchers Forum 2021 – online events

Hosted by Vrije Universiteit Brussel & Leiden University
Six Tuesdays and Fridays in
April and May 2021

The Historical Sociolinguistics Network (HiSoN), as sponsored by the Research Foundation Flanders (FWO) as part of its Historical Sociolinguistics Research and Training Program, is proud to announce the fourth edition of the Historical Sociolinguistics Young Researchers Forum (HSYRF) as a series of online keynotes and workshops!

The event is aimed at early career researchers – MA and PhD students, postdocs, and other young (at heart) researchers –, offering a (now digital) mix of keynote lectures and hands-on workshops on various topics relevant to anyone interested in historical sociolinguistics or language history more generally.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2021 edition will be held as a series of online events, spread out over six Tuesdays and Fridays in April and May 2021.

Click here to see the program, including online keynotes and online methodological workshops!

Rik Vosters (Vrije Universiteit Brussel)
Gijsbert Rutten (Universiteit Leiden)

HiSoN 2021 Virtual Conference

Our VUB team is well represented at the 2021 Virtual Conference of the Historical Sociolinguistics Network (HiSoN), with no less than 4 conference papers being presented about ongoing research:

Join us in (virtual) Erlangen from March 17th to March 19th 2021!

Vacature: doctoraatsbursaal – opnieuw geopend: nieuwe deadline 7/10!

Het Centrum voor Linguïstiek (CLIN) van de Vrije Universiteit Brussel en de onderzoeksgroep Grammar and Pragmatics (GaP) van de Universiteit Antwerpen zoeken een voltijds bursaal om een doctoraatsonderzoek uit te voeren en een proefschrift voor te bereiden binnen het domein van de historische sociolinguïstiek en historische pragmatiek van het Nederlands.

Read more

Thematic Panel: The making of an (in)credible witness and suspect

Brissot et 20 de ses complices condamnés à mort par le tribunal révolutionnaire - Bibliothèque Nationale de France
Brissot et 20 de ses complices condamnés à mort par le tribunal révolutionnaire – Bibliothèque Nationale de France

Thematic panel
17th International Pragmatics Conference
Winterthur, June 2021

The making of an (in)credible witness and suspect

Historical and contemporary perspectives
on the discursive-pragmatic characteristics of depositions

Mieke Vandenbroucke (Universiteit Antwerpen)
Rik Vosters (Vrije Universiteit Brussel)

Panel description

Both historical and contemporary legal procedures rely on statements by witnesses and suspects given both in-court and in previous police investigations as evidence in case decision-making. Such testimonies and depositions are typically shaped by complex co-construction by the interlocutors, while written accounts used in court are the outcome of transformative entextualisation processes (Andrus 2006; Grund 2007; Park & Bucholtz 2009). In this panel, we investigate such contemporary and historical accounts in trial proceedings, witness depositions and interrogation reports, using the present to explain the past (cf. Labov 1975), while simultaneously exploring what historical accounts can contribute to our understanding of present-day meaning making processes in testimonies.

Contemporary studies have documented how oral witness and suspect accounts come into existence through spoken question-answer sequences between interlocutors, and are shaped by a variety of questioning and answering techniques in direct and cross-examination, where meaning and evidence are negotiated through interaction (Komter 2006; Seung-Lee 2013). These encounters are power-differentiated and often highly conflictual interactions, fraught with skilful manipulation of pragma-linguistic resources (e.g. visual evidentials, marked pronominal constructions) to elicit relevant evidence and influence the court’s perception of the speaker’s identity and reliability of their testimony (Matoesian 2001).

Moreover, contemporary research has documented how the drafting process of the written account by the interrogator introduces changes to what the witness orally stated, for instance removing turn-taking through first-person accounts (Komter 2006), or filtering out hesitations and unintelligible utterances (Gallez & Maryns 2014; Rock 2001).

Historically, there is clear evidence that courtroom scribes similarly represented speech events by defendants in an unreliable fashion, making such evidence unsuited for correlational sociolinguistic analyses (Grund 2007), but opening up the possibility for historical pragmatic analyses of how entexualisation processes varied by context and evolved over time. Such discursive steering and transformative processes in turn heavily influence both how information is uncovered as evidence (Archer 2002), and how witnesses’ and suspects’ identities and credibility is construed to the court (Vartiainen 2017): elements such as the use of direct speech, for instance, are presented as markers of credibility and authenticity, even though witness testimonies are notoriously unreliable in representing the spoken word (Giordano 2012; Kytö & Walker 2003).

In this panel, we welcome papers which engage with testimonies in witness depositions, interrogation reports, or other similar courtroom or legal data, either from a contemporary or a historical perspective. We particularly welcome work focusing on the various pragmatic and textual features which shape the credibility of courtroom actors such as witnesses, suspects or experts, in either the oral account or written representation. We aim to achieve a mix of invited and submitted papers by senior and novice researchers working with historical and present-day data, and explicitly invite all participants to reflect on how we can use contemporary pragmatic research to further our understanding of historical pragmatic analyses of witness accounts by uncovering parallel linguistic and pragmatic behaviour and practices.

Call for Papers

All abstracts (300-500 words) will have to be submitted individually through the IPrA website:

Deadline: 25 October 2020

Feel free to get in touch with us before that if you want advice on your abstract, or if you have any questions related to the panel (;

Please prepare your abstract according to the IPrA call for papers & submission guidelines (, and make sure to select “The making of an (in)credible witness and suspect” as the panel for your submission.


Note that IPrA is making contingency plans for remote participation options, in the (very likely) case that not all participants will be able to be physically present at the conference due to the COVID-19 pandemic.