PhD Candidate: The Interplay of Experience and Concreteness in Smell and Flavour Languages

1.0 FTE
Gross monthly salary
€ 2,770 - € 3,539
Required background
Research University Degree
Organizational unit
Faculty of Arts
Application deadline

Are you passionate about the nuances of sensory experiences and how we communicate them? Join the Centre for Language Studies (CLS) as a PhD candidate to delve into the interplay of experience and concreteness in smell and flavour languages.

The Centre for Language Studies (CLS) is looking for a PhD candidate for a project on the interplay of experience and concreteness in smell and flavour languages. We offer you the opportunity to develop and carry out your own PhD project within the areas of expertise of your supervisors (Prof. Margot van Mulken, Dr Ilja Croijmans and Dr Laura Speed). The project will be funded by a Starters Grant from the Faculty of Arts awarded to Dr Ilja Croijmans.

Humans are bombarded with perceptual information across sensory modalities. How do we communicate about these sensory experiences? For some sensory modalities, for example vision, we have a fairly extensive abstract vocabulary, with classes and categories (e.g. shape or colour words) that can be used to describe qualities of an object without mentioning specific other objects. For smell and flavour, abstract vocabularies that span the sensory space do not exist, at least not in most Western languages. People speaking these languages refer to concrete objects (‘smells like citrus’) or merely comment on whether they like the smell or not. People usually struggle to talk about what they smell and taste. At the same time, people with smell and taste expertise, for example wine experts, are able to describe why they like what they smell and taste, in addition to whether they like it or not, even though they do not have access to extensive abstract vocabulary. Experts seem able to work with the limits of their language to convey what they perceive, for example by referring to very specific objects (‘smells like bergamot’). But what strategies these experts use exactly and what effect this type of language has on the perceiver is still unclear. Non-experts may also be limited in how they comprehend language about smell. Research has shown people have difficulty activating mental representations of smells when they read smell words.

The aim of this project is to investigate the language produced and understood by people differing in experience with smells and flavours, and to what extent the level of concreteness of the words used plays a role in comprehension as well as persuasiveness of communication about smell and flavour.

As a PhD candidate, you will investigate the effect of specific, smell-related experiences on the way people use and comprehend language about smells and flavours. Your research will be informed by theories of embodied language processing, which propose that perceptual experience influences the mental representations underlying word meaning. You will conduct experiments with groups of experts and novices. The focus of the project can be on language production (e.g. describing wine smell and flavour), comprehension (e.g. assessing what kind of mental representations smell language activates), consumer decision making (e.g. the effect of descriptions on consumer behaviour), or a combination of the three.

As a PhD candidate at the Centre for Language Studies (CLS), you will be part of the Graduate School for the Humanities (GSH). Up to 75% of your time will be devoted to the research for and writing of your PhD thesis. The remaining 25% will be spent on training and academic service to the Faculty of Arts, including teaching.


  • You hold a Master’s degree in Cognitive Psychology, Linguistics, or a related field.
  • You are able to conduct independent academic research and work in a collaborative research environment.
  • You are results-oriented, and you have a good command of English and good writing skills.
  • You have good communication skills, strong analytical and critical thinking skills, and you are creative. 
  • You are willing to perform teaching and service duties.
  • An interest in research on smells and/or flavour, or some form of developed knowledge of a specific domain of smells and/or flavour would be advantageous.  

We are

The Centre for Language Studies (CLS) is a research institute dedicated to the understanding of language and the way we use it. Our researchers study this fascinating topic from different perspectives and in several contexts, using a variety of innovative research methods. CLS aims to conduct research that is also valuable for organisations and audiences outside the academic world.

Radboud University

At Radboud University, we aim to make an impact through our work. We achieve this by conducting groundbreaking research, providing high-quality education, offering excellent support, and fostering collaborations within and outside the university. In doing so, we contribute indispensably to a healthy, free world with equal opportunities for all. To accomplish this, we need even more colleagues who, based on their expertise, are willing to search for answers. We advocate for an inclusive community and welcome employees with diverse backgrounds, cultures, and perspectives. Will you also contribute to making the world a little better? You have a part to play.

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Faculty of Arts
The Faculty of Arts is committed to the development of knowledge with a strong scientific and social impact. With over 500 academic and support staff, we teach and conduct research in the fields of art, history, language, culture and communication, using innovative methodologies and collaborating closely across disciplines. Our research is embedded in two research institutes: the Centre for Language Studies (CLS) and the Radboud Institute for Culture & History (RICH). Approximately 2,500 students are currently enrolled with us across our three departments: the Department of History, Art History and Classics, the Department of Modern Languages and Cultures and the Department of Language and Communication. The faculty is characterised by a pleasant and open culture with various opportunities for the professional development of our staff.

We offer

  • We will give you a temporary employment contract (1.0 FTE) of 1,5 years, after which your performance will be evaluated. If the evaluation is positive, your contract will be extended by 2.5 years (4-year contract).     
  • You will receive a starting salary of €2,770 gross per month based on a 38-hour working week, which will increase to €3,539 in the fourth year (salary scale P).
  • You will receive an 8% holiday allowance and an 8,3% end-of-year bonus. 
  • You will be able to use our Dual Career and Family Support Service. The Dual Career Programme assists your partner via support, tools, and resources to improve their chances of independently finding employment in the Netherlands. Our Family Support Service helps you and your partner feel welcome and at home by providing customised assistance in navigating local facilities, schools, and amenities. Also take a look at our support for international staff page to discover all our services for international employees.
  • You will receive extra days off. With full-time employment, you can choose between 30 or 41 days of annual leave instead of the statutory 20. 

Additional employment conditions

Work and science require good employment practices. Radboud University's primary and secondary employment conditions reflect this. You can make arrangements for the best possible work-life balance with flexible working hours, various leave arrangements and working from home. You are also able to compose part of your employment conditions yourself. For example, exchange income for extra leave days and receive a reimbursement for your sports membership. And, of course, we offer a good pension plan. We also give you plenty of room and responsibility to develop your talents and realise your ambitions. Therefore, we provide various training and development schemes.

Practical information and applying

You can apply only via the button below. Address your letter of application to Ilja Croijmans. In the application form, you will find which documents you need to include with your application.

The first interviews will take place on 1 July. Any second interview will take place on 8 July. You will preferably start your employment on 1 September 2024 or as soon as possible thereafter.

We can imagine you're curious about our application procedure. It describes what you can expect during the application procedure and how we handle your personal data and internal and external candidates. 

Apply now Application deadline

We would like to recruit our new colleague ourselves. Acquisition in response to this vacancy will not be appreciated.

Would you like more information?

Dr I.M. Croijmans (Ilja)

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