We are an interdisciplinary research group hosted mostly at the Department of Cognitive Sciences of the Ecole Normale Supérieure in Paris. Over the last couple of years, we have developed an interdisciplinary research program focussed on the study of the communication systems of various species of monkeys. We are unique in combining methods coming from formal semantics, psycholinguistics and machine learning. The main local investigators are:

Emmanuel Chemla: Psycholinguistics

Ewan Dunbar: Machine learning and human speech

Robin Ryder: Statistics and language evolution

Philippe Schlenker: Formal semantics


The successful candidate should have experience in (human) speech signal processing and machine learning.


The goal of the project is to reconstruct the evolutionary history of monkey communication systems using phylogenetic statistics applied to recordings of monkey calls. This promises to offer a window into the evolution of form and meaning in simple systems of animal communication. We have a growing database of recordings of monkey calls (currently thousands of annotated recordings from more than 10 phylogenetically diverse species), and we hope to make inferences about the evolution of communication systems over an unprecedented time depth of millions of years.

The main task of the post-doctoral fellow will be to apply machine learning tools to develop this research program: represent the calls in a space that allows comparisons of calls within and across different species. This task will involve the use of standard tools and will also require creativity. The post-doctoral fellow will be the driving force, but we will contribute our relevant expertise at all times in the process. The post-doctoral fellow will be expected to interact with colleagues from a variety of academic disciplines, including Linguistics, Zoology, Machine Learning and Mathematics.

We expect that the main tasks will take a significant part of the working time, but it comes with no administrative or teaching requirement beyond scientific interactions with colleagues (e.g., in the form of active participation to relevant seminars). There should thus be ample time for the post-doctoral fellow to pursue their own research program in machine learning or language studies within the team. The Department of Cognitive Sciences is a major centre for psycholinguistic research in speech processing, language acquisition, and semantics of natural languages, and may be of special interest to candidates who also have an interest in one these domains.


– Deadline: 20 June. Application should contain:

– a CV

– a document up to 2 pages stating the relevant expertise in machine learning (or any other relevant expertise) and explaining the candidate’s motivation and research interests

– up to 3 letters of reference

– The application file and requests should be sent to: animal.machinelearning.2017 at gmail.com

– The post-doc will receive roughly €2500 per month. Expected starting date: September 2017, or as soon as possible thereafter. Initial contract is for twelve months, with the possibility of a renewal for an additional twelve months. Post-doc will be located at the Ecole Normale Supérieure in Paris, France.