ETH Zürich

Postdoc position in linguistic anthropology — Amazonian languages/cultures

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Postdoc position in linguistic anthropology — Amazonian languages/cultures

The QUANTA project —"Evolution of Cognitive Tools for Quantification"— is a multi-national multi-disciplinary project funded by the European Research Council (ERC-Synergy) that investigates when, why, and how humans developed number systems, and why those vary so massively across cultures. The project brings together researchers from multiple disciplines and institutions in the investigation of the emergence of human quantification, counting, and numerical skills.

Project background

Exact quantification, including the ability to count, depends on both conceptual breakthroughs and cognitive tools such as numeral systems. These tools appear in striking diversity across cultures and manifest in different modalities (verbal, body-based, written, or material). To address the tantalizing questions of when, why, and how they emerged and evolved, we test two previously untestable key hypotheses: that conceptual breakthroughs and tools co-evolved, with different modalities coactively scaffolding the breakthroughs; and that the tools diversified in response to changing cultural requirements. Reconstructing this evolution is the prime goal of QUANTA.

Job description

We are looking for a highly motivated post-doctoral researcher with experience in Amazonian languages to join the QUANTA team based at ETH Zürich and led by PI Rafael Núñez. The successful candidate will have the opportunity to interact closely with the other three QUANTA teams based at University of Bergen, Norway (headquarters; PI Andrea Bender), Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany (PI Russell Gray), and University of Bordeaux-CNRS, France (PI Francesco d’Errico).

  • The successful candidate will be in charge of investigating in detail quantification and numeral systems in languages and cultures from Amazonia.
  • The successful candidate will take part in the research team’s academic and social activities.
  • The working language is English.
  • The position is full time (41 hours per week) by default, but can be reduced for care-work, health, or wellbeing.
  • The ideal starting date is October 1, 2024 (but starting date is somewhat flexible). The positions are for one year (until September 30, 2025) at ETH Zurich with the possibility of an extension at the QUANTA headquarters, the University of Bergen, Norway.


Candidates are required:

  • to have a doctoral degree in linguistic anthropology (or related fields) before starting at ETH Zürich.
  • to have expertise and an excellent track in linguistic anthropology, ideally studying Amazonian languages or cultures.
  • to be able to initiate interesting research sub-projects that could be developed somewhat independently, but in close collaboration with the rest of the QUANTA multi-disciplinary team.

We offer

  • research and travel funding.
  • a wide variety of ETH Zürich career development resources.
  • connections to our international network of collaborators.
  • flexible working hours and partial working from home.
  • a friendly and open-minded research environment.
  • a working situation in a vibrant historic city located at the core of Europe, with outstanding public transportation services, and in close proximity to beautiful mountainous scenery and natural landscapes.
  • an attractive salary that is based on ETH Zürich pay-scale, approximately 90,000 Swiss Francs per year (pay-scale available here).
Working, teaching and research at ETH Zurich

We value diversity

In line with our values, ETH Zurich encourages an inclusive culture. We promote equality of opportunity, value diversity and nurture a working and learning environment in which the rights and dignity of all our staff and students are respected. Visit our Equal Opportunities and Diversity website to find out how we ensure a fair and open environment that allows everyone to grow and flourish.

Curious? So are we.

We look forward to receiving your online application by August 15, 2024 with the following documents:

  • CV with list of publications.
  • A one-page summary of the candidate’s PhD dissertation (up to 3,500 characters).
  • A two-page presentation of ideas of how the candidate might contribute to the research specified by the position and to the QUANTA project in general.
  • A half page statement (up to 2,000 characters) explaining how the candidate can contribute to improving wellbeing, diversity, inclusion and/or equity in the research group, department, university, or discipline. This may include relevant background, training, activities, etc.
  • The names and contact details of 2-3 references (no reference letters are required at this stage).

The applications will be evaluated on a rolling basis, so early applications are encouraged. A shortlist will be prepared on an ongoing basis and will close in September. All candidates will be informed whether they were shortlisted. Shortlisted candidates may be asked for additional documents (such as references, writing samples, etc.). The shortlisted candidates will be interviewed online during late August (and possibly September). A decision will be made by the end of September at the latest. 

Please note that we exclusively accept applications submitted through our online application portal. Applications via email or postal services will not be considered. Questions regarding the positions should be directed to PI Rafael Núñez at

About ETH Zürich

ETH Zurich is one of the world’s leading universities specialising in science and technology. We are renowned for our excellent education, cutting-edge fundamental research and direct transfer of new knowledge into society. Over 30,000 people from more than 120 countries find our university to be a place that promotes independent thinking and an environment that inspires excellence. Located in the heart of Europe, yet forging connections all over the world, we work together to develop solutions for the global challenges of today and tomorrow.

Dettagli del lavoro

Postdoc position in linguistic anthropology — Amazonian languages/cultures
Datore di lavoro
Rämistrasse 101 Zurigo, Svizzera
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ETH Zürich is well known for its excellent education, ground-breaking fundamental research and for implementing its results directly into practice.

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