Postdoctoral assistant (Linguistics)

The University of Leuven (KU Leuven)


Hi, my name is Thomas Van Hoey (IPA:[‘to:mas van ‘hui]). Alternatively, you may find me by my Chinese name — 司馬智 (Hanyu pinyin: Sīmǎ Zhì).

I am a postdoctoral assistant at the University of Leuven (KU Leuven), focusing on the relationship between grammatical variation and complexity, in collaboration with Benedikt Szmrecsanyi. This work is embedded squarely within the Quantitative Lexicology and Variational Linguistics (QLVL) research group in the Department of Linguistics at KU Leuven.

The other side of my work focuses on understanding how people construe meaning through ideophones and iconicity, while balancing cognitive and cultural factors. Previously, I was a post-doctoral fellow at the University of Hong Kong, in the Language and Development Lab, led by Youngah Do. Our main project, together with Mark Dingemanse and Arthur Lewis Thompson, focused on the learnability of ideophones from a cross-linguistic perspective while focusing on the artiuculatory and gesticulatory gestures of the ideophonic items.

By training, I am a sinologist and a linguist, with a PhD in Linguistics (obtained at the Graduate Institute of Linguistics of National Taiwan University). My MA degrees in Sinology and Linguistics were obtained at the University of Leuven.

My PhD dissertation (2020), “Prototypicality and salience of Chinese ideophones: A cognitive and corpus linguistics approach”, supervised by Lu Chiarung, investigates the Chinese ideophonic lexicon through four different methodological lenses: multiple correspondence analysis, diachronic prototype semantics, semantic vector spaces, and collostructional analysis. A prototypical structuring of the ideophonic lexicon is found throughout the data, which is collected from the corpus as well as the Chinese Ideophone Database (CHIDEOD). CHIDEOD is freely accessible online in multiple formats, and can be used as a model for the cross-linguistic database that is to be constructed in the first stage of the project.

Click here for my academic cv.

Finally, should you wish to hire me for an Assistant Professorship, unsollicited vacancies are more than welcome 👨‍🎓️.


  • ideophones
  • (Premodern) Chinese
  • historical linguistics
  • Cognitive Linguistics
  • lexical semantics


  • PhD in Linguistics, 2015-2020

    National Taiwan University

  • MA Linguistics, 2015

    University of Leuven

  • MA Sinology, 2014

    University of Leuven

  • BA Sinology, 2012

    University of Leuven



Learnability of ideophones

How well are ideophones learned if we look at articulatory and gesticulatory gestures?


The Chinese Ideophone Database

Chinese ideophones and prototypicality

Studying the prototypicality and salience of the Chinese ideophonic lexicon