Dr Sebastian Fedden

Research Fellow

Email:
Phone: Work: 01483 68 3354
Room no: 43 AC 05

Further information

Biography

Apr 2002 M.A. in Linguistics and English, University of Bielefeld
May 2007 Ph.D. in Linguistics, University of Melbourne
Nov 2007 – Mar 2009 Research Fellow, Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics, Nijmegen

Employed since 2009 as a Research Fellow in the Surrey Morphology Group, University of Surrey.
Currently working on the AHRC funded project Combining Gender and Classifiers in Natural Language (grant AH/K003194/1)
Past project: Alor-Pantar languages: origins and theoretical impact (grant AH/H500251/1)

Awards

My book A Grammar of Mian won the 2013 Gabelentz Award from the Association for Linguistic Typology (ALT) for the best grammar published in the period 2009-2012. For more click here.

Mian for Typologists (12561.37KB)

The Gabelentz Award committee reports:
“Sebastian Fedden’s A grammar of Mian (Trans New Guinea) is a truly excellent grammar that goes beyond a synchronic description. Based on eleven months of fieldwork, it covers the full range of descriptive topics and contains a large number of illustrative examples. The motivations underlying the author’s analyses are usually presented in a clear and thorough manner, and the discussion is always typologically informed. The author has come up with excellent and original solutions in the difficult area of how to analyze the complex tonal system. This grammar furthermore has a highly useful and substantial index and table of contents, a high level of clarity of prose, explanation and organization, a high quality and richness of texts and vocabulary. Finally, engaging in areal, genealogical and typological discussions, it goes beyond the standard expectations of reference grammars in general. We should count ourselves lucky for having such a grammar.”

 

Research Interests

My main research areas are linguistic typology, Papuan linguistics and the typology of argument realization. A specific interest of mine are systems of nominal  classification and categorization more generally. I have also worked on tone and genealogical relations between Papuan languages and subgroups (Oksapmin/Ok and Ok/Greater Awyu).  

Publications

Journal articles

  • Fedden OS, Van den Heuvel W. (2014) 'Greater Awyu and Greater Ok: inheritance or contact?'. Oceanic Linguistics, 53 (1), pp. 1-35.
    [ Status: Accepted ]
  • Fedden OS, Brown DP, Kratochvíl F, Robinson LC, Schapper A. (2014) 'Variation in pronominal indexing: Lexical stipulation vs. referential properties in the Alor-Pantar languages'. Studies in Language, 38 (1), pp. 44-79.
  • Fedden OS, Brown DP, Corbett GG, Hippisley A, Marriott P. (2013) 'Grammatical typology and frequency analysis: Number availability and number use'. Journal of Language Modelling, 1 (2), pp. 227-241.
  • Fedden S. (2013) 'Reciprocals in Mian'. Studies in Language, 37 (1), pp. 58-93.

    Abstract

    Despite the ongoing interest in reciprocal situations, which form a central part of our social, intellectual and moral lives, and the linguistic encoding of such situations in different languages, studies of reciprocals in Papuan languages remain under-represented in the reciprocal literature. The Trans New Guinea languages Mian, Amele and Hua have a reciprocal construction in which the reciprocal subevents are expressed by individual transitive verbs plus an existential verb expressing that the reciprocal action is done together. Mian goes one step further and fuses this construction into a single verb with a reciprocal suffix -sese. The present paper is an in-depth analysis of the morphology, syntax and semantics of reciprocal constructions in Mian, including a comparison with Amele, and an analysis of the diachronic development of the Mian reciprocal, whose origin presumably lies in a biclausal description in which the reciprocal subevents are spelled out separately and sequentially.

  • Fedden S, Brown DP, Corbett GG, Holton G, Klamer M, Robinson LC, Schapper A. (2013) 'Conditions on pronominal marking in the Alor-Pantar languages'. De Gruyter Linguistics, 51 (1), pp. 33-74.

    Abstract

    We examine the varying role of conditions on grammatical relations marking (namely animacy and volitionality) by looking at different languages of one family, using both existing descriptions and working with specially prepared video stimuli. This enables us to see the degree of variation permitted within closely related languages. We look at four Alor-Pantar languages (Teiwa, Adang, Kamang, and Abui), Papuan languages of eastern Indonesia. The conditions on argument marking are manifested in different ways. Those languages with syntactic alignment index objects with a prefix, those which have semantic alignment index objects and some subjects with a prefix. In 42 video clips we systematically varied animacy and volitionality values for participants in one and two-participant events. These clips were used in fieldwork to elicit descriptions of the events. The data show that animacy of the object is an important factor which favours indexation of the object on the verb in all four languages to varying degrees. Volitionality, on the other hand, is a factor in the semantically aligned languages only. While the presence of a prefix on the verb is semantically motivated in many instances, marking is not directly determined by verbal or participant semantics, and lexical factors must also play a role.

  • Fedden S, Brown DP, Corbett GG, Klamer M, Holton G, Robinson LC, Schapper A. (2013) 'Conditions on pronominal marking in the Alor-Pantar languages'. Linguistics, 51 (1), pp. 33-74.

    Abstract

    We examine the varying role of conditions on grammatical relation marking (namely animacy and volitionality) by looking at different languages of one family, using both existing descriptions and working with specially prepared video stimuli. This enables us to see the degree of variation permitted within closely related languages. We look at four Alor-Pantar languages (Teiwa, Adang, Kamang, and Abui), Papuan languages of eastern Indonesia. The conditions on argument marking are manifested in different ways. Those languages with syntactic alignment index objects with a prefix, those which have semantic alignment index objects and some subjects with a prefix. In 42 video clips we systematically varied animacy and volitionality values for participants in one and two-participant events. These clips were used in fieldwork to elicit descriptions of the events. The data show that animacy of the object is an important factor which favours indexation of the object on the verb in all four languages to varying degrees. Volitionality, on the other hand, is a factor in the semantically aligned languages only. While the presence of a prefix on the verb is semantically motivated in many instances, marking is not directly determined by verbal or participant semantics, and lexical factors must also play a role.

  • Fedden S. (2012) 'Composite tone in Mian noun-noun compounds'. BLS Proceedings 32S,
    [ Status: Accepted ]
  • Fedden S, Boroditsky L. (2012) 'Spatialization of time in Mian'. Frontiers in Psychology, (3) Article number 485

    Abstract

    We examine representations of time among the Mianmin of Papua New Guinea. We begin by describing the patterns of spatial and temporal reference in Mian. Mian uses a system of spatial terms that derive from the orientation and direction of the Hak and Sek rivers and the surrounding landscape. We then report results from a temporal arrangement task administered to a group of Mian speakers.The results reveal evidence for a variety of tem- poral representations. Some participants arranged time with respect to their bodies (left to right or toward the body). Others arranged time as laid out on the landscape, roughly along the east/west axis (either east to west or west to east).This absolute pattern is consistent both with the axis of the motion of the sun and the orientation of the two rivers, which provides the basis for spatial reference in the Mian language. The results also suggest an increase in left to right temporal representations with increasing years of formal education (and the reverse pattern for absolute spatial representations for time). These results extend previous work on spatial representations for time to a new geographical region, physical environment, and linguistic and cultural system.

  • Fedden S. (2012) 'Change in traditional numeral systems in Mian and other Trans New Guinea languages'. Language and Linguistics in Melanesia, Special Issue 2012 (part 1), pp. 1-22.

    Abstract

    This paper examines the numeral systems and the change in these systems in the Papuan language Mian (Trans New Guinea, Ok family) due to the influence of Tok Pisin. Mian has a binary numeral system consisting of a word for ‘one’ and a word for ‘two’. As in other Trans New Guinea languages, there is also a body-part tally system in which certain points on the arms, the upper body, and the head and face are associated with numbers. The highest number in the Mian body-part system is 27. With the advent of western cash economy and currency Tok Pisin numerals and the decimal system have taken hold in the community and spread quickly. While the old binary system is still in use for both counting and modification of a noun in a noun phrase, the body-part tally system is defunct. This is in contrast to some other Trans New Guinea languages, for example Kalam and Oksapmin, in which the body-part system is still employed by older speakers. There is no evidence that the terms of the Mian body-part system have ever been used as numerals in the noun phrase. I suggest that the Mian system had a particularly hard time in surviving because it was restricted to the counting of temporal units even at the time when the linguistic work on Mian began.

  • Loughnane R, Fedden S. (2011) 'Is Oksapmin Ok? A study of the genetic relatedness of Oksapmin and the Ok languages'. Routledge Australian Journal of Linguistics, 31 (1), pp. 1-42.

    Abstract

    In this paper evidence is provided that suggests the Oksapmin language, previously classed as constituting an isolate within the larger Trans New Guinea family, is related to the Mountain Ok branch of the Ok language family and, by extension, the entire Ok family. A list of cognates and sound correspondences is given, as well as evidence from bound morphology and pronoun paradigms.

Books

  • Fedden S. (2011) A Grammar of Mian. Berlin : De Gruyter Mouton

    Abstract

    Mian is a non-Austronesian ('Papuan') language of the Ok family spoken in the Highlands fringe in western Papua New Guinea. Mian has approximately 1,400 speakers and is highly endangered. This grammar is the first comprehensive description of the language. It is based on primary field data consisting of a text corpus that covers different genres of the oral tradition, namely myths and ancestor stories, historical accounts, accounts of the initiation ritual, conversations, and procedural texts. The corpus was recorded by the author during a total of eleven months of field work from 2004 to 2008. The book provides a thorough description of all areas of Mian grammar and gives an in-depth analysis of many points of typological interest, such as the complex system of lexical tone, the interaction between a gender system and a system of classificatory prefixes on verbs of object movement, manipulation or handling, which allows the highlighting of certain characteristics of a referent in a given situation, the complex verbal morphology which allows fine-grained tense-aspect-mood distinctions, and a switch-reference system in which switch-reference suffixes on medial verbs are homophonous with and derived from suffixes functioning as tense and aspect markers in final verbs. The book is rounded off by a collection of traditional and contemporary texts (fully glossed and translated) and a word list comprising some 1,600 items, giving lexical tone, word class and meaning.

Book chapters

  • Fedden OS. (2014) 'Verb stem aspect in Mian'. in Boyé G (ed.) Proceedings of Les Décembrettes 8, Bordeaux, December 6-7, 2012
    [ Status: Accepted ]
  • Fedden OS, Brown DP. (2014) 'Participant marking: video elicitation and corpus study'. in Klamer MAF, Schapper A (eds.) The Alor-Pantar Languages: Origins and Theoretical Impact Language Science Press :
    [ Status: Accepted ]
  • Fedden S. (2012) 'Switch-reference and temporal reference in Mian'. in Gast V, Diessel H (eds.) Clause Linkage in Cross-linguistic Perspective Berlin : De Gruyter Mouton , pp. 393-413.
  • Fedden S. (2010) 'Studies in ditransitive constructions'. in Malʹchukov AL, Haspelmath M, Comrie B (eds.) Studies in Ditransitive Constructions: A comparative handbook Berlin : De Gruyter Mouton , pp. 456-485.

    Abstract

    This rich volume explores the cross-linguistic variation in ditransitive constructions, syntactic patterns of 'give'-like verbs taking Agent, Theme and Recipient arguments.

  • Fedden S. (2007) 'Women, houses, and plural objects? – Homophony in the Mian gender system'. in Loughnane R, Williams C, Verhoeven J (eds.) In Between Wor(l)ds. Transformation and Translation School of Languages and Linguistics Postgraduate Research Papers on Language and Literature 6 Edition. Melbourne : University of Melbourne, School of Language and Linguistics , pp. 183-198.

Theses and dissertations

  • Fedden S. (2007) A grammar of Mian, a Papuan language of New Guinea. University of Melbourne
  • Fedden S. (2002) Nominale Klassifikationssysteme: Ein Vergleich zwischen Verbalklassifikation und Nominalklassen [Nominal classification systems: A comparison between verbal classifiers and noun classes]. University of Bielefeld

Downloads

Paper presented at Décembrettes 8, 6-7 December 2012: Aspectual distinctions in Mian verb stems

Aspectual distinctions in Mian verb stems (780.81KB - Requires Adobe Reader)

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