Dr Tim Feist

Timothy Feist

Research Fellow (SMG)
+44 (0)1483 682856
44 AC 05



I am a postdoctoral research fellow in Linguistics in the Surrey Morphology Group (SMG), a research centre based in the School of Literature and Languages. Prior to joining the Surrey Morphology Group, I was based at The University of Manchester, where I completed my PhD in Linguistics.

Research interests

I am currently researching the different ways words can vary in their internal structure (i.e. between different forms of the same word, such as in English go vs. went), under the auspices of the AHRC-funded project ‘Lexical splits: a novel perspective on the structure of words’.

Prior to this, I studied the role that (grammatical) gender and classifiers play in the tracking of referents across discourse, on the AHRC-funded project 'Combining gender and classifiers in natural language'. In order to do this I conducted a parallel study of narrative texts in four languages: Spanish (a language with gender); Kilivila (a language with classifiers); Mian (a language with both gender and classifiers; and Skolt Saami (a language with no nominal classification system).

I also have an interest in the Oto-Manguean languages spoken across Mexico, since working on the 'Endangered complexity: inflectional classes in Oto-Manguean Languages' project, which was concerned with investigating the extent to which languages can tolerate the inflectional idiosyncrasy brought about by inflectional class distinctions. In addressing this question, my colleague, Enrique Palancar, and I collated and analysed data from twenty Oto-Manguean languages. The Oto-Manguean languages display highly complex inflectional systems, involving suffixes, prefixes, stem alternations and complex tonal patterns, all of which may fall into different inflectional classes and act orthogonally to each other. By examining data from these languages, which display such an unparalleled diversity and richness of inflectional class systems, we gained a much clearer understanding of the range of typological possibilities where inflectional classes are concerned.

More generally, my research interests include:

  • Morphology
  • Morphophonology
  • Typology
  • Language documentation and description
  • Finno-Ugric languages (Skolt Saami, Finnish)
  • Oto-Manguean languages (Chichimec, Cuicatec, Amuzgo)

Before joining the Surrey Morphology Group in 2012, I was based at The University of Manchester where I worked on a grammatical description of Skolt Saami, a highly endangered and under-described language spoken in the far northeast of Finland. This work involved several field trips to the villages where the language is spoken to collect primary data for analysis.

My publications


Feist, Timothy. Forthcoming. ‘Skolt Saami’. In Daniel Abondolo and Riitta-Liisa Välijärvi, The Uralic Languages. London: Routledge.

Feist, Timothy. In prep. ‘Reference tracking: is it a function of nominal classification?’

Palancar, Enrique L., Matthew Baerman & Timothy Feist (eds.). Forthcoming. New lights on inflectional classes: Endangered complexity in the Oto-Manguean languages of Mexico.

Feist, Timothy. 2017. The essive case in Skolt Saami. In Casper de Groot (ed.), Uralic Essive and the Expression of Impermanent State (Typological Studies in Language). Amsterdam: Benjamins. DOI: 10.1075/tsl.119.10fei

Feist, Timothy & Enrique L. Palancar. 2016. Tracing the emergence of inflectional tone in Cuicatec. In Enrique Palancar & Jean-Léo Léonard (eds.), Tone and inflection: New data under new perspectives (Trends in Linguistics Series). Berlin: De Gruyter Mouton. DOI: 10.1515/9783110452754-011

Feist, Timothy. 2015. A grammar of Skolt Saami. Helsinki: Suomalais-Ugrilainen Seura (Finno-Ugrian Society).

Palancar, Enrique L. & Timothy Feist. 2015. Agreeing with subjects in number: The rare split of Amuzgo verbal inflection. Linguistic Typology 19(3), 337-383. DOI: 10.1515/lingty-2015-0011

Feist, Timothy. 2011. A grammar of Skolt Saami. Ph.D. dissertation. The University of Manchester.

Web publications

Feist, Timothy & Enrique L. Palancar. 2015. Oto-Manguean Inflectional Class Database. University of Surrey. DOI: 10.15126/SMG.28/1

Fedden, Sebastian, Timothy Feist, Matthew Baerman, Dunstan Brown, Greville G. Corbett & Gunter Senft. 2015. Mian and Kilivila Collection. University of Surrey. DOI: 10.15126/SMG.30/1

Impact-centred media publications

Feist, Timothy. 2016. ‘The Mian & Kilivila Collection’. OGMIOS Newsletter 60, 31 August 2016. Foundation for Endangered Languages.

Feist, Timothy & Sebastian Fedden. 2016. Nominal classification in Mian, a Papuan language of New Guinea – Part 2. Surrey Morphology Group. Video clip, length 4:34 mins. http://www.mian-kilivila.surrey.ac.uk/

Feist, Timothy [interviewed for article in Mexican press]. Al rescate de las lenguas otomangues ('To the rescue of Oto-Manguean language'). El Universal (Mexico), 20 July 2015.

Feist, Timothy & Lucy Bell. Lost for words: Endangered complexity in the languages of Mexico. The Huffington Post - The Blog, 10 July 2015.

Feist, Timothy & Lucy Bell. You thought Spanish was hard? Discovering the complexity of indigenous languages of Mexico. The Huffington Post - The Blog, 25 June 2015.

Conference and workshop presentations

‘Paradigmatic perspectives on morphological organisation’ (with Matthew Baerman). 12th Association for Linguistic Typology (ALT) conference, Australian National University, Canberra, 12 December 2017.

‘Splitting up lexical splits: disentangling morphological complexity’. 48th Meeting of the Australian Linguistics Society (ALS 2017), University of Sydney, 7 December 2017.

‘Making sense of the complex inflectional morphological of Skolt Saami’. 3rd Saami Linguistics Symposium (SAALS3), Freiburg Institute for Advanced Studies (FRIAS), Freiburg, 19 October 2017.

‘Data visualisations as a pedagogical tool for Skolt Saami’. Workshop on ‘Documentation, Standardization and Teaching of Endangered Languages in Northern Eurasia’ of the Regional Interest Group “Northern Eurasia” (RIGNE2016), 25 November 2016.

‘Visualising morphological complexity’. Advances in Visual Methods for Linguistics (AVML2016), University of Queensland, Brisbane, 27 September 2016.

‘The reference tracking role of nominal classification systems’. 46th Poznań Linguistic Meeting (PLM16), Adam Mickiewicz University, Poznań, 16 September 2016.

Invited talk: ‘Morphological complexity in Skolt Saami, an endangered Finno-Ugric language’. Cambridge Endangered Languages and Cultures Group (CELC), University of Cambridge, 27 April 2016.

‘Keeping track of discourse participants: Just how helpful are gender and classifiers?’ Workshop on Gender and classifiers: Diachronic and synchronic variation, University of Surrey, 28 January 2016.

Invited talk: 'The rare plural subject split of Amuzgo verbs' (with Enrique L. Palancar). Journée d'étude: 'Approches formelles, quantitatives et descriptives des systèmes morphologiques'. University of Chicago Center in Paris, Paris. 13 October 2015.

'The singular/plural split and the marking of verb inflectional classes in San Pedro Amuzgo' (with Enrique L. Palancar). 16th International Morphology Meeting (IMM 16), Budapest, Hungary, 1 June 2014.

'Construyendo una base de datos de acceso libre sobre la morfología verbal de las lenguas otomangues'. Coloquio sobre lenguas otomangues y vecinas (COLOV) 6, Oaxaca, Mexico. 27th April 2014.

'Patrones en la flexión tonal del cuicateco' (with Enrique L. Planacar). Coloquio sobre lenguas otomangues y vecinas (COLOV) 6, Oaxaca, Mexico, 27 April 2014.

'Constructing a database of Oto-Manguean inflectional classes'. Workshop on Inflectional morphology and verb classes in the Oto-Manguean languages of Mexico, The University of Surrey, Guildford, 14th March 2014.

'Inflection working overtime: The case of zero stems in Cuicatec'. Manchester Forum in Linguistics, The University of Manchester, UK. 15 November 2013.

'Choosing what bit? Tone and inflection in Cuicatec'. Annual Meeting of the Linguistics Association of Great Britain (LAGB) 2013, SOAS, London. 31 August 2013.

'Disentangling the tonal inflection of Cuicatec' (with Enrique L. Palancar). International workshop: 'Tons et Paradigmes Flexionnels: Modélisation et Parcimonie' (Disentangling the Inflectional Role of Tone), Maison de la Recherche, Université de Paris 3, Paris, 18 June 2013.

'The Essive case in Skolt Saami'. Grammar and Context 2013, The University of Tartu, Estonia, 6 June 2013.

'Morphophonological complexity in Skolt Saami verbal inflection'. Southeast Morphology Meeting, The University of Surrey, Guildford, 25 January 2013.