This article is part of the Research Topic Time in terms of space

Original Research ARTICLE

Front. Psychol., 19 November 2012 | doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2012.00485

Spatialization of time in Mian

  • 1University of Surrey, Guildford, UK
  • 2Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics, Nijmegen, Netherlands
  • 3Stanford University, Palo Alto, CA, USA

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 temporal 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.

Keywords: space, time, Mian, Papuan, river-based spatial system

Citation: Fedden S and Boroditsky L (2012) Spatialization of time in Mian. Front. Psychology 3:485. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2012.00485

Received: 05 March 2012; Accepted: 22 October 2012;
Published online: 19 November 2012.

Edited by:

Alice Gaby, Monash University, Australia

Reviewed by:

Birgit Hellwig, La Trobe University, Australia
Thora Tenbrink, University of Bremen, Germany

Copyright: © 2012 Fedden and Boroditsky. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in other forums, provided the original authors and source are credited and subject to any copyright notices concerning any third-party graphics etc.

*Correspondence: Sebastian Fedden, University of Surrey, Guildford, Surrey, GU2 7XH, UK. e-mail:

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