Scholars in Press: An interview with Mike Aubrey

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Education: I received a BA in Biblical Languages at Moody Bible Institute in 2007. Since then, my wife and I have been actively preparing for service with SIL/Wycliffe Bible Translators as a linguist. We completed certificates in applied linguistics in 2008 as well as started graduate studies in linguistics at the Graduate Institute of Applied Linguistics (GIAL) in Dallas, TX. In 2008, we moved to Vancouver, British Columbia in Canada to continue our studies at the Canada Institute of Linguistics (CanIL) at Trinity Western University. We have taken turns working on our degrees and paying for school since then. I defended my thesis on methodology in grammatical analysis using Role and Reference Grammar in 2014. My wife will be defending her thesis on cognitive linguistics and middle voice this coming summer.

Favorite pastimes: Backpacking is by far my favorite summer activity. I’m also an enthusiast photographer (http://mikeaubrey.myportfolio.com/) and home coffee roaster. Snowboarding is always great in the winter, but I haven’t been out on the slopes for a few years now.


How did linguistics intersect with biblical studies in your life (or vice-versa)?

That’s a difficult question to answer. I don’t review myself as a biblical scholar at all. I’m a linguist who specializes in Ancient Greek. For the most part, I’m not really interested in theological or exegetical questions, at least not from an academic perspective. Of course, I can’t really escape biblical studies either. And my planned career with Wycliffe means that my goal is to contribute to knowledge of Greek so that other can produce better translations. Back when I was at Moody Bible Institute 10 years ago or so, I was a church history major until I decided that I wanted to work with Wycliffe. I would have gone straight into MBI’s linguistics program, but I was too far along to change programs and graduate on time. The biblical languages program, then, was the practical alternative. And the faculty there were the ones who had me hooked on the language.

What informal or personal educational experience stands out the most to you in your learning career?

Reading. Reading as much typology research as I can get my hands on. If you want to be an academic, you can’t not love spending your free time reading in your field. That and slogging through large quantities of language data looking for patterns. Actually, come to think of it, having the opportunity to do contract work for Logos Bible Software since 2008 has been huge for my knowledge of Greek: Lexham Septuagint projects, editing Steve Runge’s Discourse Grammar, reverse interlinears, etc. Nothing beats a good combination of theory and data for learning.

What would you say is your linguistic niche, or what are you most interested in? (limit of two topics)

Heh. The easy answer is Greek. I’m trained as an applied linguist. Applied linguists’ specialties tend to be a particular language rather than a particular linguistic domain (phonology, morphology, syntax, discourse, etc.). It’s sort of a generalist situation. Beyond that, I suppose I would say Indo-European historical linguistics more generally. The knowledge and understand of most biblical scholars and NT grammarians when it comes to the history and pre-history of Greek is pretty abysmal.

Where is your field headed? What advances are being made others might should be aware of?

People interested in the grammar of the New Testament really need to expand their horizons to a larger corpus of texts. And I’m not just saying Hellenistic and Early Roman Koine. I’m saying Classical and Early Byzantine Greek. Panchronic language research is a growing and important approach to historical linguistics. The NT and surrounding texts exist and at an important linguistic crossroads for the language. We have an opportunity to do really good historical linguistic research.

How do you hope your work will contribute (or counter) to this end?

My research is primarily oriented around good methodology for grammar writing. Language history work is an important part of that.

What is your end goal with your training? (e.g., teach, research, preach, translate, etc.)

I hope to both contribute to a translation project and also help train future translators as well. Beyond that, my wife and I intend on having a two volume reference grammar for Greek completed in the next decade. We’ve got about 100 to 150 pages written.

What books / articles are you currently reading or enjoying most? (Limit 3)

Robert Langacker’s (1987, 191) Foundations of Cognitive Grammar. I’m also currently re-reading Jan Rijkoff’s The Noun Phrase (Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2002) for an article I’m writing on definiteness & quantification.

Who have been your biggest role models?

  • Thomas Payne. His work in applied linguistics and grammar writing is hugely important.
  • Michael Boutin was my first academic advisor in linguistics at GIAL and I had the pleasure of having him as my external reader for my thesis.
  • Eve Sweetser’s work in cognitive linguistics and her willingness to interact with biblical scholars at SBL is pretty impressive.
  • Most dead Greek grammarians. They knew the language far better than we give them credit for. And they’re worth still listening to.

What is one piece of advice for those following in your tracks?

Don’t get stuck in a single linguistic framework. If you want to be sufficiently well-rounded, you need to be able to comprehend and work within any number of linguistic approaches. That might sound like a big task, but it gets easier and easier with every framework you learn about. Multiple perspectives can help you problem solve specific language data problems. There is no one size fits all solution to any particular language.

Do you have online resources you would like to refer people to, either your own or others?

Well, of course, I’ve been writing at evepheso.wordpress.com since 2007. As a linguistic moderator at B-Greek, I’d love to see more linguistically-oriented students/scholars active over there. Micheal Palmer’s greek-language.com is another important resource.