The Aubreys at SBL, 2022

Rachel and I will be at in SBL this year. I wanted to highlight what we’re up to. We hope that we’ll see some of you in our sessions. To that end: if anyone is curious about the work we are doing for Bible translation, this is part of it. The prepositions work constitutes our major research focus over the past year and our paper below on the research tools we need lays out the mandate we have for biblical language linguistics research for the team we’re building, and leading.

Cognitive Strategies for Identifying Viewpoint in Biblical Texts

S18-206, Cognitive Linguistics in Biblical Interpretation
3:00 PM to 6:00 PM
Room: 606 (Street Level) – Convention Center (CC)

Theme: Cognitive Strategies for Identifying Viewpoint in Biblical Texts
Because cognition and therefore language are embodied, language prompts construals that are viewpointed. In this interactive workshop, cognitive linguist Eve Sweetser, Ph.D. and Professor of Linguistics at UC Berkeley, will discuss how viewpoint operates in language. Following her introduction will be short presentations on viewpoint in biblical uses of prepositions; verbal tense, aspect, mood, and person; metaphor and metonymy; and characterization. Biblical texts will be provided for small- and large-group work. We also encourage everyone to bring examples related to the topics listed.

  • Elizabeth Currier, Pillar Seminary, Presiding
  • Eve Sweetser, University of California-Berkeley, Panelist
  • Michael Aubrey, SIL International, Panelist
  • Rachel Aubrey, SIL International, Panelist
  • Steven Runge, Grace School of Theology, Panelist

Datasets for Biblical Languages (Online program book)

In this year’s session, the Copenhagen Alliance will focus on MACULA, a set of integrated datasets for biblical languages that includes tools for reading, curating, and creating new datasets.  MACULA datasets and code are freely licensed.  This project is in early development.  We welcome feedback to help us build frameworks that are useful for biblical scholarship and research.

M19-112, Copenhagen Alliance

9:00 AM – 11:30 AM
Sheraton Downtown-Plaza Court 5 (Plaza Tower – Concourse Level – 1 level below Lobby)

Note: Currently, this session is only listed in AAR’s online program book. The App and SBL’s online program book do not include it.

  • Why we need linguistically-aware biblical language research tools to support Bible translation. (Mike Aubrey, Rachel Aubrey)
  • MACULA overview: an architecture for sharing. (Jonathan Robie, James Tauber)
  • Linguistic Datasets in MACULA: What’s there?  Where did it come from?  What are they good for?  (Paul O’Rear, Randall Tan)
  • Enhanced Resources++:  Aligning MACULA data to modern translations and linking it to images, maps, dictionaries, and other resources for those who do not know Hebrew and Greek.  (Reinier de Blois, Steve Runge, Mike Brinker)

Rachel Aubrey, SIL International

“Exploring Perspective in Preposition Analysis”

S20-109, Biblical Lexicography / Cognitive Linguistics in Biblical Interpretation
Joint Session With: Cognitive Linguistics in Biblical Interpretation, Biblical Lexicography
9:00 AM to 11:30 AM
Room: 706 (Street Level) – Convention Center (CC)


To understand ourselves and our world, we humans develop a key distinction in cognitive processing: We recognize the difference between individual subjective perspectives and objective reality (Tomasello 2020). In early childhood development, we begin to (1) perceive ourselves and our fellows as intentional agents in the world, and (2) appreciate the difference between our own perspective and that of others. Fundamental to human cognition is thus our ability to consider the world through the eyes of another (Verhagen 2005). This dimension in cognition is captured in Cognitive Linguistics through construal and perspectivization. Construal refers to our capacity to understand situations in different ways and express them in language accordingly. Asserting that language is perspectival involves a dual recognition at different levels of the linguistic system: First, it recognizes that each linguistic expression frames a situation in a certain way, thus imposing a construal and attending to different aspects of a scene. Second, it acknowledges that languages also do this systematically; different languages provide different means for various kinds of construal (Verhagen 2005, 49). Such considerations set the stage for an area ripe for research in the analysis of Hellenistic Greek prepositions: The role of the conceptualizer in spatial and non-spatial relations. The perspective of the conceptualizer in a scene is central to the construal of image schemata (Dewell 2007). Subjective viewpoints directly participate in the formation of prepositional semantics. Crucially, image schemas are not understood as an objective relation between trajector and landmark. Rather, trajector/landmark relationships are contingent on the perspective of the conceptualizer on the scene. Ignoring such alternative construals and perspectivization in favor of attempting to describe a strictly canonical relationship risks (1) unintentionally increasing the complexity of lexical analysis, thereby multiplying senses unnecessarily, and (2) losing sight of how different prepositions affect construal patterns within the same and similar scenes. As I write this, there is effort afoot in the International Translation Resources department of SIL International. Michael Aubrey and I are building a database of prepositions in the Biblical languages (Greek and Hebrew) in the hope of bringing construal and perspectivization to the fore and illustrating their importance to the task of Bible translation across languages. In this presentation, I explore some of our preliminary findings among a variety of Hellenistic Greek prepositional phrases, highlighting the role of the conceptualizer as the vantage point on the scene and its implications for lexicography and translation.

Michael Aubrey

Reconsidering the Abstract Senses of περί

S20-109, Biblical Lexicography / Cognitive Linguistics in Biblical Interpretation
Joint Session With: Cognitive Linguistics in Biblical Interpretation, Biblical Lexicography
9:00 AM to 11:30 AM
Room: 706 (Street Level) – Convention Center (CC)


Where traditional lexicons such as BDAG tend to prioritize περί’s abstract senses, this paper reconsiders the spatial image schema of περί as having primary status, from which nonspatial senses are derived. In its basic spatial orientation, the preposition περί denotes a relationship between a trajector and landmark whereby the trajector is situated in a circle around the landmark. The semantic extensions of the preposition are reexamined with specific attention to how περί relates to the EVENT-LOCATION metaphor (Lakoff & Johnson 1999: 179) and causal event chain (Talmy 2000). The EVENT-LOCATION metaphor provides an empirically grounded model for understanding how spatial relations relate to the domains of time, cause, and intention. Research by Croft (1991; 2012) and Luraghi (2001, 2003, 2014) explores the ways in which the grammatical marking of participant roles with the elaboration of an event may be mapped and syncretized with other participant roles along both synchronic and diachronic directional paths. These processes by which spatial senses syncretize with more abstract meanings continues to be a fruitful avenue of research (Luraghi 2001, 2003, 2014) for understanding semantic change and the nature of mental space for various participant roles. Attention to English glosses like ‘about’ and ‘concerning’ in the analysis of περί have led to a relative neglect for the spatial scenes evoked by and the rich set of metaphoric extensions by which many tokens of the preposition may be better understood. Two spatial scenes in particular, one involving the linear path of the trajector as it encircles the landmark and the other involving the dispersive path of the trajector in a proximate area to the landmark, provide important guidelines for the realization of περί in different contexts. I explore several additional event frames/scenes including: conflict/argumentation, investigation/inquiry, emotion, and sacrifice. Unlike source or goal prepositions which provide well-defined metaphoric extensions to abstract concepts involving cause/reason and affect/purpose, περί communicates such trajector/landmark relationships in a subtler manner. In some scenes abstract uses of περί result from natural metaphoric extensions from one domain to another. In other cases, the use of περί can be better described in terms of a conceptual blend (Fauconnier & Turner 1996, 1998; Grady, Oakley & Coulson 1999): the proximate area relation between trajector and landmark functions as one domain that blends with the domain expressed by the larger event structure.