Interview: Travis Wright


University of Cambridge

Areas of Interest/Research:

Historical Linguistics, Septuagint

What is it about your field that you love researching?

Although most of my work is in historical linguistics, I am an exegete at heart. It was exegesis that led me into biblical languages, and the languages into linguistics. What I love about my field is the opportunity to focus on the primary source itself in the languages of its composition. I came into biblical scholarship through the joy of exegesis, and I hope to stay there the rest of my life.

What is one “big idea” in your scholarship?

The best philologists are now linguists. 

What is your current research about?

My research focuses on using Cognitive Semantics to evaluate language contact in the Greek translation of Ezekiel. I am asking to what degree the translation represented Greek convention and what forms of interreference there might have been from the Hebrew vorlage. Cognitive Semantics provides a productive model for integrating what is known about grammar as conceptualization with the sophisticated complexities involved in researching contact between historical languages. 

Who is one of your academic heroes and why do you admire them?

My advisor James Aitken. Jim displays a methodological precision and control in his scholarship that I admire greatly. He introduced me to the value of documentary and diachronic evidence for the grammar of Koine Greek (and Septuagint), and his realism about the possibilities of biblical research has been formative for me. 

What books have been formative for you in your study? Why were they so important? How did they shape you?

Christo van der Merwe, Hebrew Reference Grammar

Another academic hero of mine, Christo’s dedication to developing excellence as a linguist in order to serve Bible Translation was an important model for the kind of work that I hope to do. This Reference Grammar represents an extraordinary career of research and is an example of his work at its best: precise, concise, clear, and motivated by the real needs of the field. We need many more books like this.

Stephen Levinsohn, Discourse Features of NT Greek

Steve is a career Bible translator and linguist whose work is informed by profound personal learning about the world’s languages. He also has decades of experience documenting languages in the field, and his effortless precision with Greek and Hebrew data is eye-opening. Reading this book inspired me to do similar ‘field work’ on the biblical languages. 

John Lee, Greek of the Pentateuch

Lee is on another level. 

Do you have any publications we can showcase?

Nothing I can mention yet, but soon!

Where can we follow you online?

Twitter: @sivartspeaks, @biblingoapp

If we ran into you at a conference and you didn’t want to talk about your field what would you want to talk about?

Poetry. Tolkien. Even better, if you speak modern Hebrew, Greek, or Arabic, we can talk about anything (I need practice!).

What research/writing project are you working on right now that you’re excited about?

Right now I’m working on prepositional semantics and the grammaticalization of particles in Koine Greek. I’m fascinated by the nature of lexical and grammatical polysemy. People forget how incredible language is––and our field needs to remember that our discipline is fundamentally based on texts in natural languages. I’m also writing a popular-level book about the beauty of the biblical languages. One passion of mine is to help others enjoy the Bible in Greek and Hebrew. This book is an important part of that project.

>> Thank you so much, Travis, for taking the time to share a bit about yourself and your work.

Are you a PhD student or Early Career Researcher working in Religion or Biblical Studies? If so, we’d like to hear from you. This website is dedicated solely to interviewing PhD students and ECRs on who they are, what they love about their work, and what has inspired them. If you’d like to be interviewed, head over to the Contact page and fill out the form. There’s no catch. Don’t be shy. Self-promotion is a virtue.

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