Linear B Syllabograms, Logograms & Ideograms Compared with Modern Chinese Ideograms: Click to ENLARGE While I know nothing of modern Chinese, and consequently cannot understand what any of the ideograms on this sign mean, I decided to compare either whole Chinese ideograms or components of them with their Linear B counterparts, simply to illustrate how similar writing systems from two cultures as remotely spaced both in time and space can and often do make use of very similar, and even occasionally almost identical strokes to create their characters. It so turns out that my own boyfriend, Louis-Dominique, took this photo just for me, when he was in China at the end of September and beginning of October this year (2014). I have no intention of analyzing any of the characters or ideograms in either Linear B or in Chinese, except in so far as I am able to translate those that are in Linear B. The photograph pretty much illustrates the similarities without need for further comment, but some similarities leap right out. For our Oriental visitors who are unfamiliar with the first 2 scriptural phenomena, a syllabogram is merely a syllable consisting of one consonant followed by one vowel, as in YA, MO, NE, PO, QE, RE, SO & TO, all of which appear on the photograph. Logograms in Linear B & other syllabic scripts are a combination of two syllabograms, one superimposed on the other, as in MERI = “honey”, which appears in the previous post. In both Linear B & Chinese, an ideogram is an ideogram is an ideogram. There are almost 150 ideograms in Linear B, which is a considerable number, considering that Linear B is primary a syllabary. In fact, there are more ideograms in Linear B than there are both syllabograms and logograms! To highlight just a few of the more remarkable similarities:  Especially striking is the Linear B syllabogram RE  on the photograph, which looks exactly like the four signs, two on top and two underneath the Chinese ideogram at the far right top of the sign. It also appears upside down on the Chinese ideogram immediately underneath.  Variants of the Linear B syllabogram MO appear as components 4 in Chinese ideograms, all tagged . For those of you who are Chinese, if you refer yourself to the Linear B words tagged with  & , bottom left, you can actually see for yourself that the syllabogram MO closely resembles the ideogram component I have flagged.  Likewise, a minor variant of the Linear B syllabogram TO  appears on one Chinese ideogram & in the Linear B word, bottom left. So that makes two components of Chinese ideograms incorporating elements strikingly alike Linear B syllabograms.  The component at the centre bottom of Chinese ideogram  closely resembles the Linear B syllabograms PO & SO in the 2 counterpart Linear B sentences , bottom right.  The Chinese ideogram component  looks exactly like the Greek alphabetic lambda (L), upside down. This is the sole instance in which a component of a Chinese ideogram looks like a Greek alphabetic letter rather than a Linear B syllabogram. Anyway, there are no L+vowel syllabograms in Linear B. My whole point is simply this, that Chinese ideograms frequently use strokes which incorporate elements which are (almost) identical, primarily to Linear B syllabograms, and sometimes Linear B logograms or ideograms. Thus, a component of an ideogram in Chinese can either closely resemble or actually be almost identical to a Linear B syllabogram, which are two different scriptural phenomena in two entirely unrelated languages. Likewise, an entire Chinese ideogram, as for instance, that for “elephant” in the previous post can be, and in that instance, is practically identical to the Linear B logogram for “honey”. Finally, the Chinese ideogram for “month” is the mirror image of the exact same ideogram (“month”) in Mycenaean Linear B, again as seen the previous post. Those of us who are Occidentals are going to draw own own conclusions reflecting the values of the West from the observations I have made above, while those who are Orientals will doubtless see things from a somewhat different perspective. I welcome any observations, comments or corrections from anyone fascinated by these correlations, especially from our Oriental friends who can translate the Chinese ideograms where these are (almost) identical to their Linear B counterparts. The stark differences in meaning can sometimes be hilarious, as for example in the previous post the logogram for “honey” In Mycenaean Greek looks almost identical to the Chinese ideogram which means “elephant”. This phenomenon recurs in alphabetical scripts, where for instance, both the Latin and Cyrillic alphabets are offshoots of the Greek alphabet. While most letters in these three alphabets are strikingly different, a number of letters are (almost) identical. I do not intend to illustrate these (dis)similarities here, since we are not concerned with alphabetic scripts. Richard
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Knossos: A Novel of Ancient Crete, by Laura Gill 765 pp. (Kindle) Click to ENLARGE: I was just searching the Internet, and what did I find? This novel! It sure looks intriguing, and it merits four out of five stars! Plus it is very inexpensive, coming at $6.99. Here is what Laura has to say about her novel. Knossos. Witness the rise and fall of the legendary Labyrinth in these ten stories spanning five millennia. • Knos, a sea captain of Rhodes, is driven to find a new homeland for his people when the neighboring tribes turn against them. Little does he suspect the consequences of his actions. • A bolt of lightning kills Pasibe’s young lover. Yet where they take, the gods also give. • Bull leapers honor the gods during the midsummer rites as the rulers of Knossos vie for position. Bansabira, a bull priest, finds himself caught in the middle of the struggle. • Daidalos, wronged by the high priestess of Knossos, builds the first Labyrinth after a devastating personal tragedy. • Aranaru, a priest-architect of Daidalos, is commissioned to rebuild the Labyrinth after a storm of earthquakes. Meanwhile, in the serpent sanctuary, snake priestess Narkitsa tries to conceal a terrible secret. • Dadarusa, scribe to the Minos, is summoned to attend the dead after a natural disaster of world-changing fury. Will he persevere in his grim duty, or will injury, starvation and the animosity of a fanatic priest be his undoing? • Mycenaean conqueror Alektryon embarks on a course that threatens to alter the fabric of the Labyrinth and the authority of its priesthood. • A crazed girl’s passion and her attachment to the mysterious bull-man of the Labyrinth threaten to bring down the edifices of power. Read more about her novel on her blog, here: Richard
Completely Revised Mycenaean Linear B Basic Syllabograms, with 3 New Syllabograms JU (or YU), QA & ZU, Raising the Total from 58 to 61 with 1 less Homophone: Click to ENLARGE the Full Linear B Syllabary Revised 2014: NOTE! If you are using the standard chart of the Mycenaean syllabary currently available on the Internet, which looks like this: you should discard it at once and replace it with our new Table of the Full Linear B Syllabary Revised 2014, as the former is completely out-of-date and inaccurate. Until recently, almost all charts of the Basic Syllabograms in Mycenaean Linear B accounted for only 58 syllabograms, but this number falls short of the actual total of 61 Syllabograms. In fact, there are three syllabograms which are unaccounted for in almost all previous charts of the basic syllabograms, these three (3) being JU (or YU), QA & ZU. The chart above does account for ZU. Both YU and ZU, although attested (A) on all extant Linear B tablets and fragments, regardless of provenance, are extremely rare, so we need not fuss over them. How did the Mycenaeans Pronounce the J series of Syllabograms (JA, JE, JO & JU)? The syllabogram JU (or YU) appears to be accurate. Of course, you are bound to ask me, “Why all this fuss over the Mycenaeans’ actual pronunciation of the syllabograms in the J+ vowel series?” Good question. Actually, the distinction is highly significant. If those of us who are allophone English speakers pronounce the syllabogram JE, it is inevitable that it is going to sound exactly like “je” in our word “jet”. However, I contend that this was almost certainly not the way the Mycenaeans would have pronounced it. They would much more likely have pronounced the entire J series of syllabograms (JA, JE, JO & JU) very much the way the French do today, as in “je” (I) or “justement” (precisely or exactly). If you are allophone English, there is really no way I can tell you how “j” sounds in French. But if you go to this site, you can hear it for yourself (scroll to the bottom of the light blue table): Listen carefully. You can easily enough tell that the sound of the consonant “j” is much softer in French than it is in English. That is the whole point. As languages progress forward through their historical timeline, the pronunciation of certain letters changes. Sometimes, consonants actually end up as vowels. This is precisely what happened to the soft “j” in Mycenaean Greek. By the time of Homer, it had glided to the vowel “i”. Thus, the genitive singular masculine “ojo” in Mycenaean Greek was now pronounced “oio” in Homer’s Iliad. Now, the real problem here is simply this: when did the pronunciation start to imperceptibly shift from that soft “j” to the much softer vowel “i”? This question is in no way academic, but a reflection of the actual historical process of the gradual transformation, or glide (if you like) from soft “j” to the vowel “i”. Given that Mycenaean Greek was the predominant Greek dialect almost everywhere in Greece from at least 1600 BCE until ca. 1200 BCE, the glide may have already been almost complete by the latter date. But we have no way of really knowing. However, I am one of many Linear B researchers and translators who believe this is indeed what happened, even as early as four centuries before Homer wrote the Iliad and the Odyssey (if ever he wrote it at all, rather than merely reciting aloud). So at least some of us prefer to list the J series of syllabograms (JA, JE, JO & JU) as the Y series (YA, YE, YO & YU), in our belief that the glide from the soft “j” to the purely vocalic “i” pronunciation of this series of 4 syllabograms was already well under way towards the end of the Mycenaean era. It is far more likely that the earlier soft “j” held sway in Knossos before its final demise ca. 1450-1425 BCE, so the choice of which pronunciation you personally prefer is entirely arbitrary. I have no problem being arbitrary myself. Take your pick. Why QA, Previously Classified as a Homophone Only, Should Properly be Considered a Syllabogram and Not a Homophone: The renowned Linear A & Linear B researcher, Prof. John G. Younger, was the first to recognize QA for what it is, a syllabogram. As Chris Tselentis makes it abundantly clear in his well-conceived Linear B Lexicon, he considers QA to be a syllabogram, and not a homophone. As he is Greek, he is in a much better position to have at it than those of us who are not Greek, which of course means almost all of us. This small extract from his Lexicon’s alphabetical list nicely illustrates the point – Click to ENLARGE: Linear B Syllabogram QA in the Linear B Lexicon by Chris Tselentis In his comprehensive Linear B Lexicon, Chris Tselentis places QA immediately after PTE and right before QE, which is precisely where it belongs alphabetically in the Linear B syllabary. To classify QA as being only a homophone is to strip it of its actual true value, which is patently unacceptable. Unfortunately, the primary chart, “Proposed Values of the Mycenaean Syllabary”, which is the one practically everyone studying Linear B resorts to, is inaccurate & totally out-of-date on two vital counts.  The new syllabograms (actually not so new), JU & QA are missing from that chart.  Past Linear B researchers and translators, from Michael Ventris through to his colleague, Prof. John Chadwick, were mistaken in their interpretation of the syllabogram QA as a homophone only. Since it is now known that in fact QA is an attested syllabogram (A), the previous phonetic value Ventris, Chadwick et. al. assigned to it is neither here nor there. In order not to confuse Linear B students and researchers, I cannot be bothered rehashing its former value. This in no way detracts from their splendid work in the successful decipherment. It just took a number of decades for later Linear B researchers to finally realize that there was (and is) more to this little beastie than was previously believed to be the case. Since the Linear B syllabary has no syllabogram to account for either a B+ vowel or G+vowel series, QA, QE, QO had to stand in for both “ba, be, bo...etc.” & “ga, ge, go...” in Mycenaean Greek. If you still wish to read an early, but truly excellent, extensive study on the conjectural pronunciation of of a great many syllabograms, download the PDF file, The Linear B Signs 8-A and 25-A2 (Remarks on the Problem of Mycenaean Doublets), by Antonín Bartonek, translated by S. Kostomlatský (1957). This study clearly illustrates the then current belief that PA2, i.e. QA, was strictly a homophone... a belief which has not stood the test of time. In Fact, Prof. John G. Younger, one of the most esteemed Linear A & Linear B researchers of our time, has this to say about the Mycenaean pronunciation of QA. John G Younger’s reassignment of PA2 to QA. Click to ENLARGE: If you click on the Title Banner for Prof. Younger’s site below, you will be taken there, where you can view both the Linear A & B Grids. Scroll down to near the end of the page to view his complete chart of the Linear B grid. Richard
Chinese Ideograms Compared to Linear B Syllabograms, Homophones, Logograms & Ideograms: Click to ENLARGE: Chinese (Oriental): Each Chinese character represents a monosyllabic Chinese word or morpheme. In 100 CE, the famed Han dynasty scholar Xu Shen classified characters into six categories, namely pictographs, simple ideographs, compound ideographs, phonetic loans, phonetic compounds and derivative characters. Click on the banner below to read this entry in full: Chinese Character Classification: Pictograms: Roughly 600 Chinese characters are pictograms (xiàng xíng "form imitation") — stylised drawings of the objects they represent. These are generally among the oldest characters. These pictograms became progressively more stylized and lost their pictographic flavor... passim... Ideograms: Ideograms (zh? shì, "indication") express an abstract idea through an iconic form, including iconic modification of pictographic characters. Low numerals are represented by the appropriate number of strokes, directions by an iconic indication above and below a line, and the parts of a tree by marking the appropriate part of a pictogram of a tree. Click on the banner below to read this entry in full: The Relationship Between Minoan Linear A (unknown) + Mycenaean Linear B & Arcado-Cypriot Linear C (Occidental Greek): Both Linear A, which was used to write the undeciphered Minoan language & Linear B, its immediate descendent, which was used to write Mycenaean Greek, shared character sets which were uncannily similar and in the case of a fair number of syllabograms, identical. However, given that Mycenaean Greek did not require anywhere near as many characters as had the Minoan language, Linear B, all for the sake of greater simplicity, abandoned a great number of the more complex Linear A syllabograms, homophones, logograms and ideograms as plainly extraneous. When the Linear B scribes devised the new syllabary, they simply tossed out everything from Linear B which was of no further use in representing early ancient Mycenaean Greek. And we must never forget that these two syllabaries, Linear A and Linear B, its much simplified offshoot, were used to write two entirely unrelated languages. Because the first, Minoan, is undeciphered, we have no way of knowing to which class of languages it belongs, except that so far at least, it has utterly defied decipherment as anything like an Indo-European language. On the other hand, Linear B was used for early ancient Greek, which is an Indo-European language. The point I am trying to make is that these two syllabaries, which are so much alike not only in appearance but to a large extent in phonetic values, represent languages belonging to completely different classes. While the scripts look uncannily alike, the languages underlying them are entirely unalike. Conclusion: even scripts, in this case scripts which make use of a combination of syllabograms, logograms and ideograms by and large (nearly) equivalent, may easily represent languages which have nothing to do with one another. The direct opposite scenario can, and does often occur. Linear B and Linear C used completely different syllabaries to write two extremely closely related dialects of the same language, ancient Greek, the first, Linear B for Mycenaean and the second, Linear C, for Arcado-Cypriot. No two dialects in ancient Greek are nearly as closely related as are these two, not even Ionic and Attic Greek. In the majority of cases, in fact, although morphemes (words) in Linear B & Linear C of course look completely unalike in their respective syllabaries, their phonetic values, far more often than not, sound & are (almost) exactly the same, because they are phonetically (practically) one and the same Greek word. Moreover, Arcado-Cypriot was written using both Linear C and the Greek alphabet. Same document, different scripts. So in Arcado-Cypriot, regardless of the script, the words (morphemes) and their phonetic values are identical. Moreover, in a great many cases, any given Greek word written in Linear B, Linear C or in alphabetical Greek in either of these two germane dialects is, plainly and simply, the (exact) same word. This phenomenon is of vital, if not critical, significance to the translation of tablets composed in Linear B and in Linear C alike into alphabetical Greek. Phonetically, the results can often be astonishingly alike, if not identical, for all three scripts (Linear B, Linear C & alphabetical Arcado-Cypriot). A Comparison Between Chinese Pictograms/Ideograms and Linear B Syllabograms, Homophones, Logograms & Ideograms: Any attempt to make sense of any comparison between the ideograms of an oriental language such as Chinese and those of a script used for an Occidental language, in this case, Linear B for Mycenaean Greek, may seem to be an exercise in utter futility. Yet, in some senses, it turns out not to be so. This is quite clearly demonstrated in the chart of only 10 ideograms for Chinese words, compared with 10 similar looking syllabograms, homophones, logograms and ideograms in Linear B. The point I am trying to make here is simply this: as far as the assignation of ideograms is concerned, even languages as disparate and as geographically distant from one another as Mycenaean Greek and oriental Chinese, often end up using ideograms which either look almost exactly the same or are uncannily similar in appearance, even though the morphemic values underlying them are almost always completely unrelated, which goes without saying. Or does it? B. Same Ideogram, Same Meaning (a Rare Bird indeed, but...): In one case and one case only, the ideogram for “month” in Chinese is the exact mirror image of the same ideogram in Linear B! Can this be so surprising, that the Chinese and Linear B scribes alike took the cue for the symbolism for the ideogram, “month”, from the exact same astronomical phenomenon, the moon? Of course not, given that almost all ancient societies had recourse to the lunar, not the solar, month. I have made no effort here to compare the Linear B & Chinese ideograms in the chart above with the ideogram for “month” in any other ancient language, undeciphered or not, but of course there are scores of languages based either completely (ancient & modern Chinese, Korean & Japanese) or partially on ideograms (such as Linear A & B, but not Linear C). Rummage through as many of them as you like and you are bound to turn up ideograms very similar to those for “month” in both Linear B & Chinese. In a sense, this striking similarity is in part accidental, since anyone can use any symbol even remotely resembling the moon for “month”, yet at the same time, chances are good that people speaking languages as geographically and linguistically remote as ancient Mycenaean Greek and (ancient or modern) Chinese can and will come up with practically the same ideogram. This phenomenon of (striking) similarity in the appearance of ideograms between two entirely unrelated languages will (in the very rarest circumstances) result in the same meaning, but even then, of course, the pronunciation will be utterly different, because it must be. The ideograms for “month” in Linear B & Chinese look like mirror images of one another, but their pronunciation is totally alien, the Linear B for month being some variation on the Greek, “mein”, the Chinese being “yuè”. Same Ideogram, (Almost Always) an Entirely Different Meaning: Of course, the obverse also holds true. Take one look at our chart above, and you can see right away that the very first ideogram in the Linear B column looks almost identical to its Chinese counterpart in column 1.1. Yes, they look like kissing cousins. But they mean something entirely different. This can come as no surprise to anyone familiar with linguistics. C. One is an Ideogram, the Other is Not! C.1 A Chinese Ideogram looks like a Logogram in Linear B: Of course, in the vast, vast majority of cases, ideograms which look the same from one language to another almost always mean something entirely different. But there is more. The first example we see in the Linear B column is not an ideogram at all, but a logogram composed of two Linear B syllabograms, ME & RI, the one superimposed on the other. In other words, what is an ideogram in one language (Chinese) is not an ideogram at all in another (Mycenaean Greek), even though they look almost identical, as is the case with our first example in the chart above, the logogram for MERI “honey” in Linear B, which looks almost identical to the ideogram in Chinese for “elephant”! C.2 A Chinese Ideogram looks like a Combination of Syllabograms & or Homophones & or Logograms in Linear B: Referring to Linear B entries 4. 6. & 7. in our chart above, we see that we have the syllabograms JA, SA & TE respectively. JA looks quite similar to the Chinese ideogram for “eye” (4.2) and SA + TE again like “sheep, ram” (10.2). Now of course, things get really messy, because Linear B uses two (2) ideograms, one for “ewe”, another for “ram”, and Chinese only one for both, with absolutely no resemblance between the Linear B & Chinese. This of course is the scenario for practically all syllabograms, homophones, logograms and ideograms on the one side (Linear B) and the ideograms on the other (Chinese), say 99.9 %. What is true for Linear B and Chinese is also true of any two languages which either use pictograms and ideograms almost exclusively (Chinese) or ideograms in combination with other signifiers such as syllabograms, homophones & logograms (Linear B). Conclusion: Many of you are surely asking, “What on the earth is the point of this, if not an exercise in futility? Why even bother with it?” The answer is simple enough: why climb a mountain? - because it is there. A great many researchers specializing in comparative linguistics are fascinated by just this sort of thing... which is why I brought it up in the first place. But there is another reason, even more compelling than this, which I shall reveal to you in our next fascinating post, before we have done with this topic once and for all. Richard
Rita Robert’s Translation of Knossos Tablet KN 1115 E c 315: Click to ENLARGE Rita’s comments on her translation: By consulting the huge Tselentis Linear B Lexicon, I found the place name Kytaistos where the 81 rams and 20 ewes were kept. I intuitively inserted “There is a total of”, because this would normally appear on a Linear B Tablet itemizing the number of animals or items. But of course, on this tablet as with so many others, the scribe omitted this because of the necessity to save space on such a small area. Rita Roberts Comment by Richard: Here is yet another of Rita’s successful translations of moderately difficult Knossos tablets using ideograms (in this case, those for ram & ewe). Since Rita always excels at what she does and now that Rita has fully mastered this level of translation, she is moving onto advanced decipherment, which is going to present a lot more challenges to her.
My highly skilled, really PRO student, Rita Roberts, just posted these medallions on her Bog, so I simply HAD to repost them on mine. They are actually on a lot of Linear B sites. No wonder! But Rita got them all! No one has before. Clever!
Originally posted on Ritaroberts's Blog:
HERE IS AN INTERESTING WAY TO LEARN HOW TO READ AND WRITE LINEAR B ANCIENT SCRIPTS
PA-te Father Tu-ka-te Daughter
Boy . Ko-Wo Boy
Mother Ma -te
Mother Daughter Ma-te Tu-ka-te
Priestess of the Winds . A- Ne -Mo -I – Ye- Re – A
Dionysus Di – Wo – Nu – So
Without further ado (or maybe with it!) let’s all wish Rita Happy Birthday with her WIPO & EREPATO! Click to BLOW UP, eh... I simply have not the faintest idea (though if I did, I probably would faint!) who designed this cluttered Birthday Card, but they must have been high on mushrooms, marijane or some kind of hallucinogen, eh. OMG! And the notes! They fairly shout at us, Hey READ ME, why don’t you, anyway, eh! (eh being Canajun for A, ha ha!, and since I am a Canajun, I know what THAT means, eh!... so do all other Canajuns, a few Brits, a few Aussies & a few Kiwis, but no Yanks, who for some bizarre reason insist on saying, HUH?, which unlike EH! sounds kinda stupid, eh!). I don’t know about YOU, but I am going to fly to Herakleion (& if you don’t know where that is or you are American & don’t know anyway, FORGET IT, EH!) So have a wonderful, stupendous, hyper-terrific, copacetic, ecstatic, far out, flighty, spacey, what planet are YOU from?, Plan 9 1/2 from Outer Space etc. etc. etc. Birthday, eh, Rita.... because WIPO simply does not have the graphic skills, let alone writing skills, to cobble together another Birthday Card like this for at least another year, eh. Anyway, it IS one astonishing CARD, totally unique on this little planet of ours full of HUGE ELEPHANTS and little WIPOs, don’t you think, eh? Yours most sincerely trying with all my might to avoid any nearby EREPATOS! Oh and of course Rita will have to Translate this great card for us, because no Canajun in his or her right mind would even dream of translating it, except for a million Euros... hint, hint, Rita, eh. Ton ami canadien (Canajun eh!) Click to ENLARGE, even if no-one has ever seen an enlarged beaver! They sure would not like that, and might nibble your finger nails off if you tried! Richard EH!
The moment we've all been waiting for. This is it! Ideogram for “horse” IQO + Our First Supersyllabogram = ZE, “a team”: our First Concrete Example = “a team of horses” I honestly believe that this is the first time ever since Michael Ventris' successful decipherment of Linear B in July 1952 that a major step may have been taken in the further decipherment of those elements of Linear B which, at least until now, have been entirely recalcitrant to any meaningful decipherment. I have spent the past half year ploughing through 3,000+ tablets & fragments of the Scripta Minoa Catalogue of some 4,000+ fragments and tablets unearthed by Sir Arthur Evans between 1900 & 1903, with further excavations to follow in later years, prior and subsequent to World War I. This irreplaceable precious treasure trove of the largest collection of Linear B fragments ever discovered is available online in its entirety at Heidelberg University, Germany, here: I fully expect that I will eventually be able to extract hundreds of examples all told of the potentially widespread use of an Ideogram immediately preceded or followed by a Syllabogram, and always in one of these two specific, invariable orders. In other words, we are speaking of a “formulaic phrase”, though of course, since the Linear B word in question is not spelled out in syllabograms as it “normally” would be, we are not strictly speaking of “phrases” here, but of a formulaic expression of an Ideogram immediately preceded or followed by a Syllabogram in every single instance, without exception, or as we choose to define it, a Supersyllabogram. Almost from the outset I was astounded to discover the recurrence of the exact same sequence of an Ideogram + Syllabogram no less than seven (7!) times on only two pages of the Scripta Minoa, i.e. pages 144 & 146. This formulaic expression of the Supersyllabogram ZE (plus a single instance of the SSY MO), I must underline, was only the first of scores and scores of Supersyllabograms I have since unearthed in several categories of tablets and fragments from the Scripta Minoa. My discovery of our very first Supersyllabogram in May of this year (2014) was, to say the very least, a real eye opener. For certain Linear B expressions compounded of a single ideogram invariably followed or preceded by the same syllabogram, which have utterly defied decipherment to date, suddenly became accessible for decipherment. The astonishing thing is that the very first two of these expressions involves the Linear B ideogram for IQO = horse + the syllabogram ZE, and always in the exact same order in every single instance, as you can judge for here yourself: 7 Linear B Tablets & Fragments from Knossos Illustrating the Use of the Supersyllabogram ZE = a team (of horses) Click to ENLARGE: All this was almost too good to be true. But when I fell upon even more of these expressions for the second instance of the ideogram for “horse”, I could scarcely believe my eyes. But there it was, plain as the nose on my face. Now, as you can see at once for yourselves from the first example of these seven fragments of Linear B, the ideogram(s) – 1 or 2, as the case may be – are always in the precise same order and always, without exception, immediately followed by the syllabogram ZE. But what, you are obviously asking, is that single syllabogram ZE supposed to mean? All by itself, it would mean precisely nothing. But in this specific, particular and often recurring formula, I originally deduced that ZE always meant “a halter” or “a yoke”, but I was dead wrong. An esteemed colleague of mine, Ms. Gretchen Leonhardt, who is also a highly competent decipherer and translator of Linear B tablets and fragments, soon enough set the record straight for me, convincing me beyond a shadow of a doubt that, in fact, the Supersyllabogram in the specific context of military matters could mean one thing and one thing only, “a pair of” (wheels etc.) or “a team of” (horses), and absolutely nothing else. Moreover, further research on my part has confirmed Ms. Leonhardt’s hypothesis beyond question. Chris Tselentis, near the end of his excellent Linear B Lexicon, has provided us with numerous examples of very well known Linear B tablets to illustrate the various problems which so often arise in our attempts to decipher or translate Linear B tablets and fragments. Among these tablets there is one which cracks the case wide open. Here it is: And Tselentis got it right bang on. He correctly translates the ideogram for wheel + the syllabogram ZE + the number 3 as “three pairs of wheels”, and this in spite of the fact that he did not quite get it right with the rest of the text. But no-one is perfect, so we can simply let that go. Anyway, I have corrected his own translation as illustrated above. All that follows is my original text from May 2014, revised wherever necessary to reflect several new revelations on supersyllabograms since then: In the previous post illustrating Thomas G. Palaima's expert translation of Heidelberg Tablet FL 1994, we saw that he interpreted – and as it turns out, correctly — the syllabograms KO ZA PA PO & MU as being just the initial syllable of – and again, I must lay particular emphasis on this observation – the names of major Minoan/Mycenaean centres. Is this just a fluke? Far from it. The precise point is this, why would expert Linear B scribes bother with spelling out over and over the names of these cities and sites with all their syllabograms when “Everyone (meaning among all of us scribes) knows perfectly well that the first syllabogram, in other words, the first syllable alone, and nothing else, tells us in no uncertain terms that this is is the name of one of our important Minoan/Mycenaean centres, and if you cannot see that, you must be blind.” (So they say, the scribes). We do well to keep this firmly in mind: the Linear B scribes never inscribed their tablets for us, they did so for themselves and for the specific, sole function of annual accounting in the context of their own society. Nothing could be more obvious. That is the whole point to this marvellous adventure of deciphering ancient scripts! This was not only the lifetime mission the great Michael Ventris laid out for himself — it was nothing short of the love of his life. And since I love his work so dearly, can you be even remotely surprised that I will do absolutely anything to be able at last to decipher scores of of previously undecipherable Linear B tablets to honour his name? Recasting this phenomenon as a general “rule”, Linear B scribes appear to have frequently resorted to using the first syllabogram, in other words, the first syllable alone of (sometimes long) place names, instead of wasting their time writing them out in full. Makes perfect sense to me. But this is only the tip of the iceberg. Not only are the full Linear B spellings of place names treated in this manner, but also several other key components of the Minoan/Mycenaean socio-economic infrastructure, including agriculture, crafts, household matters, trade, and of course, religious affairs. I shall amply illustrate this frequently recurring phenomenon in the coming months. In a nutshell, my premise is this: single syllabograms on fragments and tablets, which have defied decipherment to date, can in fact be contextually deciphered in a manner which makes perfect sense, no matter how you look at it, just as Thomas G. Palaima has so clearly illustrating in his masterful translation of Linear B Tablet Heidelberg FL 1994. The fact that so many Linear B fragments and tablets, and I mean everywhere they have been found, and not just in Knossos, are liberally peppered with single syllabograms either immediately before or after the ideograms they modify must signify something of real import to us in the further decipherment of Linear B. Why?... well, because the Linear B palace scribes knew perfectly well what they were doing, which is to say, what they were writing, why they wrote it the way they did, and especially how they wrote it, when they consciously and deliberately so often had recourse to single syllabograms. This practically begs the question – what on earth were they up to? Precisely this: they used the first syllabogram only, in other words the first syllable of vitally important Linear B words, which would otherwise have had to be spelled out, thereby wasting valuable space on what are for the most part, very small tablets measuring no more than 15-20 cm. at most. In other words, they were making liberal use of shorthand (at least as we would call it), and liberally using it thousands of years before we in the modern world finally cottoned onto it again in the late nineteenth century. Clever bunch of lads, weren't they? But, oh no, the Linear B scribes weren't even satisfied at stopping there. After all, “If we are going to use shorthand with initial syllabograms alone, why not go whole hog and use formulaic expressions of an ideogram (or even more than one ideogram!) + a syllabogram (or even more than one syllabogram!), and always in the same precise order, in other words, as a formula. Sound familiar? That is precisely what Homer did over and over and over in the Iliad? Co-incidence. I am now beginning to sincerely doubt that. So I have to ask, what is a big chunk of the corpus of Linear B if not, in essence, shorthand, pure and simple. And if this is the case, we have some serious rethinking to do about the very nature of Linear B. It may even mean going back to the drawing board in the re-decipherment of a considerable number of Linear B tablets and fragments. What a mind-boggling prospect! But, hey, sounds like fun to me. To put a fine point on it, this is going to be a truly daunting challenge, if we are to really get at the nitty-gritty of accurate contextual decipherment. This is something we can no longer afford to ignore. Why Supersyllabograms are What They are: Allow me to explain why I call such syllabograms “Supersyllabograms”. It is really quite straightforward. Since such syllabograms always and invariably consist of the first syllable alone of an entire Linear B word, they must perforce be shorthand. Take this premise just one little step further, as I have in fact done and fully demonstrated in the table of 7 (almost) identical formulaic expressions of the syllabograms (chariot) + IQO (horse) + ZE in every single instance, and what do you get? - none other than the entire phrase, “a pair of chariot wheels” (since after all, chariots need two wheels, as if...) or, alternatively, whenever horses are involved, “a team of horses”. That is one big mouthful for 1 little ideogram + one little syllabogram in a standardized, invariable formula. The whole point is that these formulae recur so often on the Linear B fragments and tablets in the Scripta Minoa as to make it virtually impossible to ignore them, except at our own peril born of a frustratingly annoying inability to make any sense whatsoever of such expressions. Yet, as I shall illustrate many times over in the next year or so, such expressions not only exist, but recur very frequently on Linear B fragments and tablets, regardless of provenance, whether from Knossos, Pylos, Mycenae or anywhere else... (some original text erased, no longer being relevant). Add all of these components together, and what do you get? ... the Supersyllabogram, a new term I have had to coin, simply because it fits the bill to a tee. And there you have it. At least for now. More to come. Much much more. I welcome and strongly encourage feedback and especially criticism of my basic premise here, and of its theoretical soundness or lack thereof, for otherwise, none of us can or will make any further headway in the eventual decipherment of a huge chunk of the Linear B corpus. But somehow, intuitively and through the process of inductive logic, I truly believe I am onto something, possibly even something big where the decipherment of large portions of Linear B “texts” - an inaccurate term if ever there was one, should my theory prove substantially sound. And to test my hypothesis against reality, which I am ethically and honour bound to do, I shall convey all of this information to Prof. Thomas G. Palaima, Prof. John G. Younger and to every other major Linear B scholar or researcher whose name comes to mind. If any of you who are reading this post, or know of anyone who is just such an expert, please identify the same to me immediately. And, if you yourself are a truly enthusiastic student of Linear B in any way, shape or form, please do not hesitate to contact me, or even better, to comment, in favour, against or neutrally, on this (potentially) ground-breaking post on our blog. Cheers Richard
Originally posted on Linear B, Knossos & Mycenae:
The moment we've all been waiting for. This is it! Ideologogram = Ideogram + Supersyllabogram: our First Concrete Example = (chariot) halter: I sincerely believe that this is the first time ever since Michael Ventris' successful decipherment of Linear B in July 1952 that a major step may have been taken in the further decipherment of those elements of Linear B which have, at least until now, been entirely recalcitrant to any meaningful decipherment. I have spent the last month or so ploughing through several hundred fragments from pages 140-169 of the Scripta Minoa Catalogue of some 3,500 fragments and tablets unearthed by Sir Arthur Evans between 1900 & 1903, with further excavations to follow in later years, prior and subsequent to World War I. This irreplaceable precious treasure trove of the largest collection of Linear B fragments ever discovered is available online in its entirety at Heidelberg…
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All 9 Supersyllabograms for Amphorae & Vessels in Mycenaean Linear B – Click to ENLARGE: Of the 9 supersyllabograms for amphorae & vessels in Mycenaean Linear B, only one (1) is derived (D) = SORO (ancient Greek = soros) or “urn for the ashes of the dead” or “funerary urn” (Liddell & Scott, 1986, pg. 643). The rest are all attributed (A) on Linear B tablets, regardless of provenance. But this is the only entry in Liddell & Scott which closely matches amphorae, vessels, pots & urns, and it is so convincing that I feel quite sure it is the correct interpretation in this specific context. Following are two Linear B fragments which nicely illustrate the use of the supersyllabograms RO (crooked) & DI (dedicated to Zeus) Click to ENLARGE: This concludes our review of supersyllabograms related to amphorae, vessels, pots & urns in Mycenaean Linear B. It has become apparent to me that at least half or possibly even the majority of basic syllabograms and at least one logogram (for MERI = honey) are supersyllabograms. If this turns out to be the case (as I am quite sure it will), these results will serve to confirm my underlying hypothesis that the Mycenaean Linear B syllabary is shorthand to a considerable extent, given also the Linear B has around 100 ideograms as well, so many of which either contain attributive supersyllabograms inside them or have as many as three (3!) environmental supersyllabograms either preceding (proclitic) or following them (enclitic). Richard
Brief Glossary of Linguistic Terms Used in Chapter 13, Mycenaean Greek, of A Companion to the Ancient Greek Language, by E.J. Bakker (2014) Click to ENLARGE Snapshot of the Beginning and End of this Chapter: Ablaut = The Indo-European ablaut is a system of apophony (regular vowel variations) in the Proto-Indo-European language that has significantly influenced both ancient and modern Indo-European languages. In English the strong verb sing, sang, sung and its related noun song illustrate this shift in vowels. Consonant cluster = a consonant cluster or consonant blend is a group of consonants which have no intervening vowel. In English, the groups /spl/ and /ts/ are consonant clusters in the word splits & /psy/ in psychology, psychiatry etc. Diaeresis = two adjacent vowels, in adjacent syllables, not separated by a consonant or pause and not merged into a diphthong & pronounced as a unit (one sound) as in “aisle” “aesthetic” or “oil”, i.e. pronounced separately, as in “coincidental” or “intuitive”. Enclitic = a word pronounced with so little emphasis that it is shortened and forms part of the preceding word, e.g., n't in can't + Proclitic = a word pronounced with so little emphasis that it is shortened and forms part of the following word, for example, you in y'all (American slang only). Eponym = a name or noun formed after a person's name. For example, the Odyssey is from the name Odysseus, and the Ames Test, which tests for carcinogens, from its inventor, Bruce Ames. It is back-formed from "eponymous", from the Greek "eponymos" meaning "giving name". Grassmann's law = a dissimilatory phonological process in Ancient Greek and Sanskrit which states that if an aspirated consonant is followed by another aspirated consonant in the next syllable, the first one loses the aspiration. Intervocalic = an intervocalic consonant is a consonant between two vowels in the middle of a word. Intervocalic consonants are associated with lenition, a phonetic process that causes consonants to weaken and eventually disappear entirely. Haplography = (from Greek: haplo- 'single' + -graphy 'writing') is the act of writing once what should be written twice. For example, the English word idolatry, the worship of idols, comes from the Greek eidololatreia, but one syllable (lo) has been lost through haplography, and endontics loses one vowel from endodontics (do). Note that these vowels, which are later lost in almost all ancient Greek dialects, are almost always present in Mycenaean Greek. Isogloss = also called a heterogloss is the geographic boundary of a certain linguistic feature, such as the pronunciation of a vowel, the meaning of a word, or use of some syntactic feature. Major dialects are typically demarcated by groups of isoglosses. For instance, isoglosses in West Greek dialects, such as Doric Greek, are considerably different than those in East Greek dialects, such as Mycenaean, Arcado-Cypriot, Aeolic, Ionic & Attic Greek. Lexical diffusion = is both a phenomenon and a theory. The phenomenon is that whereby a phoneme is modified in a subset of the lexicon, and spreads gradually to other lexical items. For example, in English, /u?/ has changed to /?/ in good and hood but not in food. The related theory, proposed by William Wang in 1969, is that all sound changes originate in a single word or a small group of words and then spread to other words with a similar phonological make-up, but may not spread to all words in which they potentially could apply. Morph =a word segment that represents one morpheme in sound or writing. For example, the word infamous is made up of three morphs – in-, fam(e), -eous--each of which represents one morpheme. Morpheme = an abstract unit of meaning, whereas a morph is a formal unit with a physical shape. Phoneme = any of the perceptually distinct units of sound in a specified language that distinguish one word from another, for example p, b, d, and t in the English words pad, pat, bad, and bat or o in cot, con, core. Prevocalic = occurring immediately before a vowel. Psilosis = Psilosis is the sound change in which Greek lost the consonant sound /h/ during antiquity. The term comes from the Greek psilosis ("smoothing, thinning out") & is related to the name of the smooth breathing (psilei), the sign for the absence of initial /h/ in a word. Dialects that have lost /h/ are called psilotic. Syncretism = the discrete identity of distinct morphological forms of a word, such as verb conjugations, and declensions of nouns, adjectives, pronouns etc. (mostly) in inflectional languages like Greek & Latin. In Attic Greek, nom. logos (word) changes to logou in the genitive & in Latin, nom. rex (king)changes to regis in the genitive. Toponym = a place name, e.g. Knossos, Mycenae, Pylos, Lasynthos, Zakros etc. Richard Vallance Janke, Oct. 6 2014