Honouring Michael Ventris: Conjugations of All Tenses in the Active Voice of Athematic MI Verbs in Mycenaean Greek

Honouring Michael Ventris: Conjugations of All Tenses in the Active Voice of Athematic MI Verbs in Mycenaean Greek

                                                   Honouring Michael Ventris

Michael Ventris at work in his study
In honour of Michael Ventris for his astounding achievement in his brilliant decipherment of the Mycenaean Linear B script and syllabary, I am taking the first major step on a long journey to recover as much of the corpus of Mycenaean Greek grammar & vocabulary as I possibly can squeeze out of the evidence from extant Linear B tablets and from Book II of Homer's Iliad, above all, from the Catalogue of Ships, in which the most archaic Greek Homer had recourse to abounds. Needless to say, I do all this in honour of the memory of Michael Ventris, one of the greatest geniuses of the twentieth century, a man whose stellar intelligence and prodigious powers of concentration I cannot help but admire in the extreme.  In fact, I wouldn't go far wrong in asserting that I practically idolize the man (... might as well tell the truth).

Conjugations of All Tenses in the Active Voice of Athematic MI Verbs in Mycenaean Greek (Click to ENLARGE):

Active Voice Conjugations all Tenses Athematic Mi verbs
As far as I know, this is the first time that anyone has ever attempted to reconstruct the entire verbal system of all tenses in the active voice of Athematic MI verbs in Mycenaean Greek. Much more is to follow. I shall have reconstructed the middle and passive voices of both Thematic and Athematic verbs by the summer of this year (2014).

With this table of all tenses in the active voice of Athematic MI verbs, using the verb "didomi" (I give, to give) as our paradigm, we have succeeded in the regressive reconstruction of these tenses in the active voice from their (approximate) Homeric forms, as used in the Iliad. By regressively extrapolating as many of the “original” Mycenaean forms as we possibly can from their Homeric descendents, we have been able to  move forward to the progressive reconstruction of each of the tenses of the active voice of Athematic verbs, as illustrated in this table.

This constitutes the first major step in our long journey to reconstruct as much of Mycenaean Greek grammar as far as we possibly can, for all parts of speech: verbs and adverbs, nouns & adjectives, as well as prepositions and the cases they govern. I have already progressively reconstructed most of the tenses of Thematic verbs in Mycenaean Greek, and will post the complete table shortly.  This will finalize our reconstruction of the active voice of the Mycenaean Greek verbal system.

But why, I hear you asking, aren't you reconstituting the subjunctive and optative moods? The answer is simple: since Mycenaean Linear B Greek seems to have been almost exclusively used for economic, accounting and fiscal records (including manufacturing and agriculture) and for some religious observances, it would appear that the Mycenaeans did not resort to the subjunctive and optative moods in writing on Linear B tablets, though they certainly must have used them regularly in spoken Mycenaean Greek.  A few straggling forms pop up in the Mycenaean Linear B vocabulary, but by no means enough of them to warrant any plausible reconstruction of the  subjunctive and optative moods. As I have repeatedly pointed out, I cannot and will not make any effort to regressively-progressively reconstruct any parts of speech for which there is (almost) no evidence on the extant Linear B tablets. Such an endeavour is foolish and hazardous. The only Mycenaean grammatical constructs we  can safely and reasonably delineate are those for which adequate evidence either appears on extant tablets or which is attested in Homer's Iliad, and above all other considerations, in the Catalogue of Ships in Book II. This is precisely why I am translating the Catalogue of Ships in its entirety, as it is riddled with archaic remnants of Mycenaean Greek grammar, thus serving as the “perfect” (so to speak) point of reference or departure, if you like, for regressive extrapolation of the most ancient grammatical forms to be found in Homer's Iliad into their ancestral counterparts in Mycenaean Greek. I shall also have recourse to the "Idalion Tablet" in Cypro-Minoan Linear C as a secondary point of reference for the reconstruction of Mycenaean Greek grammar, since, as I have already demonstrated, these two very ancient Greek dialects are more closely intertwined than any other Greek dialects whatsoever, including the Attic and Ionic dialects.     

It is with all of this firmly in mind that I intend to reconstruct as much of the corpus of Mycenaean Greek grammar as is feasibly possible by the end of 2015, after which I will go on to publish my book, Mycenaean Linear B: Progressive Grammar and Vocabulary, sometime in 2016-2017. This volume will not only greatly enhance our knowledge of Mycenaean Greek grammar, but will significantly expand Mycenaean Greek vocabulary, both attested and derived, to at least 5,000 words.  Keep posted.  


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Historical linguist, Linear B, Mycenaean Greek, Minoan Linear A, Arcado-Cypriot Linear C, ancient Greek, Homer, Iliad, only Blog ENTIRELY devoted to Linear B on Internet; bilingual English- French, read Latin fluently, read Italian & ancient Greek including Linear B well, Antikythera Mechanism

7 thoughts on “Honouring Michael Ventris: Conjugations of All Tenses in the Active Voice of Athematic MI Verbs in Mycenaean Greek”

  1. Yes Richard ! I did realize that Michael Ventris is your absolute idol. My goodness you are going to be busy and I hope I will be able to understand it all (Eventually). Fantastic work and you must enjoy it immensely, I know I am enjoying the lessons. Thanks again.


    1. Oh yes, it is such thrilling work! Don’t you wish you had met the man? Did you know
      he was autistic? Almost never spoke. Oh and I DO know you are having a whale of a
      time with the Linear B grammar. Your devotion is striking! It won’t be long now
      before you will be able to translate some tablets, including the very first one
      Michael Ventris deciphered in 1952, Pylos Tablet 641-1952 (Ventris), which I
      showed to you once before, and in which you already figured out some words
      right away!

      Bye for now



      1. I have been reading The Riddle of the Labyrinth again Richard and Margalit Fox talks a lot about Michael Ventris but I didn’t know he was autistic. It does sound as if he was a shy lonely person and yes I would have liked meeting him.


        1. Oh really? Let me know what you think of The Riddle of the Labyrinth. Please let me know if you think
          it is a good idea for me to read it… which it probably is.

          RE Michael Ventris. Well, that’s what a lot of psychological articles on the Internet claim to be
          the case, and as you and I recall, the Michael Ventris TV bio you put me onto DID mention more
          than once that he pretty much ignored his family, his wife and his two children both.

          Anyway, thanks for your comment. You always have so much to share, and you often put
          me onto stuff I need to learn. Keep it up, Rita.

          Oh shoot, I forgot about your new sentences! I will do them tomorrow. Sorry.


          1. I think Margalet Fox’s book ‘ The Riddle of the Labyrinth ‘ is excellent, and you will understand much of it better than me. However, reading it the second time around I understood more because I had learnt more of the Linear B characters. Most of Ventris’s private life she also talks about. You may be able to get a second hand copy on Amazon.
            If you do get this book and have time to read it let me know what you think. O.K.


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