What is the Minoan Linear A word for “figs”? It only appears as a logogram on Linear A tablets, so we do not know how it might be spelled. However, informed speculation leads me...

What is the Minoan Linear A word for figs

What is the Minoan Linear A word for “figs”? As it only appears as a logogram on Linear A tablets and is never spelled out, we do not know its orthography. Or so it appears. However, informed speculation leads me to infer the following from what we already know about the syllabogram-cum-logogram for “figs” in Mycenaean Linear B, which just so happens to be exactly the same syllabogram/logogram as that for “figs” in Minoan Linear A. All this in spite of the fact that the Mycenaean Greek word for “figs” is suza, which is the same word as in many other ancient Greek dialects. So what is going on here? There is no doubt but that Mycenaean Linear B inherited the logogram for “figs” from Minoan Linear A. They simply lifted it lock-stock-and-barrel from the earlier syllabary. But why? Why didn’t they turn to their own word for “figs”, suza, and use its first syllabogram, SU, as the syllabogram/logogram for “figs”? It seems passingly strange. But is it?

Turning to our Glossary of 95 Minoan Linear words, we set our sights on examining Minoan Linear A words which are typically diminutives. This we do because after all, figs are very small; hence, we can infer that the word referencing them, beginning with the syllabogram NI, should display orthographic characteristics reminiscent of other Minoan Linear A diminutives. Let us examine the latter in turn. In the Glossary, we find:

dumitatira2 (dumitatirai) = right or inner spindle wheel on one side of the distaff
karopa3 (karopai) = kylix (with two handles & much smaller than a pithos)
kireta2 (kiritai) = delivery = Linear B apudosis
kita2 (kitai) = scented olive oil? 
pimitatira2 (pimitatirai) = left or outer spindle wheel on one side of the distaff
sara2 (sarai) = small unit of measurement: dry approx. 1 kg., liquid approx. 1 litre
supa3 (supai) = small cup = Linear B dipa mewiyo

All of the terms above refer to small, i.e. diminutive, items. Hence, it is reasonable to assume that the Minoan Linear A word for “figs” may quite possibly be similar to any of the above. There are  3 diminutive ultimates in Minoan Linear A, pa3 (pai) and ra2 (rai) and ta2 (tai). Thus, the Minoan Linear A word for “figs” is likely to be one of these alternatives:

nipai3 (nipai)
nira2 (nirai)
nita2 (nitai)

However, the last alternative (nita2/nitai) seems to be the least likely candidate. This is because one of the terms ending in ta2 (tai),  kireta2 (kiritai) = delivery = Linear B apudosis is abstract, while the other, kita2 (kitai) = scented olive oil? , apparently describes a something to which size cannot be directly attributed. One can have a little bit, a moderate amount, or a great deal of scented olive oil. The amount cannot be pinned down. This attribute is semi-abstract in and of itself, at least is kita2 (kitai) = scented olive oil. I cannot be sure of this meaning.

So it appears we are now down to two alternatives for the orthography of  “figs” in Minoan Linear A, i.e.

nipai3 (nipai)
nira2 (nirai)
Of course, we can never be certain which of these 3 alternatives might hit the proverbial target. We still can never really know what the Minoan term for “figs” is. But there are times when speculation leads us to a leap of faith which just might be grounded somewhere in the realm of reality.

As for the rationale behind the Mycenaean Linear B scribes
 to retain the syllabogram/logogram NI from Minoan Linear A, we shall never know why they chose to do that. It may have been a matter of expediency, or it may have been that the Minoans at Knossos had used the word for “figs” beginning with NI so intensively that the Mycenaean scribes could see no point changing the syllabogram/logogram NI, or it may have been for some other less obvious, possibly esoteric, reason. Yet, we must keep firmly in mind that the Mycenaean word for figs was suza, regardless of their decision to keep on relying on the independent supersyllabogram NI to represent “figs”, as seen in this Linear B tablet:  

K 841 NI independent