KEY POST! The truly formidable obstacles facing us in even a partial decipherment of Minoan Linear A:
Any attempt, however concerted, at even a partial decipherment of Minoan Linear A is bound to meet with tremendous obstacles, as illustrated all too dramatically by this table:
These obstacles include, but are not prescribed by:
1. The fact that there are far fewer extant Minoan Linear A tablets and fragments, of which the vast majority are mere fragments (no more than 500), most of them un intelligible, than there are extant tablets and fragments in Mycenaean Linear B (well in excess of 4,500), of which the latter are mostly legible, even the fragments.
2. The fact that Mycenaean Linear B has been completely deciphered, first by Michael Ventris in 1952 and secondly, by myself in closing the last gap in the decipherment of Mycenaean Linear B, namely, the decipherment of supersyllabograms in my article, “The Decipherment of Supersyllabograms in Linear B”, in the illustrious international archaeological annual, Archaeology and Science, ISSN 1452-7448, Vol. 11 (2015), pp. 73-108, here:
This final stage in the decipherment of Mycenaean Linear B has effectively brought closure to its decipherment.
As illustrated all too conspicuously by this table of apparent roots/stems and/or prefixes of Minoan Linear A lexemes and their lemmas, we are still a long way off from being able to convincingly decipher Minoan Linear A.
At the categorical sub-levels of the syntax and semiotics of Minoan Linear A, we cannot even begin to determine which categories to isolate, let alone what these categories are. Allow me to illustrate in discriminative terms:
3. As the table of Minoan Linear A so-called roots & stems + prefixes above all too amply highlights, we cannot even tell which first syllable or which of the first 2 syllables of any of the Minoan Linear A words in this list is/are either (a) roots or stems of the Minoan Linear A lexemes or lemmas which it/they initiate or (b) prefixes of them, even if I have tentatively identified some as the former and some as the latter (See the table).
4. In the case of roots or stems, which ones are roots and which are stems? What is the difference between the two in Minoan Linear A? Let us take a couple of entries as examples to illustrate my point:
4.1 The 3 words beginning with the apparent root or stem asi, (I cannot tell which is which), the first 2 syllables of asidatoi, asijaka & asikira may not even be roots or stems of these words at all, but prefixes of 3 probably unrelated words instead. Who is to know?
4.2 If asidatoi, asijaka & asikira are either nouns or adjectives, what is the gender and number of each one? To say the very least, it is rash to assume that asidatoi is plural, just because it looks like an ancient Greek masculine plural (as for example in Mycenaean Linear B teoi (gods) or masculine plurals in any other ancient Greek dialect for that matter, since that assumption is based on the most likely untenable hypothesis that Minoan Linear A is some form of proto-Greek, in spite of the fact that several current linguistic researchers into Minoan Linear A believe precisely that. The operative word is “believe”, since absolutely no convincing circumstantial evidence has ever come to the fore that Minoan Linear A is some form of proto-Greek.
4.3 The conclusion which I have drawn here, that Minoan Linear A may not be proto-Greek, arises from the fact that almost all of the Minoan words in this table bear little or no resemblance at all even to Mycenaean Greek.
4.5 But there clearly exceptions to the previous hypothesis, these being words such as depa and depu, of which the former is a perfect match with the Homeric, depa, meaning “a cup”.
On the other hand, depu is less certain. However, in my preliminary tentative decipherment of 107 Minoan Linear A words (which are to appear in my article to be published in Vol. 12 of Archaeology and Science, 2017-2018), I have come to the tentative conclusion that the ultimate u in almost all Minoan Linear A words is quite likely to be a macro designator. If this were so, depu would be larger than depa. So a translation along the lines of  “a large cup” or “a libation cup” might be in order. Still, I could be dead wrong in this assumption.
4.6 However, the lexeme depa does appear to reveal one probable characteristic of Minoan Linear A grammar, that the ultimate for the feminine singular may very well be a, as in so many other languages, ancient or modern (let alone Greek). If that is the case, then words such as asijaka, asikira, keta, kipa, saja, sina and tamia may possibly all be feminine singular... that is to say, if any, some or even all of them are either nouns or adjectives, clearly a point of contention in and of itself. Who are we to say that one or more of these words may instead be adverbs or some person, singular or plural, of some conjugation in some tense or mood of some Minoan Linear A verb? On the other hand, at least one or more or even most of these words and the other words in this table ending in a may be nouns or adjectives in the feminine singular. But one again, who can say at all for sure?
4.7 If the ultimate u is supposed to be a macro designator, how then are we to account for the fact that  maruku, which very much looks like a (declensional) variant of maru, means “made of wool”, which itself has nothing whatsoever to do with a macro designator, if at the same time the apparent lexeme maru actually does mean “wool”? After all, one might conclude, maru looks a lot like Mycenaean Linear B mari or mare, which as everyone knows, does mean “wool”. But it is just as likely as not that the assumption that maru means “wool”, and its variants maruku “made of wool” ? (a guess at best) and maruri = “with wool” have nothing whatsoever to do with wool in Minoan Linear A.
4.8 In fact, the hypothesis that maruri = “with wool” is based on yet another assumption, namely, that the termination ri is dative singular, similar to the commonplace dative singular oi, ai or i in Mycenaean Linear B. But if that is the case, this implies that Minoan Linear A is probably proto-Greek, for which there is no substantive evidence whatsoever. So we wind up mired in a flat out contradiction in terms, in other words, an inescapable paradox.
4.9a Next, taking all of the words beginning with the root or stem? - or prefix? sina , what on earth are we to make of so many variants? Perhaps this is a conjugation of some verb in some tense or mood. If that is the case, we should expect 6 variations, first, second and third persons singular and plural. Or should we? What about the possible existence of the dual in Minoan Linear A? But here again we find ourselves smack up against the assumption we have just made in 4.5, 4.6, 4.7 & 4.8, that the putative Minoan verb beginning with the so-called root or stem sina is itself proto-Greek.
But I have to ask out loud, are you aware of any verb in ancient Greek which begins with the root or stem sina? Well, according to Liddell & Scott’s Greek-English Lexicon, there are in fact 2, which I have Latinized here for ease of access to those of you who cannot read Greek, and these are, (1) sinamoreo (infinitive sinamorein), which means “to damage wantonly” and (2) sinomai, “to plunder, spoil or pillage”. The problem is that neither of these ancient Greek verbs bears any resemblance to or corresponds in any conceivable way with the 7 Minoan Linear A variants post-fixed to sina. So I repeat, for the sake of emphasis, are these 7 all variants on some Minoan Linear A verb or are they not?
4.9b What if on the other hand, all 7 of these variants post-fixed to sina are instead a declension of some Minoan noun or adjective in Linear A? It is certainly conceivable that there are 7 cases in the Minoan language, in view of the fact that plenty of ancient and modern languages have 7 cases or more. Latin has six: nominative, genitive, dative, accusative, ablative and vocative. But ancient Greek has only 5, nominative, genitive, dative and accusative and vocative, the ablative absolute (which occurs in Latin) subsumed under the genitive absolute. From this perspective, it would appear quite unlikely that the 7 Minoan Linear A variants on sina are proto-Greek declensions, especially in light of the fact that, once again, none of them bears any resemblance to the ancient Greek, sinapi = “mustard”, sinion = “sieve” or sinos = “hurt, harm, mischief, damage” (nominative).
5. Moving on to taniria and tanirizui , we could of course once again draw the (most likely untenable) conclusion if taniria is a feminine singular noun, then tanirizui must be/is dative singular, following the template for the dative singular in Mycenaean Linear B (i, ai or oi). But once again, there is no word in ancient Greek bearing any resemblance to these critters. And once again, even if Minoan Linear A had a dative singular, why on earth would it have to end in i?
6. However, when we come to the 4 words reza, adureza, kireza and tireza, we are confronted with another phenomenon. 3 of these 4 words (adureza, kireza and tireza) each in turn apparently are prefixed by adu, ki and ti. Makes sense at first sight. However, once again, appearances can be terribly deceiving.
Nevertheless, in my preliminary decipherment of Minoan Linear A, I have drawn the tentative conclusion that all four of these words are intimately interconnected. And in the actual context of the few extant Minoan Linear A tablets and fragments in which these 4 terms appear, it very much looks as if they are all terms of measurement. But you will have to await the publication of my article on the tentative decipherment of 107 Minoan Linear A words in Vol. 12 (2017-2018) of Archaeology and Science to discover how I came to this conclusion.
7. Notwithstanding the fact that almost all of the words in this highly selective table of Minoan Linear A lexemes and lemmas (whichever ones are which), with the exception of depa and depu, as well as winu, which may be the Minoan Linear A equivalent of Mycenaean Linear B woino = “wine”, appear not to be proto-Greek, that does not imply that at least a few or even some are in fact proto-Greek, based on this hypothesis: a number of words in Mycenaean Linear B, all of which appear to be proto-Greek, disappeared completely from later ancient Greek dialects. Among these we count a number of Mycenaean Greek words designating some kind of cloth, namely, pawea, pukatariya, tetukowoa and wehano [pg. 94, The Decipherment of Supersyllabograms in Linear B, in Archaeology and Science, Vol. 11 (2016)], plus several other Mycenaean Linear B words listed in the same article, which I do not repeat here due to space limitations. However, I must toss a wrench even into the assumption that the words designating some kinds of cloth (but which kinds we shall never know) are Mycenaean Linear B Greek or even proto-Greek, when they may not be at all! What if a few, some or all of them are in the pre-Greek substratum? If that is the case, are they Minoan, even if none of them appear on any extant Minoan Linear A tablet or fragment? Who is to say they are not?
For instance, there is another so called Mycenaean or proto-Greek word, kidapa, which may very well mean “(ash) wood” or “a type of wood”, found only on Linear B tablet KN 894 N v 01. This word has a suspiciously Minoan ring to it. Just because it does not appear on any extant Minoan Linear A tablet or fragment does not necessarily imply that it is not Minoan or that it at least falls within the pre-Greek substratum.
It must be glaringly obvious from all of the observations I have made on the Minoan Linear A terms in the table above that the more we try to make any sense of the syntactic and semiotic structure of the Minoan language in Linear A, the more and more mired we get in irresolvable contradictions in terms and paradoxes. Moreover, who is to say that the so-called proto-Greek words which surface in Minoan Linear A are proto-Greek at all, since they may instead be pre-Greek substratum words disguised as proto-Greek. We can take this hypothesis even further. Who is to say that the several so-called proto-Greek words we find in Mycenaean Greek, all of which disappeared completely from the ancient Greek lexicon in all Greek dialects after the fall of Mycenae ca. 1200 BCE, are also not proto-Greek but are instead in the pre-Greek substratum or even, if they fall into that substratum, that they are instead Minoan words or words of some other non Indo-European origin? We have landed in a real quagmire.
So I find myself obliged to posit the hypothesis that, for the time being at least, any attempt at the putative decipherment of Minoan Linear A is inexorably bound to lead straight to a dead end. I challenge any philologists or linguist specializing in ancient languages to actually prove otherwise even with circumstantial evidence to the contrary.
7 thoughts on “VITAL POST! The truly formidable obstacles facing us in even a partial decipherment of Minoan Linear A & there are plenty of them (7 by my count)!”
What is your opinion of ‘Breaking the Code: a first translation of the ‘lost’ language of Linear A’ which suggests Linear A cold be an early form of Latin please?
This is highly unlikely, since the most archaic Latin did not appear until around 700 BCE, some 1,800 years after Linear A. But I suppose it could be, by a very very very wide stretch of the imagination. I am fluent in Latin, and I just do not see anything in Linear A which would convince me of that.
Anyway, it is just my opinion.
I sincerely doubt that Minoan has anything to do with proto-Latin, as the former is a much much more ancient language than the latter.
OMG ! So complicated Richard.
It sure IS!. You should read my article on academia.edu
Comments are closed.