Category: Lessons Linear B

CRITICAL POST! Progressive Linear B grammar: active thematic aorist infinitives in Mycenaean Linear B: Phase 3

With the addition of this table of active thematic aorist infinitives:


we have completed the first 3 stages in the reconstruction of the grammar of natural Mycenaean Greek as it was spoken between ca. 1600 (or earlier) and 1200 BCE. These stages are: 1. the present infinitive 2. the future infinitive & 3. the aorist infinitive. Although there were other infinitives in ancient Greek, they were rarely used, and so we are omitting them from our progressive grammar.

While it is a piece of cake to physically form the aorist infinitive either in ancient alphabetic Greek or in Mycenaean Linear B, the same cannot be said for the innate meaning of the aorist infinitive. What does it signify? Why would anyone even bother with a past infinitive when a present one does just fine? What are the distinctions between the present, future and aorist infinitives in ancient Greek and in Mycenaean Linear B?


What is the meaning of the aorist infinitive or, put another way, what does it signify?

While the use of the present infinitive corresponds exactly with infinitives in almost all other Occidental languages, ancient and modern, the same cannot be said of the future and aorist infinitives in ancient Greek and Mycenaean, for which there are, in so far as I know, no equivalents in modern Centum languages.

The impact of understanding the future infinitive on grasping the aorist in ancient Greek.

First, the future infinitive. We feel obliged to review its function in order to prepare you for the even more esoteric aorist infinitive. The future infinitive is used when the sentence is in either the present or the future. How can it be used with a verb in the present tense? The reason is relatively straightforward to grasp. If the speaker or writer wishes to convey that he or she expects or intends the infinitive modifying the principle verb to take effect immediately, then the infinitive too must be in the present tense. But if the same author  expects or intends the action the infinitive conveys to take place in the (near) future, then the infinitive must be future, even though the main verb is in the present tense.  The distinction is subtle but critical to the proper meaning or intent of any Greek sentence employing a future infinitive with a verb in the present tense. The best way to illustrate this striking feature of ancient Greek is with English language parallels, as we did in the post on future infinitives. But to make matters as clear as possible, we repeat, here in the present tense, the 2 sentences I previously posted in Latinized Linear B along with the English translation. First we have,

Konoso wanaka eqetai qe katakause etoimi eesi.
The King and his military guard are prepared to set about burning Knossos to the ground.
Compare this with:
Konoso wanaka eqetai qe katakaue etoimi eesi.
The King and his military guard are prepared to burn Knossos to the ground. 

In the first instance, the subjects (King and military guard) are prepared to raze Knossos in the near future, but not right away. This why I have translated the infinitive katakause as – to set about burning Knossos to the ground.

But in the second case, the King and his military guard are prepared to burn Knossos to the ground immediately. The future does not even enter into the equation.

In the second example, we have:

Wanaka tekotono wanakatero peraise poroesetai.
The King is allowing the carpenters to soon set about finishing the palace.
(future infinitive)... versus   
Wanaka tekotono wanakatero peraie poroesetai. (present infinitive)...
The King allows the carpenters to finish the palace. (i.e. right away).

The distinction is subtle. But if you are to understand ancient Greek infinitives, including Mycenaean, you must be able to make this distinction. The question is, why have I resorted to repeating the synopsis of the future infinitive, when clearly the subject of our present discussion is the aorist or past infinitive? The answer is... because if you cannot understand how the future infinitive works in ancient Greek and Mycenaean, then you will never grasp how the aorist infinitive functions.

What is the aorist infinitive and how does it function?

The aorist infinitive describes or delineates actions or states dependent on the main verb which have already occurred in the (recent) past. It can be used with principal verbs in the present or past (aorist or imperfect), but never with those in the future. Once again, the distinction between the present and aorist active thematic infinitives is, if anything, even subtler than is that between the future and present infinitives. Allow me to illustrate with two examples in Latinized Linear B.


Wanaka poremio taneusai edunato.
The King was in a position to have put an end to the war (clearly implying he did not put an end to it).
Note that the main verb, edunato = was able to, is itself in the past imperfect tense.  But this sentence can also be cast in the present tense, thus:

Wanaka poremio taneusai dunetai. 
The King is in a position to have put an end to the war.
In this case, the use of the aorist infinitive is not mandatory. But if it is used, it still signifies that the aorist infinitive operates in the past, and it is quite clear from the context that he could have ended the war, but never did.

Compare this with the use of the present infinitive in the same sentence. 

Wanaka poremio taneue dunetai.
The King is able to put an end to the war (immediately!)
To complicate matters even further, even if the main verb is in the simple past (aorist) or the imperfect (also a past tense), you can still use the present infinitive, as in:

Wanaka poremio taneue edunato. 
The King was able to put an end to the war (right away).
This clearly calls for the present infinitive, which always takes effect at the very same time as the primary verb.

Although the analysis and synopsis above makes perfect sense to students and researchers familiar with ancient Greek, it is difficult for newcomers to ancient Greek to grasp the first time they are confronted with it. But patience is the key here. By dint of a large number of examples, it will eventually sink in.

So as the old saying goes, do not panic! 

Mycenaean Linear B Progressive Grammar: Derived (D) Verbs/Infinitives in M = 36/Total = 235

In this post we find 36 derived (D) infinitives in M in natural Mycenaean Greek.

Here is the table of attested thematic and athematic infinitives starting with the Greek letter M in Mycenaean Greek:


I have not bothered with notes on Mycenaean orthography under M, since there are no new examples of spelling in Linear B peculiar to Mycenaean Greek. Henceforth, I shall add new notes on Mycenaean orthography only as new peculiarities arise, regardless of the Greek letter under which the Mycenaean vocabulary falls.  

The 4 sentences following Greek verbs in M make it perfectly clear that we are dealing with natural Mycenaean Greek as it was actually spoken. Note that the natural plural in OI is to found in spoken Mycenaean, rather than the singular in O we find almost (but not always) exclusively on the extant Linear B tablets. See infinitives in D for a further explanation for this phenomenon.

It is also highly likely that official documents, poetry (if any) and religious texts were written in natural Mycenaean Greek on papyrus. However, the moist climate of Crete and the Greek mainland meant that papyrus, unlike in the arid climate of Egypt, was doomed to rot away. So we shall never really know whether or not there were documents in natural Mycenaean Greek. But my educated hunch is that there were.

The total number of natural Mycenaean Greek derived (D) infinitives we have posted so far = 235. I shall indicate the running total as we proceed through the alphabet.

This is an extremely comprehensive academic video on the decipherment and interpretation of Mycenaean Linear B:

Linear Ba

It is very long (34:53 minutes) but extremely worthwhile reading.

Rita Roberts has finished her first year of university with a great mark of 83 % = A!

mycenaean warrior vase

Rita Roberts has finished her first year of university with a great mark of 83 % = A! Her first year was devoted entirely to the military sector of the Mycenaean economy. She had to translate scores and scores of Linear B military tablets, and thoroughly master all the supersyllabograms in the military sector.

military supersyllabograms

Rita has already started her second year of three, and she is focusing on the agricultural sector of the Mycenaean economy. In this sector, she will have, not scores, but hundreds of Linear B tablets to translate. 

Congratulations, Rita.

Happy Third Anniversary to Linear B, Knossos & Mycenae!

Happy Third Anniversary to Linear B, Knossos & Mycenae!

Linear B, Knossos & Mycenae was founded in March 2013, and since then it has grown to become the premier Linear B blog on the entire Internet. Our blog covers every conceivable aspect of research into Mycenaean Linear B, including, but not exclusively, decipherment of hundreds of tablets from every single sector of the Minoan/Mycenaean economy (agriculture, military, textiles, spices & condiments, vessels and pottery and the religious sector); the translation of the introduction to Book II of the Iliad, plus the entire Catalogue of Ships in Book II, with particular emphasis on the extensive influence of Mycenaean Linear B and of he Mycenaean world on the Catalogue of Ships; extensive vocabulary, lexicons and glossaries of Linear B; lessons in Linear B; progressive grammar of Linear B; extensive research into the 3,500 Scripta Minoa tablets from Knossos; and above all other considerations, the isolation, classification and decipherment of all 35+ supersyllabograms in every sector of the Minoan/Mycenaen economy (see above). Supersyllabograms were previously and erroneously referred to as “adjuncts” in Mycenaean Linear B. The decipherment of supersyllabograms is the major development of the further decipherment of Linear B since the genius, Michael Ventris, first deciphered it in 1952.

But that is not all. Our blog also zeroes in on Minoan Linear A, with at least one successful attempt at deciphering at least one word on a major Linear A tablet, and that is the Linear A word for “tripod”, a truly serendipitous development, given that the same word was the first word ever translated in Mycenaean Linear B. Our blog also focuses on Arcado-Cypriot Linear C, with a few translations of tablets in that script. In short, no other blog on the Internet deals as extensively with all three of these scripts, Linear A, Linear B and Linear C together.

It is also remarkable that we have had in excess of 80,000 visitors since our blog’s inception in March 2013. While this figure may seem rather smallish to many visitors, may I remind you that Minoan Linear A, Mycenaean Linear B and Arcado-Cypriot Linear C are extremely esoteric in the field of ancient linguistics. To put it another way, how many people in the entire world do you imagine can read Mycenaean Linear B, and even fewer who can read Arcado-Cypriot Linear C? Scarcely more than a very few thousand out of a population of 7+ billion. So I believe that we have made great strides in the past three years, and I fully expect that we shall top 100,000 visitors by the end of this year, 2016.

Secondary School Graduation Diploma in Mycenaean Linear B for Mrs. Rita Roberts, Crete: Click to ENLARGE

Secondary School Diploma Mycenaean Linear B Rita Roberts

It is my pleasure and honour to announce that Mrs. Rita Roberts, having satisfied all the scholarly requirements which qualify her for a Secondary School Graduation Diploma in Mycenaean Linear B, including mastery of:

1. the entire Linear B Syllabary, Homophones & Ideograms
2. translation of at least 25 Linear B tablets of intermediate to intermediate advanced level
3. her all-new, excellent translation of Pylos Tablet PY 1952 (Ventris)
4. mastery of all of the major supersyllabograms in Mycenaean Linear B and with all the credits deemed necessary to proceed to the University Level of Mycenaean Linear B

is hereby granted her Secondary School Graduation Diploma with all its attendant rights and privileges.


Richard Vallance Janke,
H.B.A. 1968 (Sir Wilfred Laurier University, Waterloo, Ontario, Canada)
M.L.S. 1975 (The University of Western Ontario, London, Ontario, Canada)


Learn How to Type Linear B FAST! - well, at least much faster than usual: Click to ENLARGE

Easy Guide to Mycenaean Linear B Font keyboard

Typically, keyboard layouts for Mycenaean Linear B are so abstruse that they actually confuse us more than they help us. I hope to remedy this messy state of affairs with this brand new keyboard layout for Mycenaean Linear B which I have just devised, with its own mnemonics and other guidelines for easy learning. Here are the keys to this keyboard layout:


Your first time round, you must download & install the Linear B Font by Curtis Clark, here: Click to go to the site and download the font:

Linear B Font Curtis Clark

Once you have installed the Linear B Font, you can then proceed to type anything you like in Linear B, by following these steps in order. 

(a) First you must change your Font from your default (Times New Roman, Georgia etc.) to Linear B
(b) Next, you should increase the size of your Linear B font 2 points up from your default font size in (a). Thus, if you default font size is 12 points, you should set the Linear B font to 14 points. You may also need to set the Linear B font to BOLD if it does not appear clearly enough to your satisfaction. This is up to you.


Syllabograms: If you start typing any linear series of 5 q w e r t y keyboard keys from the left to the right, you will be typing the entire series of a particular group of syllabograms from [consonant + a + e + i + o + u], as illustrated in the examples here:

If you type A S D F G, you will automatically get DA DE DI DO DU. Try it!
If you type a s d f g, you will automatically get TA TE TI TO TU.
If you type Z X C V B, you will automatically get NA NE NI NO NU.
If you type z x c v b, you will automatically get SA SE SI SO SU.

NOTE the mnemonics, DATA & NASA, for the syllabogram series DATA = DA... + TA... and NASA for the syllabogram series NASA = NA... + SA... Think about it for a second or two, and you will get it. From then on in, it will be a cinch for you to  type DA... from A... & TA... from a... (DATA) + NA... from Z & SA from z... (NASA). Anyway, it is for me. If you don ’t like using mnemonics (memory reminders, the string on an elephant ’s trunk), you can just skip this part.

The only exception to this is the series: q w e r t (lower-case LC), which gives you the 5 vowels in order: a e i o u.

Some series of syllabograms are incomplete. In these cases, you do not have to type as far across the keyboard. For example:

If you type Y U I O, you will automatically get QA QE QI QO
If you type y u i o, you will automatically get WA WE WI WO

Examples of actual Linear B text (Latinized):

If you type .Vv, you get the word, KONOSO (Knossos)
If you type hef, you get the word, PAITO (Phaistos)
If you type Ep, you get thew word, AIZA (goat)
If you type qXLe[, you get the word, ANEMOIYERIYA (Priestess of the Winds)


These are easy. Once you are in Linear B, 1 = 1, 2 = 2, 3 = 10... 5 = 100 8 = 2,000 etc. The only thing you need to remember is how many times to press each number key to write a large number in Linear B, e.g. for 43,537, type: 0 0 8 7 5 5 5 5 5 4 3 1 1 1 1 1 1 1    


Some series (some of which are also incomplete) yield only homophones. For example:

SHIFT 1 2 3 4 5 = ! @ # $ % yield the homophones: ha nwa pu2 rai riya.
[ ] \ yield the syllabograms YE & YO + the homophone -two- & when shifted to upper case (UC)
{ } | yield the syllabograms ZE & ZO + the homophone -dwo- (lower case! LC)

You will be typing homophones very rarely; so you don’t really need to learn these keys. Just refer to the chart when you need to type homophones (at a ratio of some 100 syllabograms per homophone, i.e. 100:1)


(A) You MUST follow these steps after you have finished typing text in Linear B.
(a) SAVE your document immediately in .doc or .docx format!
(b) SWITCH to your default font (e.g. Times New Roman or Georgia) and reduce your font size by 2 points (also remove BOLD if you used BOLD to type in Linear B).
(c) You may now continue typing in your default font. If Linear B still appears, and your default font does not, you have incorrectly followed this procedure. 


(B) You MUST follow these steps to switch to the Linear B font, after you have finished typing text in your default font (Times New Roman or...)
(a) SAVE your document immediately in .doc or .docx format!
(b) SWITCH to the Linear B font and increase your font size by 2 points (also add BOLD if you want your Linear B text to stand out).
(c) You may now continue typing in Linear B. If your default font still appears, but Linear B does not, you have incorrectly followed this procedure.

Simply alternate from (A) to (B) to switch back and from your default font & Linear B. DO NOT OMIT ANY STEPS!


Oh, and don’ t forget to print out this template of the Linear B font, laminate it in plastic and pin it to the wall above your computer for quick reference!

I shall illustrate how to insert these in your Linear B text in the next post. 





Minuscule Units of Measurement & yet Another Major Breakthrough in Supersyllabograms in Linear B: Click to ENLARGE

Minuscule Units of Measuerment for spices saffron etc
Upon close examination of the syllabogram WE in the context of dry weight in Mycenaean Linear B, in this particular instance, dry weight of saffron, I have come to the conclusion that the line(s) transversing the syllabogram WE at an approximate angle of 105 - 110 º are actually equivalent to the tens (10 & 20), while the black circles in the upper and lower portions of WE are equivalent to the 100s (100 & 200) in the Linear B numeric system. Once again, the scribes would never had added these lines and circles to the syllabogram, unless they had good reason to. And they surely did. There is a striking resemblance between the approximately horizontal lines to the 10s, and of the black circles to the 100s in that system, as can be seen from the actual placement values for 10s and 100s immediately above the syllabogram WE. As if this is not impressive enough, there is even more to this syllabogram.

It is in fact a supersyllabogram. Its meaning is identical to the same SSYL for crops in the agricultural sector, namely; WE is the first syllable of the Mycenaean Linear B word weto, which literally means “the running year”, in other words “the current fiscal year”. This makes perfect sense, since the scribes at Knossos, Phaistos, Mycenae, Pylos, Thebes and other Mycenaean locales only kept records for the current fiscal year, never any longer. The most astonishing feature of this supersyllabogram is that it combines itself as a SSYL with the Linear B numeric system, meaning that it alone of all the SSYLS refers to both the number of minusucle items (in this case, saffron, but it could just as easily refer to coriander or other spices) and the total production output of the same items for the current fiscal year. The Linear B scribes have truly outdone themselves in this unique application of the supersyllabogram, distilling it down to the most microscopic level of shorthand, thereby eliminating much more running text from the tablet we see here than they ever did from any other tablet, including all of those sporting “regular” supersyllabograms. In this instance alone (on this and the few other tablets on which it appears), this unique “special” SSYL is a supersyllabogram with a specific numeric measurement value at the minuscule level, something entirely new, and seen nowhere else in all of the extant Linear B literature.

Quite amazing, if you ask me.

NOTE: the assignment of a value approximating 1 gram for the single unit, i.e. the simple syllabogram WE with no traversing lines or black circles, is just that, nothing more than an approximation. I had to correlate the single unit with something we can relate to in the twenty-first century, so I chose the gram as an approximate equivalent. One thing is certain: the unit WE is very small, indicating as it does minuscule dry measurement weight.  


Mycenaean Linear B Units of Measurement (Liquid, Dry & Weight): Click to ENLARGE

Units of Mesurement in Mycenaean Linear B

This table illustrates the syllabograms, logograms & ideograms used to represent units of measurement, liquid, dry and by weight. As can clearly be seen, the exact values many of the units are uncertain. I have hazarded a guess that the unit of measurement in this table which is represented by the ideogram for sheep may very well be the agricultural unit, a hogshead, in which case it is a liquid unit of measurement. Even that unit is variable, ranging anywhere from 46 to 65 US imperial gallons, with several stops in between. So if the Mycenaean measurement is anything like a hogshead, then it is probably just as unreliable, especially in light of the fact that the Mycenaean unit is ancient. Ancient units of measurement were notoriously variable. After all, if merchants could cheat, they would. There is nothing new in that practice!

The following units of measurement, which are syllabograms – RO, PE, ZE, MO & O, are all also supersyllabograms (more on this in subsequent posts). The meanings of ZE, MO & O are clear, and well established. ZE always means “a pair of” (wheels etc.) or “a team of” (horses, oxen etc.), while MO always means “a single” wheel etc., and O always refers to “deficit”. 

The meaning of PE is unclear. The meaning of PE as a supersyllabogram varies from sector to sector of the Mycenaean economy. In the field of agriculture, sub-field livestock/sheep, it is periqoro in Mycenaean Linear B Latinized, which means “an enclosure, i.e. a sheep pen”, whereas in the wine-making sector it appears as perusinowo (Latinized), meaning “last year’s (wine)”. Prof. Lynne Ribaud, who initially compiled this table of units of measurement in Mycenaean Linear B, assigned the value “a bunch of...”, presumably referring to “a bunch of grapes”, but this meaning is very uncertain.

Since these accounting terms are extremely common in Linear B inventories, anyone wishing to truly master Linear B must become familiar with all of them.  

Andras Zeke of Hungary, the owner of the now defunct

Minoan Language Blog
(a terrible pity, since it was such a magnificent blog) has taken a further step in the right direction, by hazarding more exact estimates of the values of several of the these measurement units, as illustrated here: Click to ENLARGE

Mycenaean-measurement-systems Minoan Language Blog
I have always greatly admired his extremely meticulous logical approach to the analysis of both the Linear A and Linear B syllabaries, and so I am inclined to accept the measurement values he assigns at their approximate face value, although I have no way of verifying his overall accuracy. Other Linear B researchers must have already cross-checked his findings, but as of now I am unaware of the results of any such findings. If anyone reading our blog is aware of other research into the units of measurement in Mycenaean Linear B, please advise me as soon as possible.


An Easy Guide to Learning Arcado-Cypriot Linear C & I mean easy!: Click to ENLARGE

Arcado-Cypriot Linear c Syllaqbograms Levels 1-4
If any of you out there have already mastered either Minoan Linear A or Mycenaean Linear B or both, Arcado-Cypriot Linear C is likely to come as a bit of a shock. Although the phonetic values of the syllabograms in Linear C are identical to their Linear B counterparts, with very few exceptions, the appearance of Linear C syllabograms is almost always completely at odds with their Linear B counterparts, again with very few exceptions. If this sounds confusing, allow me to elucidate.

A: Appearance of Linear B & Linear C Syllabograms. Linear C syllabograms look like this. If you already know Linear B, you are probably saying to yourself, What a mess!, possibly even aloud. I can scarcely blame you. But courage, courage, all is not lost. Far from it. Click to ENLARGE:

Linear C syllabograms 2014 
Only the following syllabograms look (almost) alike in both Mycenaean Linear B & Arcado-Cypriot Linear C [see (a) below]:

NA PA TA * SE * LO * PO *

* There is a slight difference between those syllabograms marked with an asterisk *

DA in Linear B is identical to TA in Linear C because Linear C has no D + vowel series, but uses the T + vowel series instead.
SE in Linear B has 3 vertical strokes, whereas in Linear C it has only 2.
RO in Linear B is identical to LO in Linear C. While Linear C has both and R + vowel series, it uses the L + vowel series as the equivalent of the Linear B R series.
PO stands vertically in Linear B, but is slanted about 30 degrees to the right in Linear C.

All other syllabograms in these two syllabaries are completely dissimilar; so you might think you are on your own to learn the rest of them in Linear C. But in fact, you are not. I can help a lot. See below, after the section on the Phonetic Values of Linear B & Linear C Syllabograms.

B: Phonetic Values of Mycenaean Linear B & Arcado-Cypriot Linear C Syllabograms:

Here the reverse scenario applies. Once you have mastered all of the Linear C syllabograms by their appearance, you can rest pretty much assured that the phonetic values of almost all syllabograms in both syllabaries are identical, with very few exceptions. Even in those instances where their phonetic values appear not to be identical, they are in fact identical, for all intents and purposes. This is because the ancient Greek dialects were notorious for wide variations in pronunciation, ergo in orthography. Anyone at all familiar with ancient Greek dialects can tell you that the pronunciation and spelling of an identical document, were there ever any such beast, would vary markedly from, say, Arcado-Cypriot to Dorian to Attic alphabetic. I can hear some of you protest, “What do you mean, the Arcado-Cypriot alphabet? I thought the script for Arcado-Cypriot was the syllabary Linear C.” You would be only half right. In fact, the Arcadians and Cypriots wrote their documents either in Linear or in their version of the ancient Greek alphabet, or in both at the same time. This is the case with the famous Idalion decree, composed in the 5th. Century BCE: Click to ENLARGE

Idalion Tablet Facsimile Cyprus
The series of syllabograms beginning with the consonant R + any of the vowels A E I O & U is present in Mycenaean Linear B.  However, the series of syllabograms beginning with the consonant L + any of the vowels A E I O & U is entirely absent from Mycenaean Linear B, while Arcado-Cypriot Linear C has a series of syllabograms for both of the semi-consonants L & R. It rather looks like the Arcadians & Cypriots had already made the clear distinction between the semi-vowels L & R, firmly established and in place with the advent of the earliest form of the ancient Greek alphabet, which sported separate semi-vowels for L & R.

Likewise, the series of syllabograms beginning with the consonant Q + any of the vowels A E I & O is present in Mycenaean Linear B, but entirely absent from Arcado-Cypriot Linear C. Conversely, the series of syllabograms beginning with the consonant X + the vowels A or E (XA & XE) is entirely absent from in Mycenaean Linear B, but present in Arcado-Cypriot Linear C.

For the extremely significant socio-cultural linguistic explanation for this apparent paradox (I say, apparent, because it is in fact unreal), we shall have to defer to the next post.

WARNING! Always be on your guard never to confuse Linear B & Linear C syllabograms which look (almost exactly) alike – the sole exceptions being NA PA TA SE LO & PO, since you can be sure that their phonetic values are completely at odds.

Various strategies you can resort to in order to master Linear C fast!   

(a) The Linear B & Linear C syllabograms NA PA TE SE LO & PO are virtually the same, both in appearance and in pronunciation.
(b) Taking advantage of the real or fortuitous resemblance of several syllabograms to one another &
(c) Geometric Clustering: Click to ENLARGE
Similarities in & Geometric Clustering of Linear C Syllabograms
What is really astonishing is that the similarities between the syllabograms on the second line & their geometric clustering on the third are identical! So no matter which approach you adopt (b) or (c) or both for at least these syllabograms, you are a winner.
Failing these approaches, try
(d) Mnemonics: For instance, we could imagine that RO is a ROpe, PE = Don’t PEster me!, SA = SAve $, TO is TOFu etc. or we could even resort to
(e) Imagery! For instance, we could imagine that A E & I are a series of stars, RI NI & KE all look like variations on the letter E, that LE is the symbol for infinity, WE is an iron bar etc. For Mnemonics & Imagery, I am not suggesting that you follow my own arbitrary interpretations, except perhaps for LE, which is transparent. Take your imagination where it leads you.
Finally (f) the really great news is that the Linear C syllabary abandoned homophones, logograms and ideograms, doing away with them lock-stock-and-barrel. This should come as no surprise to anyone familiar with the Minoan Linear A & Mycenaean Linear B syllabaries. The first had so many syllabograms, homophones, logograms and ideograms that it can be a real pain in the butt to learn Linear A. Mycenaean Linear B greatly simplified the entire mess, reducing the number and complexity of syllabograms & homophones, but unfortunately retaining well over a hundred logograms and ideograms, which are equally a pain in the you know what. In other words, the process of greater and greater simplication was evolutionary. This phenomenon is extremely common across the spectrum of world languages. 

What the Linear C scribes agreed upon, the complete elimination of anything but syllabograms, was the last & greatest evolutionary phase in the development of the Minoan-Greek syllabaries before the Greeks finally reduced even Linear C to its own variable alphabet of some 24-27 letters, depending on the dialect. But even the 3 syllabaries, Linear A, B & C, all had the 5 vowels, A E I O & U, which already gave them an enormous advantage over almost all other ancient scripts, none of which had vowels, with the sole exception of Sanskrit, as far as I know. That alone was quite an achievement. If you have not yet mastered the Linear B syllabary, it goes without saying that all of these techniques can be applied to it. The same goes for the Minoan Linear A syllabary, though perhaps to a lesser extent.

The Real Potential for Extrapolation of these Principles to Learning any Script:
Moreover, at the most general level for learning linguistic scripts, ancient or modern, whether they be based on pictographs, ideograms alone (as with some Oriental languages, such as Chinese, Japanese & Korean, at least when they resorted to the Kanji script), or any combination of ideograms, logograms & syllabograms (all three not necessarily being present) or even alphabetic, they will almost certainly stand the test of the practical validity of any or all of these approaches for learning any such script. I have to wonder whether or not most linguists have ever considered the practical implications of the combined application of all of these principles, at least theoretically.

Allow me to conclude with this telling observation. Children especially, even from the age of 2 & a half to 3 years old, would be especially receptive to all of these techniques, which would ensure a rapid assimilation of any script, even something as simple as an alphabet of anywhere from 24 letters (Italian) to Russian Cyrillic (33 letters), as I shall clearly demonstrate with both the modern Greek & Latin alphabet a little later this month.

PS. If any of you are wondering, as I am sure many of you who are familiar with our blog must be, I have an extremely associative, cross-correlative mind, a rather commonplace phenomenon among polyglot linguists, such as myself. In fact, my thinking can run in several directions, by which I mean I frequently process one set of cross-correlative associations, only to consider another and another, each in quite different directions from the previous.  If that sounds like something Michael Ventris did, it is because that is precisely what he did to decipher almost all of Mycenaean Linear B - almost all, but not quite. As for the remaining 10 % or so which has so far defied decipherment, I promise you you are in for a great surprise very soon, perhaps as early as the spring of 2015, when my research colleague, Rita Roberts, and I shall be publishing an in-depth research paper in PDF on the Internet - a study which is to announce a major breakthrough in the further decipherment of Linear B. Those of you who frequent this blog on a regular basis already know what we are up to. As for those of you who are not regular visitors, if you read all the posts under the rubric, Supersyllabograms (at the top of this page), you are going to find out anyway.       


Rita Roberts' Translation of Pylos Tablet AE 08, Slaves serving the priestess in charge of sacred gold: Click to ENLARGE

Pylos Tabet AE 08 Sacred gold at Pylos
Rita and I had our very first SKYPE teacher-student session just a few days ago. What a delight it was to finally meet my star student face to face! She is as charming as I always imagined she would be. Our classroom session lasted almost 1 1/2 hours! Rita learned a great deal more about the niceties of translating Linear B tablets, I enjoyed the teaching experience as much as she did the learning.


Categories now Separated into MAJOR (in CAPS) & Regular on Linear B, Knossos & Mycenae, to Facilitate Serious Research into Linear B: Click to ENLARGE

Categories Classification Linear B Knossos & Mycenae 2014 REVISED
I have just separated the Categories on our blog, as listed above, into MAJOR Categories (in CAPS or UC), and Regular. To search any Category, just click on its name. A few words of explanation. I have had to make this distinction between Major and Regular Categories because, as of 2015, Rita, my research colleague and I, shall be focusing our attention more and more on the Major Categories, and less and less on the Regular. In particular,

I myself will be translating the entire Catalogue of Ships in Book II of the Iliad, in which we find the most archaic Greek in the entire Iliad. It is therefore of utmost significance in the confirmation of Attested (A) vocabulary, found on any and all Linear B tablets discovered to date, and in the restoration of Derived (D) Mycenaean Greek vocabulary, nowhere Attested (A).

LEXICONS & GLOSSARIES: At the moment, there are only two Linear B lexicons of any note on the Internet, (a) The Mycenaean (Linear B) – ENGLISH Glossary, which although useful is extremely unreliable, riddled as it is with over 25 errors in the Mycenaean Linear B entries alone, and with at least 100 more errors in either ancient Greek or English. Students of Linear B should use this glossary with the utmost of caution, as they are liable to make serious errors in deciphering or translating Linear B tablets, if they rely on it solely. 

You can download the .PDF file of this unreliable Glossary here:

Explore Crete
And you definitely should check out all the errors I highlighted in the Linear B entries alone in our previous post here:

Mycenaean Linear B English Gliossary ERRORS!
On the other hand, Chris Tselentis’ Linear B Lexicon is not only far more comprehensive, it is also extremely accurate and very well researched. The Title Page of Chris Tselentis’ extremely reliable Linear B Lexicon: Click to ENLARGE:

Tselentis Linear B Lexicon
Both are available in .PDF format on the Internet. If you must insist on using the first glossary (a), you should be certain to cross-check every single reference you find in it against the Lexicon (b).

In order to compensate for the unreliable Glossary (a), Rita Roberts, my research associate, and I shall be compiling an all new Topical English – Mycenaean Value-Added Linear B Lexicon throughout 2015 and into 2016, which we hope to release in PDF format sometime in 2016 or at the very latest in 2017. Our Lexicon is meant to complement, and not replace Chris Tselentis’ fine Lexicon. Whereas Tselentis has laid particular emphasis on the inclusion of as many personal names and toponyms (place names) as he could possibly find on extant Linear B tablets, our Lexicon is to focus instead on these particular areas:

(a) the correction of absolutely all errors in the sloppily conceived Mycenaean (Linear B) – ENGLISH Glossary +
(b) the addition of 1,000s of new Mycenaean Linear B Derived (D) words, not Attested (A) on any extant Linear B tablets, vocabulary which nevertheless we believe almost certainly was in regular use in Mycenaean Greek. The criteria for inclusion of any and all such Derived (D) Vocabulary will be clearly defined in the introduction to our new Linear B Lexicon, which is bound to at least double the current Mycenaean Linear B corpus from about 2,500 discreet words (non-inclusive of personal names & toponyms) to at least 5K. +
(c) We shall not, however, duplicate the excellent work Chris Tselentis has done with personal name & toponyms in his fine Linear B Lexicon, because to do so would simply be a waste. On the other hand, we shall include all major Minoan & Mycenaean personal names & toponyms which play a critical rôle in extant Linear B texts.

MICHAEL VENTRIS: It goes without saying that I regard absolutely any information and research, original or new, relevant to my hero, Michael Ventris, as of critical importance. I hope you do so too.

PROGRESSIVE LINEAR B: Progressive Linear B is a brand new Theory of Mycenaean Greek Grammar and Vocabulary in Linear B. This theory enables me to reconstruct large swaths of Mycenaean Greek grammar and vocabulary, by means of the techniques of Regressive Analysis from later Greek textual resources, in the following order of relevance, highest to lowest: Arcado-Cypriot Linear C sources (that dialect being the closest cousin to Mycenaean Greek); The Catalogue of Ships in Book II of the Iliad (See Iliad above); the Iliad itself; and finally, all of the East Greek dialects other than Arcado-Cypriot related to Mycenaean Greek, the older dialects taking precedence over the later, in this approximate order: early Ionic, Aeolic, Ionic & Attic Greek.

Having regressively extrapolated grammatical forms (conjugations, declensions, prepositions & adverbs, numerics etc.) from their latter-day equivalents in the aforementioned dialects, I shall then proceed to reconstruct as much of the corpus of Mycenaean Greek grammar as I safely can, within strict parameters based on equally strict criteria, which I shall of course detail in my Introduction to the grammar, whenever I am finally able to release it in.PDF format on the Internet (2017-2018).

Naturally, the reconstruction of Mycenaean vocabulary in our new Lexicon first (2015-2016) and of the most complete Mycenean grammar ever seen to date (2017-2018) are both immense undertakings, so please do not hold either myself or Rita to account if we take longer to release them than we might have anticipated. This is so simply because we expect from ourselves only the finest quality. And you should expect the same, nothing less.

SUPERSYLLABOGRAMS: Finally comes the biggest surprise of them all, an entirely new Theory of Linear B Supersyllababograms, which we seriously believe will prove to be a major breakthrough in the decipherment of much of the remaining 10 % of Linear B single syllabograms (i.e. where we find only 1 syllabogram all by itself written on a Linear B tablet, heretofore entirely resistant to decipherment). But as it turns out almost all of these single syllabograms, of which – get ready for this! - at least 31 of 61 Linear B syllabograms – are actually supersyllabograms. Trust me on this one, a supersyllabogram, as you shall all soon enough discover, is much more than a simple syllabogram.

Moreover, the implications of the impact of sypersyllabograms on our understanding of just what (kind of syllabary) Linear B is are bound to be profound and wide-reaching. I would even venture to go so far as to claim that Supersyllabograms (SSYs) will represent the first major breakthrough in the decipherment of Linear B in the 64 years since Michael Ventris’ astonishing achievement in cracking Linear B with the decipherment of Linear B Tablet Pylos PY 641-1952 in that year (1952). And just to whet your appetite, I shall be posting the completely revised Linear B Syllabary (2014), which I myself recently posted on our blog and on the Internet, with all the Supersyllabograms highlighted in BOLD, but without letting you know what these Supersyllabograms actually mean... although you can already find out for yourself what they mean simply by reading all the posts under the Major Category, SUPERSYLLABOGRAMS. So go for it. More news on this exciting breakthrough in the next post, which you are going to have to read anyway, if you are a Linear B researcher or translator really, really serious about new, unexpected developments into the Linear B syllabary.

Stay posted!


My Twitter account completely updated, new header new photo, and new, wider perspectives: Click to Visit:

Twitter Richard Vallance
I have just updated and completely revised not only the appearance but the contents of my Twitter account, to reflect my widely expanding interests as related, either directly or indirectly, to Mycenaean Linear B, Minoan Linear A, Arcado-Cypriot Linear C, ancient Greek etc. etc. I have posted a new header, which you see above, incorporating the Linear B word for Knossos, and part of the stunning dolphins fresco in the Queen’s Megaron at Knossos, which you can see here: Click to ENLARGE

As it now stands, in its short lifetime of less than two years, our Linear B (A & C) blog has become one of the primary Linear B resources on the entire Internet, with visits already running into the tens of thousands (an astounding figure for something as bizarre and esoteric as Linear B!). Soon approaching 40K, we expect at least 60K hits by our second anniversary, if not more.  The reasons for this are obvious to anyone with even a passing interest in Linear B (A &C). Nothing is off-limits on our blog. Neither Rita Roberts, my research colleague, nor I, take anything for granted. We are both “doubting Thomases” to the core, casting doubt not only on translations of Linear B tablets by other Linear B researchers, but on one anothers as well, given that neither of us is in the least impervious to committing errors, sometimes egregious. Such errors must be drawn to our attention, come what may. If you are an expert in Linear B decipherment, and you do not like any translation either of us has made, feel free to give us a shout.

The other principal concerns and issues our blog frequently focuses on are:
1. keeping the Linear B syllabary right up to date. The syllabary chart most commonly used on the Internet is way out-of-date, and must be replaced by this one: Click to ENLARGE

Linear B Syllabary Completely Revised 2014
2. the introduction of the completely new theory of Supersyllabograms in Mycenaean Linear B, of which there are at least 30 from the store of 61 syllabograms. We have plenty of posts on our theory on our blog.  Rita Roberts and I shall be publishing a major research article on supersyllabograms sometime in 2015 or 2016. If tenable, it should prove to be a revolutionary step forward in the decipherment of the remaining 10% or so of the Linear B syllabary, its homophones, logograms and ideograms as yet undeciphered over the past 62 years since Michael Ventris successfully and amazingly deciphered the other 90%. Our research will be widely available in PDF format on the Internet, and although copyrighted, will be free for use by any Linear B aficionados.  Here is an example of just a few supersyllabograms, all dealing with sheep, rams & ewes, the primary concern of Linear B scribes by a long shot: Click to ENLARGE

Linear B Supersyllabograms Chart for sheep rams and ewes
3. Progressive Linear B Vocabulary and Grammar, another all-new approach to the study of Linear B, whereby I intend to re-construct as much of the lost grammar of Mycenaean Greek as I possibly can. I have already completely mapped the active voice of both Thematic and Athematic verbs in Mycenaean Greek. Nouns, adjectives, adverbs and prepositions with cases are to follow in 2015. To view all posts on this topic, visit our PINTEREST Board, Mycenaean Linear B Grammar and Vocabulary:

Mycenaean Linear B PINTEREST 
4. Rita Roberts and I shall be constructing an all new English-Linear B Lexicon sometimes between 2016 & 2018, which will be vastly superior to the currently available Mycenaean (Linear B) – ENGLISH Glossary on the Internet, of which the less said the better, as it is riddled with at least 100 errors! I strongly dis-advise anyone using it. If you must use a Mycenaean dictionary, be sure to avail yourselves of Chris Tselentsis’ far superior Linear B Lexicon.

5. the all new field of the feasibility of the possible application of the Linear syllabaries, especially B & C but also, to a lesser extent, Linear A, to the emerging field of extraterrestrial communication, by which I mean serious research as undertaken by NASA: Click to read the entire PDF

and other space administration, research facilities and professional online sites, and not crackpot nonsense such as UFOs, alien abductions and the like. Here are a few comic strips just to make it clear exactly what I think of extraterrestrial crackpots: Click to ENLARGE

Universe makes a lot of people angry and Dakeks
followed by this famous quotation by Werner Karl Heisenburg: Click to read the Wikipedia article on him: 

Heisenburg universe stranger
These are just the 5 major ventures we are undertaking on our blog, but we do not shy away from anything whatsoever which advances our knowledge of Linear B in general and in particular.

My Twitter account has expanded its scope to include not only my primary pursuits, research into Linear A, B & C and ancient Greek, especially the archaic Greek of the Catalogue of Ships in book II of Homer’s Iliad, which I am in the process of translating in its entirety, as you can see here: Click to ENLARGE


but also the following areas of great interest to me:

1. posting of major research articles, not only in English, but in French and Italian as well, the latter two of which I shall translate into English whenever I deem it necessary for our blog readers;     
2. ancient Greek vocabulary, but exclusively in the East Greek dialects, Mycenaean Greek, Arcado-Cypriot, Aeolian, Ionic and Attic;
3. Decipherment of ancient languages in general, insofar as these related, either directly or indirectly, to Linear syllabaries;
4. Cryptology, such as the Bletchley Circle project in World War Two, and the key rôle the brilliant genius, Alan Turing, the equal of Michael Ventris in intellect, played in the decipherment of the Enigma Code, especially as this astounding achievement relates to...
5. thorough investigation and in-depth analysis of the possible suitability of of syllabic scripts such as Linear A, B & C into extraterrestrial communication (NOT UFO’s, which are crackpot nonsense suitable only to... I will not fill in the blanks!);
6. astronomy, Mars, exoplanets etc. (not reflected on this blog, of course, except insofar as it may possibly relate to Linear syllabaries),  linguistics in general, including translation from one language to another, especially between English & French, in which as a Canadian I am fluent, Latin & Greek and Italian, which I read very well & Spanish, fairly well. I have forgotten my Russian, which I learned 50 years ago, but I can still read the Cyrillic alphabet with no difficulty. Linguistics and translation posts on this blog must in some way be related to Linear syllabaries, but not on my Twitter account, where anything important about linguistics in general is just fine with me.


Simplifying the Most Common Ideograms & Logograms for Students of Linear B: Click to ENLARGE

A Simplified Guide to Linear B Ideograms

One of my Linear B students pointed to me, just today, that it is difficult to remember all of the Linear B Ideograms, which hardly comes as a surprise, given that there are so many of them (well over 100). Ideograms often occasion confusion. With that in mind, I devised the chart which you see above, as a guide to the simplification of learning Linear B ideograms in general.

The situation is further bedeviled by the fact that there are also a few logograms in Linear B, which also have to be learned if the student is to be able to advance to the highest level of proficiency in deciphering and translating Linear B tablets. There is also at least one homophone, RAI, illustrated in the chart above, which very often means “saffron” in Linear B. Students of Linear B have to keep their eye out for the double function of the homophone RAI, which is either simply pronounced as such or is not a homophone at all, but the ideogram for “saffron”. It can be one or the other, but never both. The chart above includes all of the most common ideograms and logograms in Linear B, so if the student masters all of these, that in and of itself should prove to be a more than sufficient foundation for the decipherment of the vast majority of ideograms in Linear B. I should note in passing that the ideograms for “sheep”, “rams” & “ewes” account for more than 20% of a cross-section of 3,000 Linear B tablets with ideograms from Knossos which I have closely studied over the past year. But this does not alter the fact that ideograms for other animals and livestock also often appear on Linear B tablets. So the student of Linear B must stay alert, and not confuse the ideograms for one species for those of another.

I wish all of you who are students of Linear B the best of luck (although luck has nothing to do with it!) in learning this requisite set common ideograms and logograms.

I note in passing that this is our 500th. post, coming a mere two months after our 400th. Posts on our blog are literally taking off!


Linear B Keyboard Layout: to date the best on the Internet! (REVISED Oct. 30 2014) Click to ENLARGE:


In the first version of this new Linear B keyboard, which I posted this summer, I made an egregious error. The Linear B syllabogram produced when you type UC Y is QA, and the logogram PHU, as once bellieved. It is absolutely essential you understand this. QA is in fact a syllabogram. 

The first thing I would like to point out is that it took me no less than 4 hours (!) of meticulous work to produce this fine chart of the Latin to Linear B Keyboard, just as it takes me between 1 g and 5 (!) hours to produce all the high quality Linear B tablet & fragment translations, illustrations etc. I work very hard on our blog to make sure that all illustrations for all posts are as clear and informative as possible. Most of the illustrations of Linear B tablets and fragments, and most of the rest of Linear B varia on the Internet are frequently of poor or fair quality at best, although plenty of them are of at least good quality, or even excellent. But good is never enough for me, because I want to make certain that any and all students, translators and researchers in Linear B have access to the highest possible quality illustrations for Mycenaean Greek & Linear B. That is why I scanned well over 3,000 Linear B tablets and fragments in Scripta Minoa, sharpened them, converted them to clear B&W and blew them up so that the Linear B characters would be very easy to read. I do sincerely hope people really appreciate the work I put into illustrations and indeed the explanatory text in our posts, which often goes to great lengths to make sure that folks who visit us have the clearest possible idea of whatever topic we are dealing with.

Suggestion: Feel free to download this chart, which is in .jpg format. You can then print it out and, to be sure it does not get all messy if you happen to pour coffee, tea or worse on it, laminate it and post it on the wall right behind your computer. This will expedite the learning process for the Linear B font.

In order to use the Linear B Font, you must of course first download it. By far the best site to download SPIonic, the standard for ancient (Attic) Greek, be sure to visit Dr. Shirley’s site, Greek fonts, here:

Dr Shirleys Font List Greek

Dr Shirleys Font List Greek

The next page features a complete explanation by Dr. Curtis Clark himself on how he came to create this fine font.


Ancient Greek is Polytonic, but Mycenaean Greek in Linear B is not & How to Deal with the Whole Blasted Mess: Click to ENLARGE

Peering at this (apparently) complex chart of ancient Greek polytonic orthography, you are liable to want to jump off a cliff or at least take a valium. I know I did when I first learned ancient Greek, and to be quite frank, I still do have a great deal of difficulty remembering where stressed or unstressed accents (especially when subscripted) are supposed to fall, either on the first syllable or on one of three final syllables, which are linguistically stylized as antepenultimate (third last syllable), penultimate (second last syllable) & ultimate (last syllable), just to drive us even crazier. We can blithely (and safely) ignore these totally unnecessary definitions and just say last, second last & third last syllable, so that ordinary folks like you and me can understand what on earth all those linguists are on about.

And I am the first to admit that, even though I learned ancient Greek all on my own (auto-didactically), and have learned to read it very well after 15 years, I always was and still am far too lazy to be bothered learning the niceties of all those polytonic “rules” anyway, because all you need to do, in order to write ancient Greek, is to look up the word you want to write in an excellent Greek dictionary, of which by far the best is Liddell & Scott, Greek-English Lexicon (1986), grab the correct polytonic accents from the entry, et voilà! And I know darn well right that plenty of folks do precisely this, because who can be bothered with silly details like that if in fact you already know the word for which you want to check its polytonics. This is above all true for those of us who have read plenty of ancient Greek texts, from at least Books I & II of Homer’s Iliad, several prominent ancient Greek poets such as Sappho (above all others), Anacreon & Alceus, historians such as Herodotus & Xenophon (ridiculously easy to read & my first introduction the ancient Greek), Plato, Strabo, Plutarch etc. etc. (all of whom I have read extensively, plus many other authors in several ancient Greek dialects – another maddening distraction, at least for the first five years or so). It is in fact the dialects, of which there at least 10 major ones, all of them treating polytonics in their own quirky way, which really mess things up! Trust me.

Add to this the incontestable fact that ancient Greek has far more polytonics than any Occidental language, ancient or modern, and you can see exactly what I mean. Even French, which sports plenty of accents, is a cakewalk in comparison. As a Canadian, I speak and read French fluently, and I can and do remember precisely where any accent falls on any French word, all this in spite of the fact that French has a number of accents – though far, far less than ancient Greek.   

And if you wish to write any text in ancient Greek, you just do the same thing (look it up) and copy it from the dictionary. This makes life a lot easier for those of us who are obliged to write ancient Greek. Another suggestion: if you need to write a whole sentence or a whole paragraph of some ancient Greek author, just go to a site like Perseus Digital Library:

Perseus Digital Library

look up the author and subsequently the passage you want to transcribe, and then copy and paste it into your word processor, simple as that. Well, not quite as simple as that. You have to make sure that you have first set your font to SPIonic (the best there is for most dialects – but not all – in ancient Greek), to make sure that it turns out as Greek in your word processor. Otherwise, all you will see is nothing but garbage.

This situation gets far more frustrating for those of us who can also read and write Minoan Linear A (even if no-one has a clue what it means), Mycenaean Linear B & Arcado-Cypriot Linear C (all of which, thank God, have no polytonics!). Now if you wish to set the exact Greek equivalent of any Linear B text, for example, if you do not do as I advise, it will take you hours and hours just to type a few sentences. Who needs that like a hole in the head? Not me, let me tell you.

But of course our chart above serves to save you hours and hours of totally needless fooling around with ancient Greek diacritics. Just print it out, laminate it if you like, and pin it on your wall. Then you can gaze at it in stunned awe any time you like.  

Even without doing this, it takes me hours and hours to create a chart such as the one you see above. That one took me four hours! So I really would appreciate it if folks who visit our blog actually get this, and at least tag each post they really find fascinating with the number of STARS they would rate it as (top of the post) & LIKE (bottom of the post). Please! It makes Rita, my colleague and myself very happy to know you care.



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:

Linear B Syllabary Completely Revised 2014

NOTE! If you are using the standard chart of the Mycenaean syllabary currently available on the Internet, which looks like this:

Linear B Basic Values INVALID

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

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.

[1] The new syllabograms (actually not so new), JU & QA are missing from that chart.
[2] 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:

John G Youngers reassigment of PA2 to QA

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. 

Linear A Texts in phonetic transcription John G Younger


The Newly Unearthed Minoan Winnie the Pooh Tablet (from Knossos? I wish it weren’t) Click to BLOW UP TO ELEPHANT SIZE if you dare!:

KN 00 PO meri 00

I really don’t want to say anything more about this astonishing tablet, except to say that I can’t believe Rita and I found it last Hallowe’en while all the other archaeologists in Herakleion were either out trick or treating with their better halves, or sitting morosely in Greek bars sipping, of all the disgusting things, Retsina! Rita pleaded and begged and pleaded again for me to re-bury it, but I would have nothing of it, informing her in no uncertain terms that this was the Linear B find of the century, if not the entire millennium, given that it is so incredibly unlike any other Linear B tablet she and I have ever, ever, ever seen... let alone anyone else. How it came to be is anyone’s guess, though I do believe that the scribe’s signature, WIPO, is a dead giveaway. Plus, although he had no brains, Minoan Winnie the Pooh was a clever little bugger, riding into the city market, no less, on an ELEPHANT, no less, just to make sure everyone (especially the already burnt-out scribes!) got the hell out of their way... or else... or else what I cringe to imagine. And although our “scribe’s” scratches and scrawls are almost illegible, even for Linear B, which is almost illegible most of the time anyway, only this time round far worse, the text is utterly charming in the extreme, once you can figure out how to decipher it.

I wonder how many elephants he has. I wonder whether or not he shares (at least one pot of) honey with his elephants. I suspect he has to, unless he also wants to get squashed underfoot. I wonder why the scribes just don’t give up, toss in the towel (though there probably no towels as such in ancient Knossos), and run off in all directions screaming like maniacs (which is what they would have been by this time!). I wonder why Rita and I ever decided to keep this silly tablet, except that maybe, just maybe, we want to set the entire Linear B research community, and especially Linear B translators, on their heads, aghast at this new, entirely unexpected and entirely earth-shattering tablet... earth-shattering, not because there was another one of those nasty earthquakes at Knossos when it was composed, but because elephants really do shatter the earth when they come stomping by or, worse yet, stomping into the scribes’ HQ.

This is of course the primary reason why so many Linear B tablets were never unearthed by Sir Arthur Evans in the first place, since the poor bloke was entirely oblivious of the Elephantine Factor (see shattering above). It is almost certainly a historical given that Minoan Winnie the Pooh ordered his pet elephants to destroy as many tablets as they could on any subject but honey pots and honey amphorae, except that the stupid elephants got it all the wrong way around, and destroyed thousands upon thousands of honey-pot and honey amphorae tablets, upon which the entire Minoan economy depended for its survival. When I rummaged through 3,000 + tablets from Knossos, I could find only 7 or 8 honey-pot tablets (and fragments, of course, given those elephant feet!), a horrific loss to posterity, especially to all those honey-sweet Pooh Bears who have lived on this lovely earth of ours since then, Winnie Ille Pooh, the Roman Pooh, Winnie Lou Pou, the Provençal Pou, and so on and so forth, all the way up to Winnie the Pooh today. 

What a terrible loss indeed! Small wonder that the Minoan economy collapsed in a heap of rubble! Those meany ole’ scribes just didn’t get it! Their entire economy was stuck on honey. No honey, no economy. Poof, no Knossos!


Just released & a Must Read! A Companion to the Ancient Greek Language by Egbert J. Bakker (ed.) © 2014

A Companion to the Ancient Greek Language Paperback – January 28, 2014, by Egbert J. Bakker (Editor) ISBN-13: 978-1118782910 (hard cover) ISBN-10: 1118782917 (paperback) Edition: 1st $50! Click to ENLARGE:


with an extensive review in: Bryn Mawr Classical Review. Click the banner to read the review:


Here is an extract from that review to whet your appetite:But whatever one might think of companion volumes, this is a useful book. It boasts a wide range of generally high-quality essays by a parade of eminent scholars. Perhaps its most praiseworthy feature is the clarity and accessibility of many of its contributions, which makes them ideal starting points for the non-specialist. We will no doubt be assigning several of these chapters in our classes.”

The Significance of A Companion to the Ancient Greek Language in Contemporary Research into Ancient Greek Linguistics: 

This new book, representative of the latest linguistic research into the ancient Greek language, may very well become a definitive classic in its own right. It is all the more relevant as it contains an entire chapter on Mycenaean Greek and Linear B & Arcado-Cypriot and Linear C, confirming beyond a shadow of a doubt my own firm contention that Arcado-Cypriot as a Greek dialect is intimately allied with its slightly older cousin, Mycenaean Greek. What Egbert J. Bakker to say about the close bond between the Mycenaean and Arcado-Cypriot dialects deserves to be quoted verbatim:Mycenaean is clearly, therefore, an East Greek dialect, along with Attic-Ionic and Arcado-Cypriot...” (pg. 198) and again, “Mycenaean is therefore a dialect related to Arcado-Cypriot - not unexpected, given the geography - but not necessarily to be identified as the direct ancestor of either Arcadian and Cypriot. The precise relationship between the three is difficult to determine. Presumably the Arcadians were the descendents of speakers of a Mycenaean-like (page 199) dialect who took to the hills when the Dorians invade the Peloponnese, while the Cypriots were émigré cousins.”

Recall what C.D. Buck had to say about the Mycenaean & Arcado-Cypriot dialects way back in 1955, in his equally impressive, then cutting-edge, linguistic study of ancient Greek, The Greek Dialects:The most fundamental division of the Greek dialects is that into the West Greek and the East Greek dialects, the terms referring to their location prior to the great migrations. The East Greek are the “the old Hellenic” dialects, that is, those employed by the peoples who held the stage almost exclusively in the period represented by the Homeric poems, when the West Greek peoples remained in obscurity in the northwest. To the East Greek belong the Attic and Aeolic groups... passim... And to the East Greek (dialects) also belong the Arcado-Cyprian.”

And, of course, just to be certain we have the whole picture clearly in focus, we must also include Mycenaean Greek and early Arcadian as proto-Ionic, both of which dialects held sway “prior to the great migrations” (of the Dorians)...

and you can easily see that not much has changed in the past 50 or so years since its publication and the release of A Companion to the Ancient Greek Language by Egbert J. Bakker, in our overall perspectives on the intimate relationship between the East Greek dialects, Mycenaean and Arcado-Cypriot dialects, as I was at great pains to stress in a post on this very same issue just a few days ago, when I myself echoed the opinions of both these esteemed scholars, as follows:Astonishingly (and for my purposes, very conveniently) these two proto-Ionic dialects are as closely allied as their natural descendents, Ionic and Attic Greek, which rose to prominence some 5 centuries after Linear C first popped up out of the clear blue.”

Need I say more?  - except to assert unequivocally that my own research into the intimate bond between the Mycenaean and Arcado-Cypriots will go far beyond merely this consideration, as I shall soon delve deeply into the close relationship between (at least some) Mycenaean vocabulary in Linear B and Arado-Cypriot in Linear C, the implications of which should prove profound for a greater understanding of Mycenaean Greek per se.  Keep posted.


Linear B Basic Values & the 13 Supersyllabograms (Click to ENLARGE):

Linear B syllabary basic values with supersyllabograms

This table is a modified version of the Linear B Basic Values table, with which many of you are already familiar. I have flagged in green font all 13 of the supersyllabograms isolated so far. There may be more, and there probably are. Complementing the supersyllabograms are the meanings, some of them firm, some of them likely to be correct, and others putative (at best).

You should keep this table on hand if you are at all interested in learning supersyllabograms.
All of the supersyllabograms have been fully illustrated by tablets bearing them in previous posts, so if you are serious about actually mastering sypersyllabograms yourself, you probably should read all of these posts, infra.


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