Is the Minoan language proto-Altaic or proto-Japanese? The vast bulk of current diachronic linguistic research stacks up squarely against this hypothesis: According to Ms.Gretchen Leonhardt of: and I quote: While there has been much debate about the underlying language of Linear A, I disagree that LinA does not resemble a known language. Despite its similarities to Japanese, historical linguists dismiss a correlation for at least two reasons: (1) the apparent lack of genetic evidence and (2) the universally held belief that LinA is an Indo-European language. Regarding the first justification, if linguists are looking to mainland Japan for genetic evidence, they are looking too far north. By whatever means, it appears that, around 1000 BCE, the Minoans entered Japan from the southern islands, and gradually moved north. Regarding the second justification, Minoan scholarship generally agrees that the Minoans migrated from the Anatolian region**, which suggests an Altaic origin or influence. Likewise, Japanese scholarship suggests that the Japanese language belongs to the Japonic-language family, which is believed to have an Altaic origin or influence. General consensus dates the demise of the high Minoan civilization as late as 3,500 years ago, with the widespread destruction of the palace centers, while Neil Gordon Munro dates the commencement of the Yamato culture, which is the presumed progenitor of modern Japanese civilization, as early as 3,000 years ago. According to Munro, the origin of the Yamato culture is unknown but had arrived in a highly advanced state. The culture is notable for its grave goods–bronze arrowheads, bells, and halberds. The culture is also notable for its wheel-thrown pottery, which employed “restrained” decoration with “subdued color” [1908:4]. Comment: Munro was writing in 1908, when linguistic assumptions about Altaic languages were in their infancy! Modern scholarship has all but refuted the assumptions about Altaic languages in vogue at the beginning of the twentieth century, i.e. 100 years ago! She continues: The Okinawan (Uchina’a) Japanese remain culturally, genetically, and linguistically distinct from the mainland (Yamato) Japanese, although the two cultures are believed to share a common proto language. This forum will provide support–through disciplines such as archaeology, architecture, art, genetics, and language–for my dual theories that LinA is proto Japanese and that the Minoan civilization provides a rich backdrop for Japanese history, which, for millennia, has been shrouded in mystery. I hasten to add that in the preceding passage, Ms. Leonhardt has made egregious errors with respect to Minoan Linear A. These are: 1. On the one hand, she claims to disagree that “LinA does not resemble a known language.” 2. and then goes straight ahead to flatly contradict herself by decrying “the universally held belief that LinA is an Indo-European language.” Universally held? Very far from it. The controversy over the origin and language class Linear A purportedly belongs to still rages on, as attested by innumerable studies on academia.edu alone which contradict one another with respect to the language family or class to which Linear A purportedly belongs. All this after she has just lament the fact that Linear A does not resemble any known language (1.) 3. She goes on... “it appears that, around 1000 BCE, the Minoans entered Japan from the southern islands, and gradually moved north. Regarding the second justification, Minoan scholarship generally agrees that the Minoans migrated from the Anatolian region** (Does it? Perhaps in 1908, but I sincerely doubt this is the case today), which suggests an Altaic origin or influence.” But what she obviously overlooks in this statement is the distinct probability, and indeed strong likelihood that the Minoan language almost certainly had already existed for some 1,200 years before the Minoans migrated to the southern Japanese islands, if they ever did so in the first place... which is a highly contentious claim. Moreover, while a few researchers still claim that the proto-Japanese dialect she is referencing belongs to the Altaic class of languages, the majority of current researchers number are convinced that this cannot be so. And I quote (all italics mine): Micro-Altaic includes about 66 living languages, to which Macro-Altaic would add Korean, Japanese and the Ryukyuan languages for a total of about 74. (These are estimates, depending on what is considered a language and what is considered a dialect. They do not include earlier states of languages, such as Middle Mongol, Old Korean or Old Japanese.) Opponents maintain that the similarities are due to areal interaction between the language groups concerned. The inclusion of Korean and Japanese has also been criticized and disputed by other linguists. The original Altaic family thus came to be known as the Ural–Altaic. In the "Ural–Altaic" nomenclature, Finno-Ugric and Samoyedic are regarded as "Uralic", whereas Turkic, Mongolic, and Tungusic are regarded as "Altaic"—whereas Korean is sometimes considered Altaic, as is, less often, Japanese. In other words, proto-Japanese, including the dialect with which Ms. Leonhardt is concerned, may not be (proto-) Altaic at all. 4. Moroever, the following timetable seems to be the most realistic for the appearance of written Japanese (italics mine): (3) Timetable: To illustrate the prehistory of Japan, I'd put two lines on the timetable. The first line comes around 400 to 300 BC. This is the time when wet rice culture and iron processing came to the Japanese Islands, and the way of life there changed. Yet an older form of the Japanese language started to be spoken from that time. I'd call this phase of the language "proto-Japanese", which later evolved to our Old Japanese. Comment: Now it is clear from this diachronic timeline that proto-Japanese appeared at least 1,800 years after the first attestation of the Minoan language ca. 2200 BCE. And again (italics mine): Along with the foreign faith, Japan establishes and maintains for 400 years close connections with the Chinese and Korean courts and adopts a more sophisticated culture. This new culture is essentially Chinese and includes literature, philosophy, art, architecture, science, medicine, and statecraft. Most important is the introduction of the Chinese writing system, revolutionizing Japan, which heretofore had no writing system of its own, and ushering in the country’s historical period. (Comment: in other words, writing appeared in Japan only after 500 AD, some 2,700 years after the advent of the Minoan civlization. 5. Leonhardt continues, “Minoan scholarship generally agrees that the Minoans migrated from the Anatolian region**, which suggests an Altaic origin or influence.” after asserting in 1. above that “LinA does not resemble a known language.” and in 2. above, touting “the universally held belief that LinA is an Indo-European language.” Good God, can she make up her mind? Is it 1. 2. or 5.? 6. Leonhardt then cites research a century old! (again, italics mine) She states, “According to Munro, the origin of the Yamato culture is unknown but had arrived in a highly advanced state. The culture is notable for its grave goods–bronze arrowheads, bells, and halberds. The culture is also notable for its wheel-thrown pottery, which employed “restrained” decoration with “subdued color” [1908:4]. For confirmation of the general span of dates of his publications, see: Munro was writing in 1908, when linguistic assumptions about Altaic languages were in their primitive infancy! Modern scholarship has all but refuted the assumptions about Altaic languages in vogue at the beginning of the twentieth century, i.e. 100 years ago! And he wrote in this very journal. 7. But the most damning evidence against her thesis comes from (italics mine): Paleoglot: How NOT to reconstruct a protolanguage Paleoglot: ... So let's go through my cheeky list of important strategies that we can follow (using examples from the Tower of Babel project) if we want to isolate ourselves and be rejected by all universities around the world. 1. Use "phonemic wildcards" obsessively! Cast the net wider and you might catch something! The abuse of mathematical symbols like C, V, [a-z], (a/é/ö), etc. are an excellent way to make your idle conjecture look like a valid theory. It might be called "reconstruction by parentheses" since parentheses are either explicitly shown or hidden by a single variable. An example of this is *k`egVnV (claimed to be the Proto-Altaic word for "nine" in the Tower of Babel database). Obviously, if V represents all possible vowels in this proto-language and there are, say, ten of them possible in either position, then the fact that there are two wildcards in the same word means that the word represents a humungous, two-dimensional matrix of ONE HUNDRED possible permutations (10*10=100): *k`egana, *k`egena, *k`egina, *k`egüna, *k`egïna, etc. *k`egane, *k`egene, *k`egine, *k`egüne, *k`egïne, etc. *k`egani, *k`egeni, *k`egini, *k`egüni, *k`egïni, etc. *k`eganü, *k`egenü, *k`eginü, *k`egünü, *k`egïnü, etc. etc. language Since no single form is actually being posited when wildcards are present, any claim of regular correspondence by such a theorist can be easily identified as fraud. If such linguists can't take themselves seriously enough to hypothesize a structured and testable theory, why then should we take them seriously in turn? It is this very method, if you can call it that by any yardstick of scientific methodology that Ms. Leonhardt indulges in: as we can see all too clearly from this chart of her derivations of Minoan words from so-called Altaic roots: To summarize, Ms. Leonhardt has seized herself in a web of self-contractions, severely outdated research and claims with respect to the authenticity of southern proto-Japanese as a so-called proto-Altaic language which cannot possibly stand the test of valid scientific methodology. I short, her pretensions that southern proto-Japanese is at the root of the Minoan language are just that, presentions, and egregious to boot. So what are the alternatives? What language family or class might the Minoan language fall into? We shall address that question head on in the next post.
Tag Archive: Indo-European
6 more Minoan Linear A putative proto-Greek or proto-Mycenaean words: DA-DI. But are they proto-Greek at all? As we forge our way through Prof. John G. Younger’s Reverse Linear A Lexicon, in which he Latinizes the orthography of Minoan Linear A words, we now arrive at Linear A words beginning with the syllabograms DA through to DI. It is absolutely de rigueur to read the Notes in the table above; otherwise, my tentative decipherments of 6 more Minoan words in Linear A as being possibly proto-Greek or proto-Mycenaean will not make any sense at all. The table also draws attention to those words which are of moderate frequency (MF) on Minoan Linear A tablets and fragments, with the far greater proportion of them appearing on mere fragments. I cannot emphasize this point enough. In view of the fact that the vast majority of Minoan Linear A extant remnants are just that, remnants or fragments and nothing more, it is of course next to impossible to verify whether or not the 6 words I have extrapolated (or for that matter any other so-called proto-Greek words) as possibly being proto-Greek or proto-Mycenaean are that at all. Add to this caveat that researchers and linguists specializing in ancient Greek often hypothesize that, and I quote verbatim: It is possible that Greek took over some thousand words and proper names from such a language (or languages), because some of its vocabulary cannot be satisfactorily explained as deriving from the Proto-Greek language (italics mine). Among these pre-Greek substratum words we find Anatolian loanwords such as: dépas ‘cup; pot, vessel’, Mycenaean di-pa, from the Luwian = tipa = sky, bowl or cup, one of the pre-Greek substratum words right in the table above! + eléphas ‘ivory’, from Hittite lahpa; + kýmbachos ‘helmet’, from Hittite kupahi ‘headgear’; + kýmbalon ‘cymbal’, from Hittite huhupal ‘wooden percussion instrument’; + mólybdos ‘lead’, Mycenaean mo-ri-wo-do, from Lydian mariwda(s)k ‘the dark ones’ etc. But there is more, significantly more. Wikipedia, Greek language: has this to say about Greek vocabulary. Vocabulary: Greek is a language distinguished by an extensive vocabulary. Most of the vocabulary of Ancient Greek was inherited, but it includes a number of borrowings from the languages of the populations that inhabited Greece before the arrival of Proto-Greeks. (italics mine)  Words of non-Indo-European origin can be traced into Greek from as early as Mycenaean times; they include a large number of Greek toponyms. Further discussion of a pre-Greek substratum continues here: Where, in addition to the pre-Greek substratum words I have already cited above, we find, and again I quote verbatim: The Pre-Greek substrate consists of the unknown language or languages spoken in prehistoric Greece before the settlement of Proto-Greek speakers in the area (italics mine). It is thought possible that Greek took over some thousand words and proper names from such a language (or languages), because some of its vocabulary cannot be satisfactorily explained as deriving from the Proto-Greek language Possible Pre-Greek loanwords Personal names: Odysseus; Theonyms: Hermes; Maritime vocabulary: thálassa = sea; Words relating to Mediterranean agriculture: elai(w)a = olive & ampelos = vine Building technology: pyrgos = tower; Placenames, especially those terminating in -nth- : Korinthos, Zakynthos & in -ss- : Parnassos & in and -tt- : Hymettus And, to ram my point home, one of the pre-Greek substrata identified is the Minoan language itself. It is on this basis and upon this foundation, among others, that I posit the following hypothesis: Pre-Greek substratum words are both proto-Greek and not, simultaneously! The assumption that certain Minoan words in Linear A appear to be proto-Greek or even proto-Mycenaean (if we wish to stretch the notion one small step further, which I believe is entirely justified) does not in and of itself necessarily imply that some or even quite possibly most of them are de facto actually of proto-Indo-European proto-Greek origin, when quite plainly (so) many of them are not of such origin. In other words, we find ourselves face to face with an apparent contradiction in terms, a dye-in-the-wool linguistic paradox: some, many or even most of the so-called pre- + proto-Greek words we encounter in Minoan Linear A are likely to be proto-Greek, but only insofar as they crop up again and again in later ancient Greek dialects, right on down from the earliest East Greek dialect, Mycenaean, through Arcado-Cypriot on down to Ionic and Attic Greek and beyond, while simultaneously being of non-Indo-european origin, if you can wrap your head around that notion... which I most definitely can. So if anyone dares claim that all of those words in Minoan (of which there seem to be quite a substantial number) are de facto proto-Greek, that person should think again. Think before you leap. It is much too easy for us to jump to spurious conclusions with respect to the supposed proto-Greek origin(s) of many words in Minoan Linear A. To compound the matter further, let us consider the situation from the opposite end of the spectrum. It is widely known, by both intellectual non-linguists, i.e. intelligent native speakers of any given language, and by professional linguists alike, that pretty much every modern language borrows not just thousands, but tens of thousands and even hundreds of thousands of words from prior languages. The one modern language which exemplifies this phenomenon par excellence is non other than English, in which we find hundreds of thousands of loanwords from ancient Greek, Latin and Norman French. Now it goes without saying that all languages, ancient and modern, follow the same pattern of accumulating some and even as many as thousands of loanwords. Ancient Latin did so with ancient Greek. And here lies the rub. So must have Mycenaean Greek with the Minoan language. In Chris Tslentis’ Linear B Lexicon, we find many words which cannot possibly be accounted for as being proto-Greek, but which must be of some other origin. And one of the most likely origins for a relatively large subset of these words is probably the Minoan language itself. Allow me to cite just a few of the more glaring examples: adete = binder Akireu = Achilles Aminiso = Amnisos harbour (Cf. Linear A, Uminaso) Damate = Demeter (Cf. Linear A, Idamate) dipa = cup (Cf. Linear A, depa) erepa = ivory kama = a unit of land kanako = safflower, saffron (Cf. Linear A, kanaka) kidapa = (ash) wood? mare/mari = wool (Cf. Linear A, maru) opa = workshop? serino = celery (Cf. Linear A, sedina) tarasa = sea Now if even most of the so-called Mycenaean Greek terms listed here are actually Minoan, then it is stands to reason that Mycenaean Greek inherited them from the Minoan language itself, and ergo, that they are not necessarily proto-Greek words at all. It is as if we were in a flip-flop. Either way, whether or not any of the words which we have flagged (and shall continue to tag) as possibly being proto-Greek in the Minoan language or the other way around, whether or not certain words in Mycenaean Greek are not proto-Greek at all, and not even of proto-Indo-European origin, we find ourselves floundering in a Saragossa Sea of linguistic incertitude from which we really cannot extricate ourselves. So to all those researchers, past and present, into the Minoan language who make the claim, categorical or not, that much of the vocabulary of the Minoan language is proto-Greek, I say “Beware!” lest you fall into a trap from which you cannot reasonably hope to extricate yourselves.
Is it even possible to determine what the word for “fig(s)” is in Minoan Linear A? You may be surprised! Among several other tablets in both Minoan Linear A and Mycenaean Linear B, Linear A tablet HT 88 contains the supersyllabogram NI on the second line: The question is, what is the actual word for “fig(s)” in Minoan Linear A? Apparently, no-one knows. The odd thing about this supersyllabogram NI is that it was taken over lock-stock-and-barrel by the Mycenaeans. We will never know why, but it is clear that they thought it convenient simply to hang onto it. It may very well be that that the Mycenaeans continued to use the Minoan word for “fig” alongside their early Greek suza. If that is the case, it is all the more relevant for us to attempt to reconstruct the Minoan word for “fig”. Whatever the circumstances, we are still left with the perplexing question, what is the word for “fig” in Minoan Linear A anyway? In spite of apparently insurmountable obstacles, it may not be so difficult to reconstruct as we might imagine. If we stop to consider even briefly what the word for “fig” is that I have methodically selected in 13 languages, ancient and modern, belonging to 6 different classes, we discover that all but one of them are either monosyllabic or disyllabic. In one instance only is it trisyllabic, pesnika, in Serbian. This does not come as any surprise to me as a linguist, though it may to the so-called “common person” . Here are the words for “fig” in 16 languages belonging to 6 different languages classes: KEY to language classes: AU = Austronesian/ IN = Indo-European/ LI = language isolate/ NC = Niger-Congo/ SE = Semitic/ UR = Uralic. A language isolate is one which does not belong to any international language class whatsoever, but which stands entirely on its own. AU: Indonesian ara Malay rajah Maori piki IN: French figue German Feige Greek (Mycenaean) suza (Attic) suchon Italian fico Latin ficus Norwegian fiken Portuguese figo Serbian pesnika Spanish higo LI: Basque piku NC: Swahili mtimi (sub-class = Bantu) SE: Maltese tin (the only Semitic language in Latin script) UR: Finnish kuva Under the circumstances, I am given to wonder whether or not the Minoan Linear A word for “fig” is monosyllabic, disyllabic or possibly even trisyllabic. It is clear that it cannot be monosyllabic, because the supersyllabogram for “fig” in both Minoan Linear A and Mycenaean Linear B is NI. And supersyllabograms are always the first syllable only of di- tri- or multi-syllabic words in both of these languages. Given this scenario, is it possible or even feasible to reconstruct the Minoan Linear A for “fig”? Surprisingly enough, the answer is yes. Why so? It just so happens that most Minoan Linear A words which are diminutives are feminine with the ultimate being either pa3 or ra2. Under the circumstances, it only takes one small step to restore the two mostly likely candidates for the Minoan Linear A for “fig”. And these are: It is of course possible to argue that the Minoan word for “fig” is trisyllabic, but this is highly unlikely, since the only trisyllabic word for “fig” in all 13 of the languages cited above is the Serbian, pesnika. Hence, I am reasonably convinced that the Minoan Linear A word for “fig(s)” is either nipa3 (nipai) or nira2 (nirai). Finally, as it is clear that since the word for “fig(s)” does not even remotely correspond to any of the 13 words in 6 language classes, ancient and modern, above, not even Basque, it may very well turn out that, like Basque, the Minoan language is also a language isolate. I should not be the least but surprised if it were. This discussion will be part and parcel in my upcoming article in Vol. 12 (2016) of Archaeology and Science (Belgrade) ISSN 1452-7448, “Pylos tablet Py TA 641-1952 (Ventris), the Rosetta Stone to Minoan Linear A tablet HT 31 (Haghia Triada) vessels and pottery” and a Glossary of 110 words”, the third article in a row I shall have published in this prestigious international annual by the beginning of 2018 at the very latest.
NEW link added: ANCIENTSCRIPTS.COM at the bottom of the page: You can click on it here: but once this post is passed, you will have to scroll down to the bottom of the page to: Friends & Links (Bottom left) and then click on the site’s name: This is an extremely comprehensive site on ancient languages, Occidental and Oriental.
Linear A KURO = Linear B TOSA = “total” POST 1 of 3 The Minoan Linear A word kuro unquestionably means “total”, primarily because it is always followed by numerics, sometimes in large numbers. It is of course the equivalent (though not exact) of the Linear B tosa = “so many”, i.e. “total”. I say not exact, since the Mycenaean Linear for “total” is plural, and I strongly suspect that the Minoan Linear A counterpart is singular. I am also of the opinion that Mycenaean Linear B inherited syllabograms which always end in a vowel directly from Minoan Linear A, because I am firmly convinced that Minoan Linear A words always ended in a vowel, never a consonant. Since the Mycenaean Linear B syllabograms all end in a vowel, whereas Greek words almost never do, terminating instead in consonants, it stands to reason that the Linear B syllabary is a direct calque on the Linear A syllabary. The newly ensconced Linear B scribes at Knossos simply took over a big chunk of the Linear A syllabary, without even bothering to account for Greek ultimate consonants. This may look weird or positively perverted to us, but we must recall that the scribes, many of whom worked in the transition period from Minoan Linear A to Mycenaean Linear B, would not have wanted to “re-invent the wheel”. After all, both the Linear A and Linear B tablets were first and foremost inventories, so why rock the boat? The older Minoan scribes had to learn Mycenaean as fast as possible. They must have found Mycenaean very strange to their ears, since almost all of the words ended in a consonant. Be it as it may, it appears the younger scribes were quite willing to adapt the Minoan Linear A syllabary willy-nilly, and have done with it. CONCLUSIONS: All of the Mycenaean Linear B syllabograms inherited from Minoan Linear A end in vowels, in spite of the fact that (even archaic Mycenaean) Greek words almost always end in consonants because, in short, Minoan Linear A words (probably almost) invariably ended in vowels. If this is the case, this amounts to an extremely important discovery over the nature of the Minoan language. As far as I know, no previous researchers in Minoan Linear A have ever taken this basic premise into account. But I stand my ground on this one. Finally, since almost all Minoan Linear A words probably ended in an ultimate vowel, the word kuro is very likely to be either masculine or neuter, based on the (untested) assumption that gender in Minoan Linear A would have assigned O ultimate to masculine or neuter and A ultimate to feminine ultimate. However, fair warning! There are a great number of Minoan Linear A words which terminate in U ultimate, and these may be in the masculine, while those words ending in O may be in the neuter, or vice versa. I shall have to test this hypothesis over the next few years, as I attempt to gradually decipher at least some Minoan Linear A vocabulary. I shall also be addressing other key characteristics of Minoan Linear A orthography in future posts. On the Mycenaean Linear B tablet tosa pakana = “so many swords” i.e. “the total” number of swords, tosa is in the plural, the exact opposite of kuro in Minoan Linear A, at least if my hypothesis is right. Another consideration I would like you all to take into account is this: I personally do not care one jot what class of language Minoan Linear A falls into, whether or not it be Indo-European, for reasons which will become crystal clear in near future posts. In a nutshell, it is precisely because almost all philologists and specialists in Minoan Linear A try to pigeon hole the language into a particular class of languages that they are getting nowhere with its decipherment. Why not instead just accept the language for what it is( whatever it is!), by gradually deciphering as many words as we conceivably can, even if these amount to no more than a couple of dozen or so and, in addition, by reconstructing in so far as possible the grammar of Minoan Linear A, which may in turn provide further clues to other “undecipherable” vocabulary. You never know.
Did you know you speak Mycenaean Greek? You do! K-Z = kunaya to zeukesi Mycenaean Greek in Modern English: korete to zeukesi: Click to ENLARGE  kunaya – Mycenaean Greek has no “g”, but ancient Greek does. Many English words begin with Greek words, as for instance gynecology + all others in this table marked with   The same goes with prefixes. Many English words begin with the Greek prefix “peda”.  The ancient Phoenicians were famous for their purple cloth, which they inherited from the splendid purple cloth, the finest in the entire then known world (the middle Mediterranean & the Aegean) the Minoans at Knossos had produced before them. Hence, Phoenician is a synonym for “purple”. The Mycenaean syllabary can express words beginning with “te”, but for some reason, they spelled 4 the same was the Romans did, “qetoro”, and there is nothing wrong with that. Archaic Greek sometimes expressed the number 4 with “petro” and sometimes with “tetro”. This too is not at all unusual with early alphabetic Greek, in which the various East Greek dialects derived from Mycenaean Linear B & Arcado-Cypriot Linear C flipped between these two spellings. Orthography was uncertain in archaic Greek, in other words, it had not yet fossilized into the final spelling used in Attic Greek in Classical Athens = tettares.  The English word “quartet” is derived from the Latin “quattro”, which in turn was preceded historically by the Mycenaean “qetoro”, although the Latin spelling is unlikely to have derived from the latter. It is just that Mycenaean Greek and Latin happened to resort to the same basic spelling for 4.  Since Mycenaean Greek had no “l”, words beginning with “lambda” in (archaic) Greek had to be spelled with “r” + a vowel in the syllabary. Hence, “rewo” = archaic Greek “lewon” = English “lion” & “rino” = ancient Greek “linon” = English “linen”  The ancient words “sasama” = “sesame” & Mycenaean “serino” = ancient Greek “selinon” = English “celery” are in fact not Greek words, but proto-Indo European.  While “sitophobia” = “fear of eating” in English does not seem to correspond with “sitos” = “wheat” in ancient Greek, in fact it does, since wheat was one of the main staples of their diet, just as it was for the Egyptians, Romans and most other ancient civilizations. In other words, wheat was a staple food.  Although the Mycenaean infinitive “weide” = archaic Greek “weidein” = English “to see”, the aorist began with “weis”, hence “vision” in English. Richard
An Introductory Glossary of General Linguistics Terminology: Part C: R-Z: This glossary is ostensibly not comprehensive in any sense of the term, but it serves as a solid baseline introduction to linguistics terminology. R recursive definition: a definition that refers to itself and thus defines an infinite set of things. = circular definition. Recursive definitions are all too frequently found in research, and they are a dangerous trap. rhotacism: 1. an exaggerated use of the sound of the letter R 2. inability to pronounce the letter R. + 3. a linguistic phenomenon in which a consonant changes into an R, as in Latin flos, where flos becomes florem in the accusative case. root: a morpheme from a lexical class, typically verbal, nominal or adjectival, from which a lexical word is built (by adding affixes). Examples: -song- in -songster- + -sing- in -singer- + -singing- See also, stem S segment: any discrete unit or phone (sound), produced by the vocal apparatus, or a representation of such a unit. semanteme: an indivisible unit of meaning. See also: semantics, semiology semantic role: the underlying relationship that a participant has with the main verb in a clause. Also known as: semantic case, thematic role, theta role (generative grammar), and deep case (case grammar). Semantic role is the actual role a participant plays in some real or imagined situation, apart from the linguistic encoding of those situations. Examples (active & passive): If, in some real or imagined situation, someone named John purposely hits someone named Bill, then John is the agent and Bill is the patient of the hitting event. Therefore, the semantic role of Bill is the same (patient=object) in both of the following sentences: John hit Bill. Bill was hit by John. In both of the above sentences, John has the semantic role of agent. semantics: 1. (linguistics) the science of the meaning of words. 2. the study of the relationship between words and their meanings. 3. the individual meanings of words, as opposed to the overall meaning of a passage. 4. the study of meaning in language; in generative grammar: how the meanings of words combine to form complex meanings of phrases and sentences. semi-consonant: see semi-vowel (English only) semiology: the study of meaning. semiotics: the study of signs and symbols, especially as means of language or communication. semi-vowel: speech sound produced with a little more constriction of the airflow in the oral cavity than a vowel. Semi-vowels in English = l & r, but not in any other modern Occidental Indo-European language, in which l & r are pure consonants. In English only, semi-vowels or semi-consonants are the result of the great vowel shift in the Middle Ages, which softened the harder consonantal pronunciation of l & r typical of French, German, Greek, Italian, Spanish, Russian and many other Occidental languages into a much softer l & r. simulfix: a change or replacement of vowels or consonants (usually vowels) which changes the meaning of a word. Examples (English): -eat- becomes -ate - in past tense + -tooth- becomes -teeth- when plural. speech community: a group of people sharing characteristic patterns of vocabulary, grammar, and pronunciation. stative verb: a verb that expresses a state of affairs or being rather than action. Stative verbs differ from verbs of action not just in meaning but in formal structure and usage. Some verbs can be both stative, expressing a state of affairs, and active. Stative English verbs include: be, concern, have. The verb -become- is both stative and active. stem: a morphological constituent larger than the root and smaller than the word. Derivational affixes are inside of the stem, and inflectional affixes attach to the stem. Examples: root = run + stem = runner + word = runners & root = sing + stem = singer + word = singers stress: a syllable having relative force or prominence. substantive: (broadly) a word or word group functioning syntactically as a noun. suffix: an affix that is attached to the end of a root or stem. Example (English): the past tense suffix -ed- attaches to the end of the verb stem -walk- to form the past tense -walked- Likewise, -ingest- to -ingested- & -transport- to -transported-. syllabary: 1. table or list of syllabic letters or syllables 2. writing system where each character represents a complete syllable. Minoan Linear A, Mycenaean Linear B & Arcado-Cypriot are all syllabaries. syllable: 1.a unit of spoken language that is next bigger than a speech sound and consists of one or more vowel sounds alone or of a syllabic consonant alone or of either with one or more consonant sounds preceding or following; 2. one or more letters (as syl, la, and ble) in a word (as syllable) usually set off from the rest of the word by a centered dot or a hyphen and roughly corresponding to the syllables of spoken language and treated as helps to pronunciation or as guides to placing hyphens at the end of a line. synchronic: relating to the study of a language at only one point in its history. For instance, when a researcher limits his or her study to Mycenaean Linear B in the context of ancient Greek, the research is synchronic. Thus, synchronic linguistics is a key definition in the study of Minoan Linear A, Mycenaean Linear B, Arcado-Cypriot Linear C & Homeric Greek. syncretism: the fusion of different inflexional forms. synecdoche: a figure of speech in which the one of the following (or its reverse) is expressed either as: (a) a part stands for a whole (b) an individual stands for a class OR (c) a material stands for a thing. Examples (English): -fifty head- referring to -50 head of cattle- & -cat- referring to -lion-. synonomy: the relationship between words (or expressions) of sameness of meaning in some or all contexts. Synonyms: words (or expressions) that have the same meaning in some or all contexts. Examples: car = automobile + house = residence syntagma: syntactic string of words that forms a part of some larger syntactic unit; a construction. syntax: the study of the rules governing the way words and morphemes are combined to form phrases and sentences. synthetic: pertaining to the joining of bound morphemes in a word. Compare analytic synthetic language: a language with a high morpheme-per-word ratio, as opposed to a low morpheme-per-word ratio in what is described as an isolating language. Agglutinative languages tend to exhibit synthetic properties. Indo-European languages, Greek + languages of the Romance family (Latin, Italian, French, Romanian, Spanish etc.), of the Germanic family (English, German, Swedish etc.), of the Slavic family (Russian, Ukrainian, Polish, Czech, Slovak,Serbo-Croatian etc.) and of the Indoaryan family (Sanskrit, Hindi, Persian etc.) are all synthetic languages. T time deixis: time diexis refers to time relative to a temporal reference point. Typically, this point is the moment of utterance. Examples (English)= Temporal adverbs: now/then/yesterday/today/tomorrow = adverbial function. tmesis: (prosody) the insertion of one or more words between the components of a compound word. Example: How bright (+the) chit (+and) chat, inserted into chit-chat trope: the figurative use of an expression. Tropes include euphemisms, hyperbole (exaggeration), irony, litotes (understatement), metaphor, metonymy, onomatopoeia and various other devices. typology: the systematic classification of the types of something according to their common characteristics. U unbound root: a root which can occur by itself as a separate word. Another morpheme need not be affixed to it to make it a word. Examples: root (instead of – roots- -rooted- - rooting- etc.) & think (instead of -thinks- -thinking- -think-tank- etc.) univocal: 1. having only one possible meaning. -or- 2. containing only one vowel Ursprache: proto-language, such as the proto-language from ancient Greek and Sanskrit presumably arose. Although we can never know the actual structure, vocabulary etc. of a proto-language, we can attempt to re-construct it retrogressively. V vocable: a word or utterance, especially with reference to its form rather than its meaning vowel: speech sound produced without a significant constriction of the airflow in the oral cavity. vowel modification: an addition or alteration to the basic way that a vowel is articulated. For instance, in most languages, including English, most vowels can be articulated as long or short, as in: -a- in -father- (short) in -ate- (long), -e- in -set- (short) -meet- (long) & -o- in -got- (short) -goat- (long)
Astounding Discovery! NASA: Interstellar Communication & Linear B Part 2: The Geometric Economy of Linear B. This is a Mind-Blower! For the original article by Richard Saint-Gelais, click here: Before I even begin to address the possibilities of interstellar communication based on the fundamental properties of the Linear B script, I would like to refer you to a sequential series of very early posts on our Blog, in which I formulated the basic thesis that, in fact, the Linear B script for Mycenaean Greek is based on the fundamental principle of Geometric Economy, a highly unusual, if not outright exceptional characteristic of the Linear B central construct of a syllabary+logography+ideography: And moving onto Numerics: Extended Set: Linear & Circular: Application of the Extended Set to Linear B Syllabograms and Supersyllabograms: Click to ENLARGE Note that, even though Michael Ventris and Prof. John Chadwick, his intimate colleague & mentor, successfully deciphered some 90% of the Mycenaean Linear B syllabary, neither was aware of the existence of Supersyllabograms, of which there at least 30, all of them a subset of the basic set of Linear B syllabograms. Moreover, even though I myself hit upon the hypothesis and the principle that Supersyllabograms do indeed exist, some of them still defy decipherment, even at a human level, let alone extraterrestrial, which only adds further fuel to the raging fire that awaits us when we take even our first baby steps into the putatively impossible task of interstellar communications reliant on syllabaries similar to Minoan Linear A, Mycenaean Linear B & Arcado-Cypriot Linear C. For my initial post announcing the existence of Supersyllabograms in Linear B and their profound ramifications in the further simplification of the syllabary, click here: At the time I first posted these Paradigmatic Tables of the Geometric Economy of Linear B, I already suspected I was onto something really big, and even that the very hypothesis of the Geometric Economy of Linear B might and indeed could have potentially colossal ramifications for any operative semiotic base for devising altogether new scripts, scripts that have never been used either historically or in the present, but which could be successfully applied to dynamically artificial intelligence communications systems. However inchoate my musings were at that time that Linear B, being as geometrically economic as it obviously was, at least to my mind, might and could also apply to extra-human communication systems, i.e. communication with extraterrestrials, the thought did pass through my mind, in spite of its apparent absurdity. That is how my mind works. I have repeatedly asserted in this blog that I am forever “the doubting Thomas”, extremely prone not to believe anything that passes before the videographic panorama of my highly associative intellect. Put another way, I recall a fellow researcher of mine, Peter Fletcher, informing me that I had a “lateral mindset”. I had never considered it from that angle before, but even with this truly insightful observation, Peter had not quite hit the mark. Not only does my reasoning process tend to be highly associative and lateral, but also circular, with all of the tautological implications that carries with it. I devised this paradigm chart of (approximately) rectangular syllabograms and supersyllabograms in Linear B to illustrate how such symbols could conceivably be transmitted to interstellar civilizations in the implausible hope that we might, just might, be able to transmit something vaguely intellgible, however miniscule, to such imagined aliens. But as you might easily imagine, even from a chart of only a small subset of the 61 syllabograms alone in Linear B (another herculean task not yet completed), the dilemma is fraught with almost insurmountable difficulties, even at the theoretical, conjectural level. In fact, I am a firm believer in the precept that all human rational thought-process are in fact just that, tautological, which is the fundamental reason why it is so utterly perplexing for us as mere humans to even begin to imagine anything at all otherwise, i.e. to think outside the box. But we can if we must. Otherwise, any attempt to communicate on a semiotic basis with extraterrestrial intelligence(s) is simply doomed to failure. The reason is obvious: the semiotic ground and its spinoff framework of signifiers and signified of every single extraterrestrial intelligence (if indeed any such beast exists... see doubting Thomas above) is almost certainly and (inevitably) bound to be completely unlike, or to put it even more accurately, completely alien to any other. And this is precisely where we are on extremely slippery grounds. We may be skating on the surface of the ice, but the ice is thin and is bound almost certainly to crack, before any given extraterrestrial intelligence can even begin to decipher the semiotic framework of our own unique structure of signals, as Richard Saint-Gelais nicely points out in Chapter 5 of his study of the principles underlying the possible communication, however remote, with any single given extraterrestrial intelligence. I cannot stress this enough. The snares and traps we can so easily slip into far outweigh any practical framework even remotely potentially applicable to the (far-fetched) possibility of extraterrestrial communication. But this does not necessarily imply that such communication is impossible. Extremely improbable, yes, but impossible, no. See Infinite Improbability Drive in the Spaceship, Heart of Gold, Wikipedia: If you have not yet read The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams, I urge you to do so, at least if you have a sense of humour as nutty as mine. I swear to God it will leave you laughing out loud. But I have not yet done with the possibility, however, remote, of extraterrestrial communication. There is another ancient syllabary, the younger cousin of Mycenaean Linear B, namely, Arcado-Cypriot Linear C, of which the Geometric Economy is even more streamlined and considerably less complex than that of Linear B. I have neither the energy nor the time to even begin approaching that huge undertaking, but you can be sure that I shall eventually take a firm aim at the possibilities for extraterrestrial communication inherent in Arcado-Cypriot Linear C, probably sometime in the winter of 2015. Meanwhile, I would like you all to seriously entertain this notion, which has fascinated me to no end for years and years, namely, that the Greeks, brilliant as they were, were far beyond their contemporaries, including the Romans, by inventing the Linear B & Linear C syllabaries, and consequently the ancient Greek alphabet, all of which sported at the very least the five basic vowels. The whole point is that no other Occidental or Centum ancient writing system prior to ancient Greek, had even dreamt of the concept of vowels – although of course, Oriental Sanskrit, the Satem Indo-European cousin of Greek, had done precisely the same thing! No huge surprise there either, given that the Sanskrit scribes and philosophers were as intellectually refined as the Greeks. For my previous discussion of The Present and Imperfect Tenses of Reduplicating – MI – Verbs in Linear B & the Centum (Greek) – Satem (Sanskrit) branches of ancient Indo-European languages, click on this banner: Now let’s take my assumption one step further. What I am saying, to put it as plainly as the nose on my face, is that the invention of the ancient Greek & Sanskrit writing systems was as enormous a leap in the intellectual progress of humankind as were the equally astounding invention of printing by the Germans & Italians in the early Renaissance, and of computers & the spectacular explosion of the space race in the latter part of the twentieth century, to say nothing of the swift global propagation of the World Wide Web from ca. 1990 to the present. Each of these intellectual leaps have been absolutely pivotal in the advancement of human thinking from concrete to abstract to, we might as well say it out loud, to cosmic, which we are already the cusp of. Three greatest historical revolutions in the expansion of human consciousness, without which we would never have even been capable to rising to the cosmic consciousness which is dawning on humanity at this very moment in our historical timeline. But, here lies the real crux: without the first great leap the Greeks took in their astonishing invention of Linear B, Linear C & the Greek alphabet, neither of the next two revolutions in human thought could possibly have manifested themselves. But of course, all three did, because all three were inevitable, given the not-so-manifest, but intrinsic destiny humankind has always had access to to, however little we may have been conscious of it “at the time”. But what is time in the whirlpool of infinity? Apparently, not nothing. Far from it. Time is a construct of infinity itself. Einstein is the password. Given this scenario, cosmic consciousness is bound to toss us unceremoniously even out of the box. What a mind-boggling prospect! But someday, possibly even in the not too distance future, we will probably be up to it. We can only hope and pray that we will. It is after all the only way out of the ridiculously paradoxical conundrums which presently face us in the herculean task of communicating at all with alien intelligences. Richard Vallance Janke, November 2014
Chinese Ideograms Compared to Linear B Syllabograms, Homophones, Logograms & Ideograms: Click to ENLARGE: Chinese (Oriental): Each Chinese character represents a monosyllabic Chinese word or morpheme. In 100 CE, the famed Han dynasty scholar Xu Shen classified characters into six categories, namely pictographs, simple ideographs, compound ideographs, phonetic loans, phonetic compounds and derivative characters. Click on the banner below to read this entry in full: Chinese Character Classification: Pictograms: Roughly 600 Chinese characters are pictograms (xiàng xíng "form imitation") — stylised drawings of the objects they represent. These are generally among the oldest characters. These pictograms became progressively more stylized and lost their pictographic flavor... passim... Ideograms: Ideograms (zh? shì, "indication") express an abstract idea through an iconic form, including iconic modification of pictographic characters. Low numerals are represented by the appropriate number of strokes, directions by an iconic indication above and below a line, and the parts of a tree by marking the appropriate part of a pictogram of a tree. Click on the banner below to read this entry in full: The Relationship Between Minoan Linear A (unknown) + Mycenaean Linear B & Arcado-Cypriot Linear C (Occidental Greek): Both Linear A, which was used to write the undeciphered Minoan language & Linear B, its immediate descendent, which was used to write Mycenaean Greek, shared character sets which were uncannily similar and in the case of a fair number of syllabograms, identical. However, given that Mycenaean Greek did not require anywhere near as many characters as had the Minoan language, Linear B, all for the sake of greater simplicity, abandoned a great number of the more complex Linear A syllabograms, homophones, logograms and ideograms as plainly extraneous. When the Linear B scribes devised the new syllabary, they simply tossed out everything from Linear B which was of no further use in representing early ancient Mycenaean Greek. And we must never forget that these two syllabaries, Linear A and Linear B, its much simplified offshoot, were used to write two entirely unrelated languages. Because the first, Minoan, is undeciphered, we have no way of knowing to which class of languages it belongs, except that so far at least, it has utterly defied decipherment as anything like an Indo-European language. On the other hand, Linear B was used for early ancient Greek, which is an Indo-European language. The point I am trying to make is that these two syllabaries, which are so much alike not only in appearance but to a large extent in phonetic values, represent languages belonging to completely different classes. While the scripts look uncannily alike, the languages underlying them are entirely unalike. Conclusion: even scripts, in this case scripts which make use of a combination of syllabograms, logograms and ideograms by and large (nearly) equivalent, may easily represent languages which have nothing to do with one another. The direct opposite scenario can, and does often occur. Linear B and Linear C used completely different syllabaries to write two extremely closely related dialects of the same language, ancient Greek, the first, Linear B for Mycenaean and the second, Linear C, for Arcado-Cypriot. No two dialects in ancient Greek are nearly as closely related as are these two, not even Ionic and Attic Greek. In the majority of cases, in fact, although morphemes (words) in Linear B & Linear C of course look completely unalike in their respective syllabaries, their phonetic values, far more often than not, sound & are (almost) exactly the same, because they are phonetically (practically) one and the same Greek word. Moreover, Arcado-Cypriot was written using both Linear C and the Greek alphabet. Same document, different scripts. So in Arcado-Cypriot, regardless of the script, the words (morphemes) and their phonetic values are identical. Moreover, in a great many cases, any given Greek word written in Linear B, Linear C or in alphabetical Greek in either of these two germane dialects is, plainly and simply, the (exact) same word. This phenomenon is of vital, if not critical, significance to the translation of tablets composed in Linear B and in Linear C alike into alphabetical Greek. Phonetically, the results can often be astonishingly alike, if not identical, for all three scripts (Linear B, Linear C & alphabetical Arcado-Cypriot). A Comparison Between Chinese Pictograms/Ideograms and Linear B Syllabograms, Homophones, Logograms & Ideograms: Any attempt to make sense of any comparison between the ideograms of an oriental language such as Chinese and those of a script used for an Occidental language, in this case, Linear B for Mycenaean Greek, may seem to be an exercise in utter futility. Yet, in some senses, it turns out not to be so. This is quite clearly demonstrated in the chart of only 10 ideograms for Chinese words, compared with 10 similar looking syllabograms, homophones, logograms and ideograms in Linear B. The point I am trying to make here is simply this: as far as the assignation of ideograms is concerned, even languages as disparate and as geographically distant from one another as Mycenaean Greek and oriental Chinese, often end up using ideograms which either look almost exactly the same or are uncannily similar in appearance, even though the morphemic values underlying them are almost always completely unrelated, which goes without saying. Or does it? B. Same Ideogram, Same Meaning (a Rare Bird indeed, but...): In one case and one case only, the ideogram for “month” in Chinese is the exact mirror image of the same ideogram in Linear B! Can this be so surprising, that the Chinese and Linear B scribes alike took the cue for the symbolism for the ideogram, “month”, from the exact same astronomical phenomenon, the moon? Of course not, given that almost all ancient societies had recourse to the lunar, not the solar, month. I have made no effort here to compare the Linear B & Chinese ideograms in the chart above with the ideogram for “month” in any other ancient language, undeciphered or not, but of course there are scores of languages based either completely (ancient & modern Chinese, Korean & Japanese) or partially on ideograms (such as Linear A & B, but not Linear C). Rummage through as many of them as you like and you are bound to turn up ideograms very similar to those for “month” in both Linear B & Chinese. In a sense, this striking similarity is in part accidental, since anyone can use any symbol even remotely resembling the moon for “month”, yet at the same time, chances are good that people speaking languages as geographically and linguistically remote as ancient Mycenaean Greek and (ancient or modern) Chinese can and will come up with practically the same ideogram. This phenomenon of (striking) similarity in the appearance of ideograms between two entirely unrelated languages will (in the very rarest circumstances) result in the same meaning, but even then, of course, the pronunciation will be utterly different, because it must be. The ideograms for “month” in Linear B & Chinese look like mirror images of one another, but their pronunciation is totally alien, the Linear B for month being some variation on the Greek, “mein”, the Chinese being “yuè”. Same Ideogram, (Almost Always) an Entirely Different Meaning: Of course, the obverse also holds true. Take one look at our chart above, and you can see right away that the very first ideogram in the Linear B column looks almost identical to its Chinese counterpart in column 1.1. Yes, they look like kissing cousins. But they mean something entirely different. This can come as no surprise to anyone familiar with linguistics. C. One is an Ideogram, the Other is Not! C.1 A Chinese Ideogram looks like a Logogram in Linear B: Of course, in the vast, vast majority of cases, ideograms which look the same from one language to another almost always mean something entirely different. But there is more. The first example we see in the Linear B column is not an ideogram at all, but a logogram composed of two Linear B syllabograms, ME & RI, the one superimposed on the other. In other words, what is an ideogram in one language (Chinese) is not an ideogram at all in another (Mycenaean Greek), even though they look almost identical, as is the case with our first example in the chart above, the logogram for MERI “honey” in Linear B, which looks almost identical to the ideogram in Chinese for “elephant”! C.2 A Chinese Ideogram looks like a Combination of Syllabograms & or Homophones & or Logograms in Linear B: Referring to Linear B entries 4. 6. & 7. in our chart above, we see that we have the syllabograms JA, SA & TE respectively. JA looks quite similar to the Chinese ideogram for “eye” (4.2) and SA + TE again like “sheep, ram” (10.2). Now of course, things get really messy, because Linear B uses two (2) ideograms, one for “ewe”, another for “ram”, and Chinese only one for both, with absolutely no resemblance between the Linear B & Chinese. This of course is the scenario for practically all syllabograms, homophones, logograms and ideograms on the one side (Linear B) and the ideograms on the other (Chinese), say 99.9 %. What is true for Linear B and Chinese is also true of any two languages which either use pictograms and ideograms almost exclusively (Chinese) or ideograms in combination with other signifiers such as syllabograms, homophones & logograms (Linear B). Conclusion: Many of you are surely asking, “What on the earth is the point of this, if not an exercise in futility? Why even bother with it?” The answer is simple enough: why climb a mountain? - because it is there. A great many researchers specializing in comparative linguistics are fascinated by just this sort of thing... which is why I brought it up in the first place. But there is another reason, even more compelling than this, which I shall reveal to you in our next fascinating post, before we have done with this topic once and for all. Richard