Tag Archive: terminology

KEY POST! The truly formidable obstacles facing us in even a partial decipherment of Minoan Linear A:

Any attempt, however concerted, at even a partial decipherment of Minoan Linear A is bound to meet with tremendous obstacles, as illustrated all too dramatically by this table:


These obstacles include, but are not prescribed by:

1. The fact that there are far fewer extant Minoan Linear A tablets and fragments, of which the vast majority are mere fragments (no more than 500), most of them un intelligible, than there are extant tablets and fragments in Mycenaean Linear B (well in excess of 4,500), of which the latter are mostly legible, even the fragments.

2. The fact that Mycenaean Linear B has been completely deciphered, first by Michael Ventris in 1952 and secondly, by myself in closing the last gap in the decipherment of Mycenaean Linear B, namely, the decipherment of supersyllabograms in my article, The Decipherment of Supersyllabograms in Linear B, in the illustrious international archaeological annual, Archaeology and Science, ISSN 1452-7448, Vol. 11 (2015), pp. 73-108, here:


This final stage in the decipherment of Mycenaean Linear B has effectively brought closure to its decipherment.

As illustrated all too conspicuously by this table of apparent roots/stems and/or prefixes of Minoan Linear A lexemes and their lemmas, we are still a long way off from being able to convincingly decipher Minoan Linear A.

At the categorical sub-levels of the syntax and semiotics of Minoan Linear A, we cannot even begin to determine which categories to isolate, let alone what these categories are. Allow me to illustrate in discriminative terms:

3. As the table of Minoan Linear A so-called roots & stems + prefixes above all too amply highlights, we cannot even tell which first syllable or which of the first 2 syllables of any of the Minoan Linear A words in this list is/are either (a) roots or stems of the Minoan Linear A lexemes or lemmas which it/they initiate or (b) prefixes of them, even if I have tentatively identified some as the former and some as the latter (See the table).

4. In the case of roots or stems, which ones are roots and which are stems? What is the difference between the two in Minoan Linear A? Let us take a couple of entries as examples to illustrate my point:

4.1 The 3 words beginning with the apparent root or stem asi, (I cannot tell which is which), the first 2 syllables of asidatoi, asijaka & asikira may not even be roots or stems of these words at all, but prefixes of 3 probably unrelated words instead. Who is to know?
4.2 If asidatoi, asijaka & asikira are either nouns or adjectives, what is the gender and number of each one? To say the very least, it is rash to assume that asidatoi is plural, just because it looks like an ancient Greek masculine plural (as for example in Mycenaean Linear B teoi (gods) or masculine plurals in any other ancient Greek dialect for that matter, since that assumption is based on the most likely untenable hypothesis that Minoan Linear A is some form of proto-Greek, in spite of the fact that several current linguistic researchers into Minoan Linear A believe precisely that. The operative word is “believe”, since absolutely no convincing circumstantial evidence has ever come to the fore that Minoan Linear A is some form of proto-Greek.
4.3 The conclusion which I have drawn here, that Minoan Linear A may not be proto-Greek, arises from the fact that almost all of the Minoan words in this table bear little or no resemblance at all even to Mycenaean Greek.
4.5 But there clearly exceptions to the previous hypothesis, these being words such as depa and depu, of which the former is a perfect match with the Homeric, depa, meaning  “a cup”.

On the other hand, depu is less certain. However, in my preliminary tentative decipherment of 107 Minoan Linear A words (which are to appear in my article to be published in Vol. 12 of Archaeology and Science, 2017-2018), I have come to the tentative conclusion that the ultimate u in almost all Minoan Linear A words is quite likely to be a macro designator. If this were so, depu would be larger than depa. So a translation along the lines of [2] “a large cup” or “a libation cup” might be in order. Still, I could be dead wrong in this assumption.
4.6 However, the lexeme depa does appear to reveal one probable characteristic of Minoan Linear A grammar, that the ultimate for the feminine singular may very well be a, as in so many other languages, ancient or modern (let alone Greek). If that is the case, then words such as asijaka, asikira, keta, kipa, saja, sina and tamia may possibly all be feminine singular... that is to say, if any, some or even all of them are either nouns or adjectives, clearly a point of contention in and of itself. Who are we to say that one or more of these words may instead be adverbs or some person, singular or plural, of some conjugation in some tense or mood of some Minoan Linear A verb? On the other hand, at least one or more or even most of these words and the other words in this table ending in a may be nouns or adjectives in the feminine singular. But one again, who can say at all for sure?
4.7 If the ultimate u is supposed to be a macro designator, how then are we to account for the fact that [3] maruku, which very much looks like a (declensional) variant of maru, means “made of wool”, which itself has nothing whatsoever to do with a macro designator, if at the same time the apparent lexeme maru actually does mean “wool”? After all, one might conclude, maru looks a lot like Mycenaean Linear B mari or mare, which as everyone knows, does mean “wool”. But it is just as likely as not that the assumption that maru means “wool”, and its variants maruku “made of wool” ? (a guess at best) and maruri = “with wool” have nothing whatsoever to do with wool in Minoan Linear A.
4.8 In fact, the hypothesis that maruri = “with wool” is based on yet another assumption, namely, that the termination ri is dative singular, similar to the commonplace dative singular oi, ai or i in Mycenaean Linear B. But if that is the case, this implies that Minoan Linear A is probably proto-Greek, for which there is no substantive evidence whatsoever. So we wind up mired in a flat out contradiction in terms, in other words, an inescapable paradox.  
4.9a Next, taking all of the words beginning with the root or stem? - or prefix? sina [4], what on earth are we to make of so many variants? Perhaps this is a conjugation of some verb in some tense or mood. If that is the case, we should expect 6 variations, first, second and third persons singular and plural. Or should we? What about the possible existence of the dual in Minoan Linear A? But here again we find ourselves smack up against the assumption we have just made in 4.5, 4.6, 4.7 & 4.8, that the putative Minoan verb beginning with the so-called root or stem sina is itself proto-Greek.

But I have to ask out loud, are you aware of any verb in ancient Greek which begins with the root or stem sina? Well, according to  Liddell & Scott’s Greek-English Lexicon, there are in fact 2, which I have Latinized here for ease of access to those of you who cannot read Greek, and these are, (1) sinamoreo (infinitive sinamorein), which means “to damage wantonly” and (2) sinomai, “to plunder, spoil or pillage”. The problem is that neither of these ancient Greek verbs bears any resemblance to or corresponds in any conceivable way with the 7 Minoan Linear A variants post-fixed to sina. So I repeat, for the sake of emphasis, are these 7 all variants on some Minoan Linear A verb or are they not?

4.9b What if on the other hand, all 7 of these variants post-fixed to sina are instead a declension of some Minoan noun or adjective in Linear A? It is certainly conceivable that there are 7 cases in the Minoan language, in view of the fact that plenty of ancient and modern languages have 7 cases or more. Latin has six: nominative, genitive, dative, accusative, ablative and vocative. But ancient Greek has only 5, nominative, genitive, dative and accusative and vocative, the ablative absolute (which occurs in Latin) subsumed under the genitive absolute. From this perspective, it would appear quite unlikely that the 7 Minoan Linear A variants on sina are proto-Greek declensions, especially in light of the fact that, once again, none of them bears any resemblance to the ancient Greek, sinapi = “mustard”, sinion = “sieve” or sinos = “hurt, harm, mischief, damage” (nominative).

5. Moving on to taniria and tanirizui [5], we could of course once again draw the (most likely untenable) conclusion if taniria is a feminine singular noun, then tanirizui must be/is dative singular, following the template for the dative singular in Mycenaean Linear B (i, ai or oi). But once again, there is no word in ancient Greek bearing any resemblance to these critters. And once again, even if Minoan Linear A had a dative singular, why on earth would it have to end in i?

6. However, when we come to the 4 words reza, adureza, kireza and tireza, we are confronted with another phenomenon. 3 of these 4 words (adureza, kireza and tireza) each in turn apparently are prefixed by adu, ki and ti. Makes sense at first sight. However, once again, appearances can be terribly deceiving. 

Nevertheless, in my preliminary decipherment of Minoan Linear A, I have drawn the tentative conclusion that all four of these words are intimately interconnected. And in the actual context of the few extant Minoan Linear A tablets and fragments in which these 4 terms appear, it very much looks as if they are all terms of measurement. But you will have to await the publication of my article on the tentative decipherment of 107 Minoan Linear A words in Vol. 12 (2017-2018) of Archaeology and Science to discover how I came to this conclusion.

7. Notwithstanding the fact that almost all of the words in this highly selective table of Minoan Linear A lexemes and lemmas (whichever ones are which), with the exception of depa and depu, as well as winu, which may be the Minoan Linear A equivalent of Mycenaean Linear B woino = “wine”, appear not to be proto-Greek, that does not imply that at least a few or even some are in fact proto-Greek, based on this hypothesis: a number of words in Mycenaean Linear B, all of which appear to be proto-Greek, disappeared completely from later ancient Greek dialects. Among these we count a number of Mycenaean Greek words designating some kind of cloth, namely, pawea, pukatariya, tetukowoa and wehano [pg. 94, The Decipherment of Supersyllabograms in Linear B, in Archaeology and Science, Vol. 11 (2016)], plus several other Mycenaean Linear B words listed in the same article, which I do not repeat here due to space limitations. However, I must toss a wrench even into the assumption that the words designating some kinds of cloth (but which kinds we shall never know) are Mycenaean Linear B Greek or even proto-Greek, when they may not be at all! What if a few, some or all of them are in the pre-Greek substratum? If that is the case, are they Minoan, even if none of them appear on any extant Minoan Linear A tablet or fragment? Who is to say they are not?

For instance, there is another so called Mycenaean or proto-Greek word, kidapa, which may very well mean “(ash) wood” or “a type of wood”, found only on Linear B tablet KN 894 N v 01. This word has a suspiciously Minoan ring to it. Just because it does not appear on any extant Minoan Linear A tablet or fragment does not necessarily imply that it is not Minoan or that it at least falls within the pre-Greek substratum.

It must be glaringly obvious from all of the observations I have made on the Minoan Linear A terms in the table above that the more we try to make any sense of the syntactic and semiotic structure of the Minoan language in Linear A, the more and more mired we get in irresolvable contradictions in terms and paradoxes. Moreover, who is to say that the so-called proto-Greek words which surface in Minoan Linear A are proto-Greek at all, since they may instead be pre-Greek substratum words disguised as proto-Greek. We can take this hypothesis even further. Who is to say that the several so-called proto-Greek words we find in Mycenaean Greek, all of which disappeared completely from the ancient Greek lexicon in all Greek dialects after the fall of Mycenae ca. 1200 BCE, are also not proto-Greek but are instead in the pre-Greek substratum or even, if they fall into that substratum, that they are instead Minoan words or words of some other non Indo-European origin? We have landed in a real quagmire.

So I find myself obliged to posit the hypothesis that, for the time being at least, any attempt at the putative decipherment of Minoan Linear A is inexorably bound to lead straight to a dead end. I challenge any philologists or linguist specializing in ancient languages to actually prove otherwise even with circumstantial evidence to the contrary.

Slated for publication in Archaeology and Science Vol. 12 (2016),“Pylos tablet Py TA 641-1952 (Ventris), the ‘Rosetta Stone’ to Minoan Linear A tablet HT 31 (Haghia Triada) vessels and pottery”:

archaeology-and-science-vol-12-2016-2018Pylos tablet Py TA 641-1952 (Ventris), the ‘Rosetta Stone’ to Minoan Linear A tablet HT 31 (Haghia Triada) vessels and pottery”, is definitively slated for publication in Vol. 12 (2016) in the prestigious international annual, Archaeology and Science ISSN 1452-7448 (release date spring 2018). To be submitted by Nov. 15, 2016.

This is the ground-breaking article in which I announce to the world my success at a partial decipherment of some of the vocabulary of Minoan Linear A, not of the language itself, which no one is in a position to decipher, given the extreme paucity of extant tablets and fragments (<500), of which the vast majority are fragments.  

In the progressive layout of the draft of this revolutionary article, I shall be featuring the following Minoan Linear A tablets and commentaries on Minoan Linear A in my article (in this approximate order), as per previous posts on this blog (Click on each link to visit its post):


Linear B tablet Pylos TA 641-1952 (Ventris) is the Mycenaean Linear B “Rosetta Stone” for Minoan Linear A tablet HT 31 (Haghia Triada)


5 words of vessel types in Minoan Linear A: Linear A tablet HT 31 (Haghia Triada)


Linear A tablet tagged “19” & the Minoan word for “tripod” = puko (confirmation)




Proto-Slavic interpretation of Minoan Linear A tablet HT 13 (Haghia Triada) — another decipherment gone awry


2 vastly different decipherments of Minoan Linear A tablet HT 13 (Haghia Triada). Does either measure up?



How far can we go deciphering Minoan Linear A? And now for the bad news


What are the current prospects for deciphering Minoan Linear A? Dismal but…




The 5 principles applicable to the rational partial decipherment of Minoan Linear A

The principle of cross-correlative cohesion between Minoan Linear A & Mycenaean Linear B & logical fallacies



Minoan Linear A tablet HT 132 qareto = lease field (post lost, to be reposted)


Mycenaean Linear B tablets on terms and activities related to olive oil as templates for cross-correlation to Minoan Linear A tablets


Minoan Linear A tablet HT 12 & qatidate = Mycenaean Linear B erawa = olive tree(s)


UPDATE on the military Minoan Linear A tablet HT 94 (Haghia Triada) = attendants to the king/foot soldiers

Minoan Linear A kirita2 (kiritai) = delivery & kiretana = delivered (nos. 67 & 68 deciphered)


Minoan Linear A tablet HT 13 (Haghia Triada) & wine


Minoan Linear whorls unearthed by Heinrich Schliemann at Troy in 1875 & their striking similarity to the Linear A whorls (recto/verso) illustrated here


Minoan Linear A words: 7 types of cloth on tablet HT 117 (Haghia Triada) compared with 7 types of cloth in Mycenaean Linear B



Glossary of 134 words & Partial decipherment of Minoan Linear A : a rational approach from Mycenaean Linear B (final version)


The path towards a partial decipherment of Minoan Linear A: a rational approach: PART A

Before May 2016, I would never have even imagined or dared to make the slightest effort to try to decipher Minoan Linear A, even partially. After all, no one in the past 116 years since Sir Arthur Evans began excavating the site of Knossos, unearthing thousands of Mycenaean Linear A tablets and fragments, and a couple of hundred Minoan Linear A tablets and fragments (mostly the latter), no one has even come close to deciphering Minoan Linear, in spite of the fact that quite a few people have valiantly tried, without any real success. Among those who have claimed to have successfully deciphered Linear A, we may count:

Sam Connolly, with his book:

Sam Connolly Beaking the Code Linear A

Where he claims, “Has the lost ancient language behind Linear A finally been identified? Read this book and judge for yourself”. 

Stuart L. Harris, who has just published his book (2016):

Sam Harris Linear A decipherment

basing his decipherment on the notion that Minoan Linear A is somehow related to Finnish, an idea which I myself once entertained, but swiftly dismissed,, having scanned through at least 25 Finnish words which should have matched up with at least 150 Minoan Linear A words. Not a single one did. So much for Finnish. I was finished with it.

and Gretchen Leonhardt


who bases her decipherments of Minoan Linear A tablets on the ludicrous notion that Minoan Linear A is closely related to Japanese! That is a real stretch of the imagination, in light of the fact that the two languages could not be more distant or remote in any manner of speaking. But this is hardly surprising, given that her notions or, to put it bluntly, her hypothesis underlying her attempted decipherments of Mycenaean Linear B tablets is equally bizarre.

I wind up with this apropos observation drawn from Ms. Leonhardt’s site:    If a Minoan version of a Rosetta Stone pops up . . , watch public interest rise tenfold. ‘Minoa-mania’ anyone?”. Glen Gordon, February 2007 Journey to Ancient Civilizations.

Which begs the question, who am I to dare claim that I have actually been able to decipher no fewer than 90 Minoan Linear A words

Minoan Linear A Glossary

since I first ventured out on the perilous task of attempting such a risky undertaking. Before taking even a single step further, I wish to emphatically stress that I do not claim to be deciphering Minoan Linear A. Such a claim is exceedingly rash. What I claim is that I seem to be on track to a partial decipherment of the language, based on 5 principles of rational decipherment which will be enumerated in Part B. Still, how on earth did I manage to break through the apparently impenetrable firewall of Minoan Linear A?  Here is how.

In early May 2016, as I was closely examining Minoan Linear A tablet HT 31 (Haghia Triada),

KURO = total HT 31 Haghia Triada

which dealt exclusively with vessels and pottery, I was suddenly struck by a lightning flash. The tablet was cluttered with several ideograms of vessels, amphorae, kylixes and cups on which were superimposed with the actual Minoan Linear A words for the same. What a windfall! My next step - and this is critical - was to make the not so far-fetched assumption that this highly detailed tablet (actually the most intact of all extant Minoan Linear A tablets) was the magic key to opening the heavily reinforced door of Minoan Linear, previously locked as solid as a drum. But was there a way, however remote, for me to “prove”, by circumstantial evidence alone, that most, if not all, of the words this tablet actually were the correct terms for the vessels they purported to describe? There was, after all, no magical Rosetta Stone to rely on in order to break into the jail of Minoan Linear A. Or was there?

As every historical linguist specializing in ancient languages with any claim to expertise knows, the real Rosetta Stone was the magical key to the brilliant decipherment of Egyptian hieroglyphics in 1822 by the French philologist, François Champellion

Francois Champellion Rosetta Stone Schiller Institute
It is truly worth your while to read the aforementioned article in its entirety. It is a brilliant exposé of Monsieur Champellion’s dexterous decipherment.

But is there any Rosetta Stone to assist in the decipherment of Haghia Triada tablet HT 31. Believe it or not, there is. Startling as it may seem, that Rosetta Stone is none other than the very first Mycenaean Linear B tablet deciphered by Michael Ventris in 1952, Linear B tablet Pylos Py TA 641-1952.  If you wish to be informed and enlightened on the remarkable decipherment of Pylos Py TA 641-1952, you can read all about it for yourself in my article, published in Vol. 10 (2014) of Archaeology and Science (Belgrade) ISSN 1452-7448 

Archaeology and Science, Vol. 10 (2014), An Archaeologist's Translation of Pylos Tablet 641-1952. pp. 133-161, here: 

Archaeology and Sciene Belgrade

It is precisely this article which opened the floodgates to my first steps towards the partial decipherment of Minoan Linear A. The question is, how? In this very article I introduced the General Theory of Supersyllabograms in Mycenaean Linear A (pp. 148-156). It is this very phenomenon, the supersyllabogram, which has come to be the ultimate key to unlocking the terminology of vessels and pottery in Minoan Linear A. Actually, I first introduced in great detail the General Theory of Supersyllabograms at the Third International Conference on Symbolism at The Pultusk Academy of the Humanities, on July 1 2015:

Koryvantes Association of Historical Studies Athens

Role of SSYLs in Mycenaean Linear B

This ground-breaking talk, re-published by Koryvantes, is capped off with a comprehensive bibliography of 147 items serving as the prelude to my discovery of supersyllabograms in Mycenaean Linear B from 2013-2015.

How Linear B tablet Pylos Py TA 641-1952 (Ventris) serves as the Rosetta Stone to Minoan Linear A tablet HT 31 (Haghia Triada):

Believe it or not, the running text of Minoan Linear A tablet HT 31 (Haghia Triada) is strikingly alike that of Mycenaean Linear B tablet Pylos Py TA 641-1952 (Ventris). So much so that the textual content of the former runs very close to being parallel with its Mycenaean Linear B counterpart. How can this be? A few preliminary observations are in order. First and foremost, Pylos Py TA 641-1952 (Ventris) cannot be construed in any way as being equivalent to the Rosetta Stone. That is an absurd proposition. On the other hand, while the Rosetta stone displayed the same text in three different languages and in three different scripts (Demotic, Hieroglyphics and ancient Greek), the syllabary of Linear A tablet HT 31 (Haghia Triada) is almost identical to that of Mycenaean Linear B tablet Pylos Py TA 641-1952 (Ventris). And that is what gives us the opportunity to jam our foot in the door of Minoan Linear A. There is not point fussing over whether or not the text of HT 31 is exactly parallel to that of Pylos Py TA 641, because ostensibly it is not! But, I repeat, the parallelisms running through both of these tablets are remarkable.

Allow me to illustrate the cross-correlative cohesion between the two tablets right from the outset, the very first line. At the very top of HT 31 we observe this word, puko, immediately to the left of the ideogram for “tripod”, which just happens to be identical in Minoan Linear A and in Mycenaean Linear B. Now the very first on Mycenaean Linear B tablet Pylos Py TA 641-1952 (Ventris) is tiripode, which means “tripod”. After a bit of intervening text, which reads as follows in translation, “Aigeus works on tripods of the Cretan style”, the ideogram for “tripod”, identical to the one on Haghia Triada, leaps to the for. The only difference between the disposition of the term for “tripod” on HT 31 and Pylos Py TA 641-1952 (Ventris) is that there is no intervening text between the word for tripod, i.e. puko, on the former, whereas there is on the latter. But that is scarcely an impediment to the realization, indeed the revelation, that on HT 31 puko must mean exactly the same thing as tiripode on Pylos Py TA 641-1952. And it most certainly does. But, I hear you protesting, and with good reason, how can I be sure that this is the case? It just so happens that there is another Linear B tablet with the same word followed by the same ideogram, in exactly the same order as on HT 31, here: 

Linear A 19 confirmation that puko means tripod

The matter is clinched in the bud. The word puko in Minoan Linear A is indisputably the term for “tripod”, exactly parallel to its counterpart in Mycenaean Linear B, tiripode.

I had just knocked out the first brick from the Berlin Wall of Minoan Linear A. More was to come. Far more.

Continued in Part B.


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.

introductory glossary of general linguistics terminology Part C R-Z 


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


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.

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.


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. 


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)

An Introductory Glossary of General Linguistics Terminology: Part A: A-G

introductory glossary of general linguistics terminology Part A A-G 

NOTE: This glossary is ostensibly not comprehensive in any sense of the term, but it serves as a solid baseline introduction to linguistics terminology.   


abstract noun: a noun that denotes something viewed as a non-material referent, as opposed to a concrete noun. Examples: abstraction, attitude, communication, constitution, dependency, language, linguistics, magic, proliferation, rectitude, telecommunications.

acrolect: the variety of speech that is considered the standard form. For example: the Attic dialect by the fourth century BCE.

affix: a functional bound morpheme, typically short and with a functional meaning. Example: re in re-write. 

ambiguity: the property of words, terms, and concepts (within a particular context) as undefined, undefinable, or without an obvious definition, thus having an unclear meaning. A word, phrase, sentence, or uttered communication is called “ambiguous” if it can be interpreted in more than one way. Ambiguity is distinct from vagueness, which arises when the boundaries of meaning are indistinct. See also, connotation

analytic language: language that conveys grammatical relationships without using inflectional morphemes. A grammatical construction can similarly be called analytic if it uses unbound morphemes, which are separate words, and/or word order. English, which began as a synthetic language, has become more & more analytic over time. Afrikaans & Hebrew are also analytic. Contrast with synthetic language (below). 

anaphora: anaphora is the co-reference of a second expression with its antecedent. For example: This lexicon of Greek terms is comprehensive; it is very useful.

anthroponymy: the study of personal names.

antonym: from Greek anti ("opposite") and onoma ("name") are word pairs that are opposite in meaning, such as -hot- -cold- + -fat- -skinny- & -down- -up-. Words may have different antonyms, depending on the meaning. Both -long- and -tall- are antonyms of -short-. Antonyms are of four types:
Gradable antonyms stand at opposite ends ends of the spectrum: Examples: -cold- -hot- +  -slow- -fast
Complementary antonyms are pairs that express absolute opposites, like mortal and immortal.
Relational antonyms are pairs in which one describes a relationship between two objects and the other describes the same relationship when the two objects are reversed, such as parent and child, teacher and student, or buy and sell.
Auto-antonyms are the same words that can mean the opposite of themselves under different contexts or having separate definitions. Examples:  to enjoin (to prohibit, issue injunction -or- to order, command) + fast (moving quickly -or- fixed firmly in place) + sanction (punishment, prohibition -or- permission) + stay (remain in a specific place -or- postpone) 

aspect: a grammatical category associated with verbs, which expresses the temporal view of the event or state expressed by the verb. Examples: she learns (simple present aspect + she is learning (progressive present aspect) + she has learned (present perfect aspect)

auxesis:  an exaggeration of the importance of a referent by the use of a referring expression that is disproportionate to it. Example: referring to a scratch as a wound. Synonym: exaggeration 

basilect: a variety of a language that has diverged greatly from the standard form. For instance, the West Greek Doric dialect is a basilect quite far removed from the standard East Greek Attic dialect of the fifth century BCE. Doric Greek is also a basilect of Mycenaean Greek, for the obvious reason that the latter was predominant prior to the Doric invasion of Greece. 

bound morpheme: a morpheme which cannot stand alone to make a word, but must be combined with something else within a word. Examples: the -s- in the plural for tree = trees is a bound morpheme. Similarly, -cran- in cranberry.  
See also, free morpheme.


case: the grammatical category determined by varying syntactics or semantic functions of a noun, adjective or pronoun. Case is a function of only those languages which indicate certain functions by the inflection of nouns, adjectives, pronouns, or numerals. Greek, German, Latin & Russian are inflected languages.
circular definition: definitions can be circular or recursive. The definition refers to itself, thus defining an infinite number of things. Example: a thing is an object and an object is a thing. Circular definitions are always self-referential, hence closed. They can be dangerous traps. See also, recursive definition.

classifier: is an affix (often a suffix) that expresses the classification of a noun. Examples: Italian -raggazzo, raggazzi - (boy, masculine, sing. & pl.) + raggazza, raggazze (girl, feminine, sing. & pl.), where nouns are classified by gender & number.

collocation: a grouping or juxtaposition of words that commonly occur together. Example: by me, on a, with & the. 

comitative case: this is the case expressing accompaniment, expressed in inflected languages such as Greek & Latin by a preposition with the meaning "with" or "accompanied by." In Greek, meta = with + para = by (plus other prepositions expressing subtle distinctions). The usage of the comitative case in Greek is complex, and must be determined by context.

concrete noun: a noun that refers to what is viewed as a material entity, i.e. a thing . Examples: box, car, flag, lumber, post, rock, stump, table.     

connotation: 1. a meaning that is suggested or implied, as opposed to a denotation, or a literal definition. A characteristic of words or phrases, or of the contexts that words and phrases are used in. Connotations of the phrase, "You are a dog" = you are physically unattractive or morally reprehensible, not that you are a canine. 2. In semiotics, connotation arises when the denotative relationship between a signifier and its signified is inadequate to serve the needs of the community. A second level of meanings is termed connotative. These meanings are not objective representations of the thing, but new usages produced by the language group.

consonant: a speech sound produced with a significant constriction of the airflow in the oral tract. 

co-ordination: the linking of two or more elements as conjuncts in a coordinate structure such as -and- or -or- + in a list.   
corpus: a collection of writings, often on a specific topic, of a specific genre, from a specific demographic, a single author etc. 

co-reference: a reference in one expression to the same referent in another expression. Example: You said that you would come (English). Est-ce que vous me dites que vous viendrez? (French).  

corruption: word that has adopted from another language but whose spelling has been changed through misunderstanding, transcription error, mishearing, etc.  

continuous aspect: the imperfect(ive) aspect that expresses an ongoing, but not habitual, occurrence of the state or event expressed by the verb. Examples: he is running, he was running (English) + amant, amabant (they love, they loved: Latin). Ancient Greek & Latin cannot distinguish between continuous habitual & inceptive aspects in the present, future & imperfect tenses, and their compounds.    

copula: an intransitive verb which links the subject with an adjective, a noun phrase or a predicate. Examples: The book is on the table (English) Le livre est sur la table (French).    


definite pronoun: a pronoun that belongs to a class whose members indicate definite reference. Examples: the, this, that in English. The indefinite pronoun -the- is non-existent in Latin, in Mycenaean Linear B & in Homer but existent in Arcado-Cypriot, Classical Ionic, Attic, Hellenic & Koine (New Testament) Greek.

denotation: 1. The act of denoting, or something (such as a symbol) that denotes. 2. the primary or explicit meaning of a word, phrase or symbol. 3. something signified or referred to; a particular meaning of a symbol. 4. In semiotics, denotation is the surface or literal meaning encoded to a signifier, and the definition most likely to appear in a dictionary.

derivation: 1. formation of new words by adding affixes. Example: -singer- from -sing- + -adaptation- from -adapt- 2. derivation in linguistics is the process of changing the meaning and/or lexical class of a lexeme by adding a morpheme. 

derivative: 1. In a lexical database or lexicon, a derivative is sub-entry. Only irregular, semantic derivatives are entered as separate major entries. 2. a stem formed by combining a root with an affix to add a component of meaning that is more than inflectional. The meaning of a derivative is determined by its context, not its parts. Also known as: derived form, derived stem 3. A derivative is a stem formed by derivation, which is a morphosyntactic operation.
Kinds of derivatives:
1. Grammatical derivatives: Example:
nominalized stems, such as encouragement from encourage
adverbialized stems, such as courageously from courageous
2. Semantic derivatives such as generation from generate + isolation from isolate.  

diachronic linguistics: the study of language change over time, is also called historical linguistics. This is extremely important to research in ancient Greek, which was subject to significant changes in all of its dialects over time, especially when the time frame is extreme (i.e. a millennium, from Mycenaean to Attic Greek).   

diachrony: the study of change over time, especially changes to language.

dialectology: the study of dialects.

diphthong: a phonetic sequence, consisting of a vowel and a glide, that is interpreted as a single vowel. Examples: ai, ei, oi in English.

dummy word: a grammatical unit that has no meaning, but completes a sentence to make it grammatical. Examples: It is raining + Do you understand? 


elision:  the omission of sounds, syllables, or words in spoken or written discourse. Unstressed words are the most likely to be elided. Examples: camra for camera + evry for every in English. Elision is very common in ancient Greek, but not in Mycenaean Linear B or in Arcado-Cypriot Linear C, since the latter are both syllabaries, in which all syllabograms must end with a vowel, making elision impossible.

enclitic: a clitic (suffix) that is phonologically bound to (i.e. inseparable from) the end of a preceding word to form a single unit. Examples: can’t, won’t & shouldn’t in English. Aminisode & Konosode (towards Amnisos, towards Knossos) in Mycenaean Greek. Enclitics are very common in ancient Greek.
epigraphy: from the Greek: epi-graph, literally "on-writing", "inscription" is the study of inscriptions or epigraphsas writing + the science of identification, classification, dating & drawing conclusions about graphemes.

epigrapher: person using the methods of epigrapher or epigraphist, who studies inscriptions, most of which are brief. 

epistemic modality: a modality that connotes how much certainty or evidence a speaker has for the proposition expressed by his or her utterance. Examples: We will  come (certainty) + She must have come + He may have come (uncertainty) + They might come (uncertainty) (English). The subjunctive expresses uncertainty in several languages, including English (rarely), German, French, Italian, Latin & Greek. Greek also has the optative to express uncertainty. In a lexicon as general as this one, it is not expedient to attempt to express the distinctions between the optative and the subjective in ancient Greek, as the relationship between the two is complex. In other words, you have to know ancient Greek very well to understand these distinctions and their several applications. 

etymology: 1 the study of the historical development of languages, particularly as manifested in individual words. 2 an account of the origin and historical development of a word. 3. the study of the origins of words. Through old texts and comparison with other languages, etymologists reconstruct the history of words — when they entered a language, from what source, and how their form and meaning have changed. From Greek: true meaning = etymos (true) + logos (word). Etymology is extremely important in the archaic in Mycenaean and Arcado-Cypriot, which in turn determine the etymology of a number of words in several later ancient Greek dialects.

extraposition: the movement of an element from its normal place to one at the end, or near the end, of a sentence.


family: a group of languages believed to have descended from the same ancestral language, e.g. the Indo-European language family from Proto-Indo-European.

finite verb: a verb form that occurs in an independent clause, and fully inflected according to the inflectional categories marked on verbs in the language. 

fossil: in linguistics, a fossilized word or term is extremely old, extinct, or outdated. Some words in Mycenaean Greek were already fossilized by the time Homer wrote the Iliad, and a much more significant number of Mycenaean words completely disappeared from later ancient Greek dialects. On the other hand, a number of Mycenaean words, such as apudosi (delivery) were never fossilized. 

free morpheme: 1. a grammatical unit that can occur by itself. Additional morphemes such as affixes (prefixes, suffixes) can be attached to it. Examples: berry, blue, cat, colour (hence: colourful, colourless), dog, elephant, green (hence: greenery), house, intern (hence: internship), orange, red, white, yellow. 2. a morpheme which can stand alone to make a word by itself. Example: -blue- in -blueberry- See also, bound morpheme.  

function word: a word which has little or no meaning of its own but which has a grammatical function. Examples in English: a, of, on, in, the. Function words play a key obligatory role in all languages. They are the glue that hold languages together syntactically.


gender. See, grammatical gender

gloss: A gloss (from Koine Greek glossa, meaning 'tongue') is a note made in the margins or between the lines of a book, in which the meaning of the text in its original language is explained, sometimes in its own language, sometimes in another language. Glosses vary in comprehensiveness and complexity, from simple marginal notations of difficult or obscure words, to entire interlinear translations of the original text and cross references to similar passages.

glossary: 1. a collection of glosses is a glossary 2. a collection of specialized terms with their meanings. Example: An English-Mycenaean Linear B Glossary 3. a list of terms defined in a particular domain of knowledge. Glossaries often appear at the end a book and often include either newly introduced or uncommon terms. 

glottochronology: the study of languages to determine when they diverged from being the same language. For instance, the divergence of Italian from Latin.

glottogony: 1. the genesis of language, i. e. the emergence of a system of verbal communication from proto-linguistic or non-linguistic means of communication 2. the study of language origins.

grammatical gender: a class system for adjectives & nouns, composed of two or three classes, whose nouns have at least human male and female referents and in some languages an inanimate referent (neuter). In many languages, gender is very often not classed by any correlation with natural sex distinctions. The genders of nouns classified in this fashion (masculine, feminine, neuter) do not necessarily refer to the masculine (male gender), feminine (female gender) or inanimate (neuter gender). In many cases a masculine noun can also be feminine or even neuter, or any other combination of genders. Genders for the exact same word may differ in different languages.  Examples: il mare (sea, masculine Italian) + la mer (sea, feminine, French), mare (sea, neuter, Latin) le tour (walk, stroll,  run, e.g. le Tour de France) + la tour (tower, French) etc. Examples of languages with two genders are French, Italian & Spanish & with three genders: German, Greek & Latin.

by Richard Vallance Janke, 2015

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