Category: Lessons Linear B

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

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

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

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

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

Perseus Digital Library

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

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

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

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



Completely Revised Mycenaean Linear B Basic Syllabograms, with 3 New Syllabograms JU (or YU), QA & ZU, Raising the Total from 58 to 61 with 1 less Homophone: Click to ENLARGE the Full Linear B Syllabary Revised 2014:

Linear B Syllabary Completely Revised 2014

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

Linear B Basic Values INVALID

you should discard it at once and replace it with our new Table of the Full Linear B Syllabary Revised 2014, as the former is completely out-of-date and inaccurate.

Until recently, almost all charts of the Basic Syllabograms in Mycenaean Linear B accounted for only 58 syllabograms, but this number falls short of the actual total of 61 Syllabograms. In fact, there are three syllabograms which are unaccounted for in almost all previous charts of the basic syllabograms, these three (3) being JU (or YU), QA & ZU. The chart above does account for ZU. Both YU and ZU, although attested (A) on all extant Linear B tablets and fragments, regardless of provenance, are extremely rare, so we need not fuss over them.

How did the Mycenaeans Pronounce the J series of Syllabograms (JA, JE, JO & JU)?

The syllabogram JU (or YU) appears to be accurate. Of course, you are bound to ask me, “Why all this fuss over the Mycenaeans’ actual pronunciation of the syllabograms in the J+ vowel series?” Good question. Actually, the distinction is highly significant. If those of us who are allophone English speakers pronounce the syllabogram JE, it is inevitable that it is going to sound exactly like “je” in our word “jet”. However, I contend that this was almost certainly not the way the Mycenaeans would have pronounced it. They would much more likely have pronounced the entire J series of syllabograms (JA, JE, JO & JU) very much the way the French do today, as in “je” (I) or “justement” (precisely or exactly). If you are allophone English, there is really no way I can tell you how “j” sounds in French. But if you go to this site, you can hear it for yourself (scroll to the bottom of the light blue table):


Listen carefully. You can easily enough tell that the sound of the consonant “j” is much softer in French than it is in English. That is the whole point. As languages progress forward through their historical timeline, the pronunciation of certain letters changes. Sometimes, consonants actually end up as vowels. This is precisely what happened to the soft “j” in Mycenaean Greek. By the time of Homer, it had glided to the vowel “i”. Thus, the genitive singular masculine “ojo” in Mycenaean Greek was now pronounced “oio” in Homer’s Iliad. Now, the real problem here is simply this: when did the pronunciation start to imperceptibly shift from that soft “j” to the much softer vowel “i”? This question is in no way academic, but a reflection of the actual historical process of the gradual transformation, or glide (if you like) from soft “j” to the vowel “i”.  Given that Mycenaean Greek was the predominant Greek dialect almost everywhere in Greece from at least 1600 BCE until ca. 1200 BCE, the glide may have already been almost complete by the latter date. But we have no way of really knowing.

However, I am one of many Linear B researchers and translators who believe this is indeed what happened, even as early as four centuries before Homer wrote the Iliad and the Odyssey (if ever he wrote it at all, rather than merely reciting aloud). So at least some of us prefer to list the J series of syllabograms (JA, JE, JO & JU) as the Y series (YA, YE, YO & YU), in our belief that the glide from the soft “j” to the purely vocalic “i” pronunciation of this series of 4 syllabograms was already well under way towards the end of the Mycenaean era. It is far more likely that the earlier soft “j” held sway in Knossos before its final demise ca. 1450-1425 BCE, so the choice of which pronunciation you personally prefer is entirely arbitrary. I have no problem being arbitrary myself. Take your pick.

Why QA, Previously Classified as a Homophone Only, Should Properly be Considered a Syllabogram and Not a Homophone:

The renowned Linear A & Linear B researcher, Prof. John G. Younger, was the first to recognize QA for what it is, a syllabogram. As Chris Tselentis makes it abundantly clear in his well-conceived Linear B Lexicon, he considers QA to be a syllabogram, and not a homophone. As he is Greek, he is in a much better position to have at it than those of us who are not Greek, which of course means almost all of us. This small extract from his Lexicon’s alphabetical list nicely illustrates the point – Click to ENLARGE:

Linear B Syllabogram QA in the Linear B Lexicon by Chris Tselentis

Linear B Syllabogram QA in the Linear B Lexicon by Chris Tselentis

In his comprehensive Linear B Lexicon, Chris Tselentis places QA immediately after PTE and right before QE, which is precisely where it belongs alphabetically in the Linear B syllabary. To classify QA as being only a homophone is to strip it of its actual true value, which is patently unacceptable. Unfortunately, the primary chart, “Proposed Values of the Mycenaean Syllabary”, which is the one practically everyone studying Linear B resorts to, is inaccurate & totally out-of-date on two vital counts.

[1] The new syllabograms (actually not so new), JU & QA are missing from that chart.
[2] Past Linear B researchers and translators, from Michael Ventris through to his colleague, Prof. John Chadwick, were mistaken in their interpretation of the syllabogram QA as a homophone only. Since it is now known that in fact QA is an attested syllabogram (A), the previous phonetic value Ventris, Chadwick et. al. assigned to it is neither here nor there. In order not to confuse Linear B students and researchers, I cannot be bothered rehashing its former value. This in no way detracts from their splendid work in the successful decipherment. It just took a number of decades for later Linear B researchers to finally realize that there was (and is) more to this little beastie than was previously believed to be the case.

Since the Linear B syllabary has no syllabogram to account for either a B+ vowel or G+vowel series, QA, QE, QO had to stand in for both “ba, be, bo...etc.” & “ga, ge,  go...”  in Mycenaean Greek.

If you still wish to read an early, but truly excellent, extensive study on the conjectural pronunciation of of a great many syllabograms, download the PDF file, The Linear B Signs 8-A and 25-A2 (Remarks on the Problem of Mycenaean Doublets), by Antonín Bartonek, translated by S. Kostomlatský (1957). This study clearly illustrates the then current belief that PA2, i.e. QA, was strictly a homophone... a belief which has not stood the test of time. In Fact, Prof. John G. Younger, one of the most esteemed Linear A & Linear B researchers of our time, has this to say about the Mycenaean pronunciation of QA. 

John G Younger’s reassignment of PA2 to QA. Click to ENLARGE:

John G Youngers reassigment of PA2 to QA

If you click on the Title Banner for Prof. Younger’s site below, you will be taken there, where you can view both the Linear A & B Grids. Scroll down to near the end of the page to view his complete chart of the Linear B grid. 

Linear A Texts in phonetic transcription John G Younger


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

KN 00 PO meri 00

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

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

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

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


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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Linear B syllabary basic values with supersyllabograms

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

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


ISS Panels, Telegraph Poles, Pot, Table, Poodles & Teepee: More Fun Learning Syllabograms in Linear B

Want to have fun learning syllabograms in Linear B?  It’s easy with mnemonics (memory cues). Take for instance these little teasers Click to ENLARGE:

fun learning syllabograms in Linear B




Hi, friends! More mnemonics to learn the Linear B syllabograms MA MI MO NA NE NU Click to ENLARGE:

Mnemonics for Linear B syllabograms MA MI MO NA NE NU

Well, then, here is another dose of mnemonics to learn more of those pesky Linear B syllabograms, which can stump even the most assiduous and enthusiastic of learners. I know they did me. It took me months to master even all of the basic syllabograms, which is why I resorted to mnemonics myself, which were a great help to me.


Linear B Mnemonics for K Series Syllabograms (Click to ENLARGE):

mnemonics for Linear B KA KI KO KU syllabograms

Judging from the number of visits we have been getting to our blog in the past few days, it certainly looks as if folks really appreciate this fun way of learning Linear B Syllabograms. Unfortunately, it does not always work out precisely as I would like it to. For instance, try as I might, I just could not come up with anything remotely mnemonic for the syllabogram KE. If anyone can, please be my guest.


Linear B Mnemonics for D Series Syllabograms (Click to ENLARGE):

Linear B Mnemonics for DA DO DU DE DI

Cute eh?

Mnemonics for learning Linear B Syllabograms: Vowels

Over a year ago, when we first started up this blog on learning the ins and outs of Linear B in all its intricacies and finer points, I was sorely tempted to teach (so-to-speak) Linear B vowels and syllabograms by means of mnemonics, but I rather thought this might come off across as rather insulting to folks’ intelligence... well, except for my own, for instance, and the intelligence of plenty of other people, as I might well have imagined at the time (and did!), since many of us lesser lights learn far better by mnemonic or visual association than by mere rote learning, of which I personally stand in horror! So, at the time, thinking the wiser of it, I didn’t take that route, but now, being a lot less wiser for it, I might as well go for it, which is why you see this silly little chart illustrating at least one way (my way, as if!) for learning the Linear B vowels by mnemonics.

Mnemonics for learning Linear B Syllabograms: Vowels (Click to ENLARGE):

Linear B Mnemonics A I U E O

Just to drive you completely insane, from time to time over the next few months, I shall be doing precisely the same thing for all of the syllabograms and key homophones. Some of you will love this approach; others it will probably leave cold; and still others may hate it. But, heck, why not let everyone have his or her say in court.  If you have even funnier suggestions for mnemonic learning devices for Linear B syllabograms, homophones and vowels, toss them our way in the “Comments” Section of our Blog, or if you like, you can e-mail your suggestions to me at:

and I shall be glad to post them. All for a good laugh!


Comparison between 5 words in Mycenaean Linear B & Arcado-Cypriot Linear C, using the 22 syllabograms we have seen so far: Click to ENLARGE:

Linear B & Linear C Basic Vocabulary of 5
For your entertainment and, if you like, instruction, here is a table of 5 words in the Mycenaean Greek dialect in Linear B and the same words in its closest cousin, Arcado-Cypirot in Linear C. As you can see from these examples, the syllabograms for DA or TA (there is no DA series in Linear C), PA, NA & TO look similar in each of the syllabaries. These 5 words also serve to illustrate that Linear B & C words (vocabulary) are very similar, and in many instances, precisely the same.

Enjoy! Richard

Arcado-Cypriot Linear C Syllabograms: Moderate-Intermediate Linear: Click to ENLARGE:

These 8 syllabograms all consist of 3-6 linear strokes only, and are relatively easy to learn. Once again, remember that the majority of Linear C syllabograms are primarily linear, with a few of them circular, or a combination of linear & circular, making the syllabary relatively straightforward to learn. For the time being, this is as far as we intend to go with Linear C syllabograms, having introduced the first 22 or already 40 % of 56 syllabograms, enough for us to decipher a few words on the Arcado-Cypriot Linear C Idalion Tablet, and to compare these with their counterparts in Mycenaean Linear B. These comparisons, or as I prefer to call them, cross-correlations, serve to make it perfectly obvious to anyone familiar with either of these syllabaries, Linear B or Linear C, and especially to those familiar with both syllabaries, that indeed the Mycenaean dialect in Linear B and the Arcado-Cypriot in Linear C are the 2 most closely related early East Greek dialects, which were all to eventually merge into the Ionic and finally, the Attic dialect. In other words, what I am saying is that all of these East Greek dialects, from Mycenaean to Attic, are all of the self-same family.


CONSOLIDATION OF MYCENAEAN GRAMMAR: Part 1 – Verbs in the Active Voice: Click to ENLARGE:

CONSOLIDATON of Conjugations of Thematic & Athematic Verbs in the Active Voice in Mycenaean Greek

NOTE: if you are already very familiar with Mycenaean Linear B grammar, or if you are a serious student of the same, it is highly advisable to print out this Consolidated Table & keep it for your records.

Just as I promised in our last post, the time has come for us to start consolidating Mycenaean Grammar in Linear B, beginning with the Conjugations of both Thematic and Athematic Verbs in the Active Voice for all of these tenses: Present, Future, Imperfect, First & Second Aorist & Perfect tenses.

The obvious question many of you will be asking is: why on earth has Richard omitted the Future Perfect & Pluperfect, let alone any other oblique tenses... and the answer is as simple as Mycenaean Greek on the extant tablets practically and logically permits. Nowhere on the tables will we find any usage of even the future & perfect tenses (at least so far as I know), so the inclusion of these tenses might seem a bit of a stretch. But is it really? I for one emphatically say, not so. Why so? It is a quite straightforward, and indeed, highly plausible hypothesis to assume, and on fair evidence, that the Mycenaean Greeks made us of all of these tenses liberally in the spoken language. What evidence can I possibly have for that? The evidence we have is in the frequent recurrence of participles in all of these tenses on extant tablets, circumstantial evidence which, by association, fairly well confirms that the Mycenaeans spoke all of these tenses all the time.

This conclusion I have drawn is further buttressed by the fact that some of the aforementioned tenses do occur, even if only in partial conjugation(s) on extant tablets, and here of course, I speak of the present tense (extensively used on the tablets, to no-one’s great surprise, given that the vast majority of the tablets are accounting records for the current year ("weto”) or, as we call it the "current fiscal year”.

But the scribes also had to make reference to (recent) historical events, especially in the realms of trade and commerce (for which there exist scores of tablets, some of them very extensive, especially from Pylos), to the trades & crafts, to agricultural production and certainly to military matters and war. Thus the aorist plays a real role on the extant tablets. But what about the perfect tense? What evidence is there for it? Plenty. Even the most cursory look through even the smallest Mycenaean glossary, namely, The Mycenaean (Linear B) – English Glossary, reveals 3 examples of uses of perfect participles passive (dedemeno = corded, kekaumeno = burnt, muyomeno = initiates (part. as a noun), and there are plenty of examples pf present participles active and passive, which you can root out for yourself, by consulting this meagre glossary. However, we can easily ferret out plenty more participles from the much larger and more comprehensive glossary by Chris Tselentis, Athens, Greece, Linear B, 149 pp. long! My point is simply this: if the Mycenaeans were so "into” having recourse to participles, both active and passive, especially in the present, aorist and perfect tenses, it practically goes without saying that they used those tenses liberally in their spoken language... to my mind at least.


5 Newly "Deciphered” Ideograms in Linear B: B190, B221, B180, B213 & B218 in that order: Click to ENLARGE:

5 newly deciphered ideograms boars tusk helmet olive oil lamp lustrallbasin and royal throne and nestors cup variartion

Upon minute and scrupulous examination of 5 previously undeciphered Linear B Ideograms, I have been able to conclude (or as some folks might very well say, jump to the conclusions) that the 5 Ideograms I have illustrated with actual pictorial examples here may very well mean what I believe they do, or if not that, closely approximate my guesstimates. Now, here as elsewhere in our blog, whenever I have proposed new decipherments of Linear B ideograms previously considered opaque, I have taken risks.  And again, I say, why not? — because if no one else is willing to take such risks, I might as well, especially when and where contextual evidence (either from text on extant tablets or pictorial evidence – as in this case – gives me some room to manoeuvre with.

As for my estimates of the % accuracy of each of the 5 Ideograms, these are all of course, entirely subjective, and any of you reading this blog may very well disagree with some or even all of my estimates. No one is ever "right” when on the threshold of new discoveries or insights into ancient scripts which have been mostly, but not not entirely, "cracked”, as the saying goes.

On a last note, I should like to say that while I do not feel quite as confident about my "decipherments” of B190 (Boars Tusk Helmet) & B221 (Oil Lamp), I feel much more confident of my dual "decipherment” of B180 (Throne) & B213 (Lustral Basin) because, at least to my impressionable mind, these 2 Ideograms look so uncannily like the throne and the lustral basin in the Queen's Megaron as almost to boggle the imagination.

And as for B218, “the one handled-cup similar to Nestor's cup” I am pretty much 100% convinced that I have nailed it.

However, if anyone disagrees with me, however little or however much, please let me know ASAP, because no one gains from a one-sided learning experience.

Comments on this critical post are most welcome! 

What with these 5 new attempts at deciphering previously opaque ideograms, this brings the total number of ideograms I have tackled so far in my attempts to decipher them to at least 18. By the autumn of this year, I shall review them all plus any discoveries I chance upon this summer.  Keep posted.


The Homophone HA, used less often than AI, but equally significant: Click to ENLARGE:

HA homophone series Linear B 

This makes for entertaining reading, though possibly somewhat perplexing to some.
Let no-one be under any illusion that the Linear B homophone HA is any less significant than AI, regardless of the fact that it appears less often in Linear B texts on extant tablets. The homophone HA is not a diphthong! This homophone (HA) takes an enormous leap forward, specifically and exclusively in the Linear B syllabary, by explicitly expressing initial or even internal aspirated A’s. This incredible achievement eclipsed even the ancient Greek alphabet, which, need I remind you, was always written in CAPS (uppercase) alone, and hence, was utterly incapable of expressing any aspirated, let alone, unaspîrated vowels.

"What” I hear you indignantly explain, "Of course, they had aspirated and unaspirated vowels.” Yes, they did. But they never expressed them. Search any ancient alphabetical text in any dialect whatsoever for aspirated or unaspirated vowels, and you search in vain. Search Linear B, and voilà, staring us squarely in the face, is the aspirated A. Astonishing? Perhaps... perhaps not. But what this tells us unequivocally is that the ancient Greeks, even after the appearance of the alphabet, must have pronounced aspirated and unaspirated vowels, because in Mycenaean Greek, the aspirated A is squarely in the syllabary.
"But”, I hear you exclaim again, "If those Mycenaeans were so smart, why didn’t they also have a homophone for the aspirated E, which pops up all over the place in Medieval manuscripts in Classical Greek?”  The answer is that Mycenaean Greek almost certainly had no use for the aspirated E, since all classical Greek words beginning with an aspirated E invariably begin with an aspirated A in Mycenaean Greek, as for instance, Mycenaean "hateros” versus classical Greek "heteros” (well, in most dialects, if not all). In other words, Mycenaean Greek grammar has no homophone for aspirated E, simply because they never used it, nor were they even aware of its existence. 

Still, the fact remains that, at least where the aspirated A is concerned, Linear B was one step ahead of ancient alphabetical Greek. Both aspirated and unaspirated initial consonants were a feature introduced into written classical Greek alphabet only in the Middle Ages, when monks & other scribes began making extensive use of lower case letters. And, sure enough, along with the aspiration and non-aspiration of initial vowels (most often A, E & U), they also introduced all those other crazy accents we all must now memorize: the acute, grave, circumflex and susbscripted iota, just to make reading ancient Greek wretchedly more complicated. Don’t you wish they had left well enough alone? I often do. But this was not to be, since from the Middle Ages, and especially from the Renaissance on, almost all Occidental languages (Greek & French being two of the worst offenders) used accents liberally. Apparently only the Romans never bothered with accents ... but even here we cannot be sure, as they too wrote only in CAPS (uppercase).  Even English, which is the Western language most adverse to accents, always uses them in borrowed words from French, Italian, Spanish etc.  So you just can’t win.
Once again, amongst the ancient languages, at least as far as I know, Linear B alone was able to explicitly express the initial aspirated A, just as Linear B had the common sense to separate every word on the tablets from the next with a vertical line (|). After that, "something got lost in translation” (so to speak), and for at least 2 millennia, when all of a sudden everyone in the whole world went bonkers for accents.

Such are the vagaries of linguistics.


Review of Homophones in Linear B: the Diphthong AI (the Most Common in Linear B): Click to ENLARGE:

AI series homophones in Linear B

This post, as the next few following it dealing with homophones in Linear B, is intended for students of Linear B who have already mastered the Basic Syllabograms, and for researchers and others who would just like to review their homophones. I would like to point out that I have no intention of covering all of the homophones, since some of them are so rarely used as to be practically inconsequential, but that I shall focus on these ones alone: AI, HA, PTE, DIPTE, RAI, RIYA, RIYO, SIYA and TIYA, with passing references to SWA & SWI.  Our final review of homophones will be concluded well before the end of June 2012.

In the next post, we will be featuring the next most commonly used homophone in Linear B, HA, which was used to express an initial aspirated A.



Table 3B: Syllables ending with Consonants in (early) Alphabetical Greek, which Linear B Syllabograms Cannot Account for: Click to ENLARGE:

Table3B syllables ending with consonants in Greek unaccounted for in Linear B

NOTE! This is the most important post I have ever posted on our Blog to date. So if you are really serious about learning Mycenaean Grammar, you cannot afford not to read it and digest it thoroughly. 

With this table (Table 3B), we have finally come to the end of our (occasionally exasperating) adventure in cross-correlating orthographic or spelling “conventions” in Linear B with those of (early) alphabetical Greek, by which I mean preferentially the spelling conventions in The Catalogue of Ships of Book II of the Iliad; failing that, the orthography of Book II of the Iliad; failing that, the orthographic conventions of the Iliad; failing that, of the Odyssey; failing that, of the Arcado-Cypriot dialect, the most ancient Greek dialect (ca. 1100-400 BCE) second only to the Mycenaean (ca. 1500-1200 BCE); and finally, failing that, of early Ionic Greek. The cross-correlation of Linear B spelling conventions with those of early Greek should and indeed, to my mind, must strictly follow the order of precedence I have set out here, for various reasons, not the least of which are:

1. The orthographic conventions of (The Catalogue of Ships in) Book II of the Iliad mirror those of Mycenaean Linear B so closely that at times the correlation is almost uncanny, as for instance, in the ancient Greek genitive singular, which is “oyo” in Linear B and “oio” in Book II of the Iliad – in other words, identical. Other examples of such intimate orthographic correspondences include, but are not limited to, the ancient masculine nouns, whose nominative ending is “eu” in Linear B and “eus” in Book II of the Iliad, leading us to more than reasonably speculate that the Mycenaean Linear B declension of all such nouns must have been all but identical in Mycenaean and early alphabetical Greek (See the entries in Table 3B tagged [7]. Or yet again, we notice that entries [6], namely, the masculine singular nominal and adjectival ending “os”, already prevalent in early alphabetical Greek is represented in Linear B, but with this important distinction: the final S in the alphabetical Greek is missing in the Linear B equivalents, for the obvious reason that Linear B syllabograms cannot end with consonants. And what is true of the masculine is also true of the neuter. The Linear B  ending “o” must correspond to the Greek ending “on”. Getting messy, eh?

2.1 IN PRINCIPLE: Restated in general terms and in principle, the nominative singular any and all (early) alphabetical adjectives & nouns, regardless of gender, (almost) always ends with a consonant, whereas naturally in Linear B, this consonant is always missing: See Table 3B [4-7 inclusive]. It is crucial that you master this principle, if you are to truly grasp the several (mostly apparent) distinctions that obtain between nominal and adjectival declensions in Mycenaean Linear B versus early alphabetical Greek.

2.2 IN PRINCIPLE: As we shall soon discover, this principle is universal, and applies to all adjectival and nominal declensions in both the singular and plural in both Mycenaean Linear B and early alphabetical Greek. Failure to fully grasp this principle in its essence will lead to all sorts of misunderstandings and (often egregious) misinterpretations in all nominal and adjectival declensions, regardless of gender and number, in so far as these can be logically and practically reconstructed, either in whole or in part – and, as it unfortunately turns out, almost always in part.

3 NOTE that this scenario, whereby we shall endeavour to the best of our ability, and under severe constraints, to regressively-progressively reconstruct nominal and adjectival declensions for nouns in at least most their cases (rarely all of them) is very much at odds with the conjugations of verbs, both thematic and athematic, with which I have encountered striking success in the reconstruction of the active voice of all of these tenses: present, future, imperfect, aorist and perfect.

STEP 1: The Reconstruction of Mycenaean grammar in Linear B: Conjugations of Verbs:

As a prelude to our gainful attempts to reconstruction adjectival and nominal declensions, I shall first post the complete table of our successful reconstruction of both thematic and athematic verbs in the active voice of all of these tenses: present, future, imperfect, aorist and perfect. The conjugations of participles in Mycenaean Linear B are relatively straight-forward, because we have many examples of these (for good reasons, as we shall eventualy see). We will, however, run into some difficulties with middle and passive verbs,

Step 2: The Reconstruction of Mycenaean grammar in Linear B: Nominal-Adjectival Declensions:

before we move onto the second step in the reconstruction of Mycenaean grammar, nominal-adjectival declensions. I shall thoroughly explain why I have (a) deliberately omitted the other active tenses & (b) why the reconstruction of verbs has proven to be a much greater success than I can ever reasonably expect from my future attempts at reconstructing nominal-adjectival declensions.

And that is still only scratching the surface!

Step 3: The Reconstruction of Mycenaean grammar in Linear B: Prepositions and the Cases they “Govern”:

Wait until we have to deal with prepositions (originally always adverbs) and the cases they “govern”, a misnomer if I ever heard one.



Table 2: Comparison of Spelling Conventions in Linear B and Alphabetical Greek – Click to ENLARGE:

Linear B syllabograms correspondance with ancient Greek

As you will quickly enough appreciate from studying Table 2, Comparison of Spelling Conventions in Linear B and Alphabetical Greek, the Linear B syllabary sometimes has a tough time representing exactly the Greek vowels and consonants they are supposed to be (exactly but not always!) equivalent to. This is particularly true for:
(a) the vowels E & O, which are both short and long (epsilon in the Table) and long (aytay in the Table in alphabetical Greek & o micron (short) & o mega (long) (See the 2 variants on each of these vowels in Greek in Table 2 above) can only be represented by 1 single vowel syllabogram for the same vowels, i.e. E & O, in Linear B. (See also the same Table).
(b) the situation seems considerably more complicated with the alphabetical Greek consonants, but the appearance of complexity is just that, merely apparent.
By studying the Table above (Table 2), it should dawn on you soon enough that the Linear B syllabograms in the KA, PA, RA, QE & TA series are forced to represent both alphabetical Greek variants on the vowels each of them contains, since once again, Linear B is unable to distinguish between a short vowel and a long vowel following the initial consonant in each one of these series.
(c) In the next post, we will provide ample illustrations of these principles of spelling conventions in Linear cross-correlated with their equivalent spelling conventions in (early) alphabetical Greek.

NOTE: When we eventually come around to analyzing the Syllabary of Arcado-Cypriot (the Greek dialect resembling the Mycenaean Greek dialect to a striking degree), we will discover that in fact the Syllabary for Arcado-Cypriot, known as Linear C, suffers from precisely the same deficiencies as Linear B, which in turn establishes and confirms the principle that no syllabary can substitute fully adequately for the Greek alphabet, although I must stress that both Linear B & Linear C are able to account for a great many (though certainly not all) of the peculiarities of the Greek alphabet. What is truly important to keep in mind is that a syllabary, in which all 5 vowels have already been accounted for, and in which the consonants (so to speak) are all immediately followed by any one of the vowels, is the very last step in evolution from hieroglyphic through to ideographic and logographic systems before the actual appearance of the (earliest form of) the ancient Greek alphabet. In other words, the evolution from hieroglyphic systems such as ancient Egyptian all the way right on through to the Greek alphabet, the culmination of 1,000s of years of evolution, looks something like this:

hieroglyphics - ideograms -› logograms -› syllabary -› alphabet

in which only the last two systems, the syllabaries, represented by Linear A, Linear B & Linear C, and the Greek alphabet, contain all of the vowels. This is of the greatest significance in the understanding of the geometric economy of both syllabaries and alphabets, explaining why syllabaries consist of far fewer characters (generally no more than about 80-90 syllabograms, not counting logogams and ideograms, which are merely remnants of the previous systems) than any previous stage(s)in the evolution of ancient writing systems, and why alphabets consist of even fewer characters (only 24 in the classical Attic Ancient alphabet, and never more than 30 in the earliest Greek alphabets).



Mycenaean Linear B Spelling Conventions: Obligatory Prelude to the Progressive Reconstruction of Mycenaean Greek Grammar – Click to ENLARGE:

Mycenaean Linear B Spelling Conventions Table 1
I must emphasize in no uncertain terms that it is practically impossible to master Mycenaean Greek grammar unless you have first mastered all the spelling conventions in Linear B, as these directly correspond, whether directly or elliptically (the latter case obtains far more often than the former) to those of ancient Homeric Greek. Not doing so is bound to entangle you in a hopeless mish-mash or maze of spelling discrepancies between Linear B and alphabetical Greek, most of which will seem utterly incomprehensible to you, and worse yet, make it extremely difficult, if not impossible, for you to translate with any degree of fidelity the contents of almost all Linear B tablets, with the possible exception of the very simplest. So if you are as serious about learning Mycenaean Greek grammar in Linear B as I am in progressively reconstructing it from the ground up (as I have already done with the present, future, imperfect, aorist and perfect tenses of active voice of both thematic and athematic verbs), then you really have no choice but to master these conventions, even if you must memorize them as rules. Students who are already familiar with the spelling conventions of alphabetic ancient Greek should have little trouble mastering the subtleties of the Tables of Correspondences in Spelling Conventions in Linear B and Alphabetical Greek, beginning with Table 1 above. Those of you who are learning Mycenaean Greek grammar from scratch will have little choice but to memorize the correspondences, and to at least recognize at first sight the corresponding spelling conventions in ancient alphabetic Greek. And for that you will need to learn the Greek alphabet, as illustrated here – Click to ENLARGE:

ancient Greek alphabet with approximate pronunciation

Please note that the pronunciation of the ancient Greek alphabet (here in its Attic version) is only approximate, since we do not really know how the ancients precisely pronounced Greek, although our estimation of their pronunciation is probably reasonably accurate. It is crucial to understand that the pronunciation of Mycenaean Greek (the earliest East Greek dialect) is beyond our grasp, although we do know that it evolved at a steady pace through the pronunciation of Arcado-Cypriot, which was also written in a syllabary (Linear C) with a nearly identical pronunciation, and onto the pronunciation conceivably used by the Aecheans or Danians, as found primarily in the Catalogue of Ships of Book II of the Iliad. This then evolved into the later Ionic pronunciation, culminating in the Attic dialect, which in turn  was to become the universal standard koine or common Greek for Greek pronunciation in the Hellenic era (ca. 400-200 BCE). To anyone familiar with the melody of Attic Greek, various academic notions of Homeric Greek pronunciation are bound to sound very peculiar indeed. Nevertheless, any of the 3 or 4 interpretive variants on the sound of Homeric are still easily mastered by people familiar with Attic Greek. The difficulty then lies in the question: just how far had the pronunciation of proto-Ionic Greek evolved from its Mycenaean source in around 1500-1200 BCE to the Homeric ca. 800 BCE or thereabouts. No-one really knows, nor will we ever know. But we can certainly take a stab at it. And I for one eventually intend to do just that.


Mycenaean Linear B: Level 3 Review – All New Vocabulary using the Homophone AI

A Homophone in Mycenaean Linear B consists of not just a consonant + 1 vowel, but of either:

a consonant + 2 vowels OR a consonant + 3 vowels

The simplest homophones in Linear B are what we call diphthongs in English. Diphthongs in English consist of 2 vowels pronounced as one sound.

For instance,

AI which is pronounced like “ai” in aisle.
EI which  is pronounced like “ei” in freight & weight
OI which is pronounced like “oy” in boy & as in the words: boil, coil, soil, toil

Of these, only the homophone AI exists in Linear B. In other words, there is no possible way to express the diphthongs “ei” and “oi” in English.

Here we have a small vocabulary of 7 Mycenaean Greek words beginning with the homophone AI – Click to ENLARGE:

Linear B Homophone AI

We shall eventually post a small cross-section of Linear B words later on this year, beginning with A as they will (tentatively) appear in the English-Mycenaean/Mycenaean-English Linear B Lexicon of some 5,000 to 7,500 words we intend to publish sometime in 2017 or 2018, either attested (A) on the tablets or derived (D), in order of precedence, highest to lowest, from (a) The Catalogue of Ships in Book II of the Iliad (b) Book II of the Iliad (d) The Iliad (e) early East Greek dialects such as Arcado-Cypriot (above all others!), early Ionic and Aeolic Greek & finally, and only as a last resort, from (e) Attic Greek. This way, our readers, students and researchers of Linear B will be able to get  a good idea of what our English-Mycenaean/Mycenaean-English Linear B Lexicon will probably look like when it is eventually published around 2018.



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