Tag Archive: accusative



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:

minoan-linear-a-prefixes-roots-stems-suffixes

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:

cover-as-2015


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.

CONCLUSIONS:
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.



POST 800: An Introductory Glossary of General Linguistics Terminology: Part B: H-P

introductory glossary of general linguistics terminology Part  H-P

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

This is our 800th. Post in less than 2 years. 

H

habitual aspect: the imperfective aspect that expresses the occurrence of an event or state as characteristic of a period of time prior to the tense aspect of the same verb. Example:

Tense aspect: she lived here for some time (simple past = aorist in Greek) or she was living here for some time (imperfect aspect).

Prior to the previous aspect expressed above:
She used to live here (English). Languages such as ancient Greek & Latin cannot directly express the habitual aspect, which they must subsume under the imperfect.

heteronym: a word having the same spelling as another, but a different pronunciation and meaning. Examples: bow (weapon) & bow (to a King or Queen) + wind (atmospheric) & wind (verb to wind up). See also, homograph & homonym

homograph: a word that has the same spelling as another. Homographs differ from each other in meaning, origin and sometimes pronunciation. Example: bow (of a ship) + bow (to bend down) + bow (in archery, with a different pronunciation from the first two. See also, homonym 

homonym: A word that sounds or is spelled the same as another word but has a different meaning. Examples: down, light, mean, strike and also  bear (concrete, animal) & bear (abstract, suffering) + dive (plunge) & dive (cheap living quarters) + find (verb) & find (noun, discovery)

homophone: 1. A word which is pronounced the same as another word but differs in spelling and meaning, for example: carat, caret, carrot and karat. 

homophonous: having the same pronunciation. "cot" and "caught" are in some American accents, as are "there" and "they're".

hyperthesis aka long-distance metathesis = the metamorphosis of orthography from the source language, being older, and the target language, being more recent. Examples:
Latin miraculum > Spanish milagro  > English miracle
Latin periculum > Spanish peligro  > English, peril
Latin crocodilus > Italian cocodrillo > English crocodile
See also, metathesis 

hyponym: a hyponym is a word or phrase whose semantic range is included within that of another (generic or umbrella) word, and which usually is more specific than the umbrella word. Examples: dog, hound, fox, wolf under their umbrella, canine + scarlet, vermilion, carmine & crimson are all hyponyms of red (their generic hypernym)

hypothetical mood: an epistemic mood that signals that the speaker evaluates a proposition as counterfactual, although possible. The subjunctive is a hypothetical mood in English (rare), French, German, Italian, Latin & Spanish, among many other languages. Greek has two hypothetical moods, the optative and the subjunctive. Examples: I should (would) like to meet her, she would like to meet you, they would like to live in Ottawa + If I were you, I should (would) not do that.   

I

ideogram: a symbol which represents the idea of something without indicating the sequence of sounds used to pronounce it. Examples include numerals, many Chinese characters, traffic signs, or in alphabetic languages or syllabaries, (a) graphic symbols such as & and @ + single alphabetic letter or (b) concrete symbols, either of which symbolize an entire phrase (nominal or verbal). Examples: (a) (alphabetic) H = hospital, P = parking & (b) a red illuminated circle = stop & a green illuminated circle = go (verbal) & a red cross = (international) red cross (nominal). In Mycenaean Greek, the graphic symbol is a syllabogram. Thus, O = onato (a lease field), KI = kitimena (a plot of land), KO = Konoso (Knossos), PA = Paito (Phaistos) & ZE = zeuko, zeukesi (nominative sing. & dative plural) (a pair of, a team of). These syllabograms, when single or used alone, are called supersyllabograms in Mycenaean Linear B. As such, they stand in for or symbolize complete words or phrases in Linear B, as illustrated above.

ideograph = ideogram.

illative case: the case that expresses motion into or direction toward the referent of the noun it marks. Examples: Aminisode, Konosode (to, towards Amnisos, Knossos) in Mycenaean Greek.

indefinite pronoun: a pronoun that belongs to a class whose members indicate indefinite reference. Examples: a, anybody, no-one, someone in English. The indefinite pronoun -a- is inexistant in ancient Greek and Latin.   

inflection: in grammar, inflection or inflexion is the modification or marking of a word (or more precisely lexeme) to reflect grammatical or relational information, such as gender, tense, number or person. The concept of a "word" in an inflected language only (such as German, Greek, Latin & Russian) is designated as being independent of its various inflections, but bound to them, is called a lexeme. The form of a word considered to have no or minimal inflection is called a lemma. An organized set of inflections or inflected forms of a given lexeme is called an inflectional paradigm. Examples: carmen = English, song (lexeme, nominative), carminis (bound inflection, genitive singular) & carminibis (bound inflection, dative plural)in Latin.

intension. See, connotation 

intonation: the variation of pitch when speaking. Intonation and stress are two main elements of linguistic prosody. Many languages use pitch syntactically, for instance to convey surprise and irony or to change a statement to a question. Such languages are called intonation languages. English and French are well-known examples. In rising intonation the pitch of the voice increases (over time) & in modern (not ancient) Greek, rising = acute accent); in falling intonation the pitch decreases with time (Greek = grave accent). In dipping intonation, the pitch falls and then rises & in peaking intonation, the voice rises and then falls (Greek = circumflex). 

K

Koine: the "common" Greek language, directly derived from the dominant Attic dialect of the fourth century BCE, that developed and flourished between 300 BC and AD 300 (the time of the Roman Empire), and from which Modern Greek descended. It was based on the Attic and Ionian dialects of Ancient Greek.

L

language associate: a person who helps you learn a language, provides you with data or information about a language or helps you with linguistic research. For instance, Richard Vallance Janke at this blog, Linear B, Knossos, Mycenae is the language associate of Rita Roberts. Synonym: teacher

lemma: 1. canonical (i.e. uninflected) form of a term, particularly in the context of highly inflected languages. 2. lexeme: all the inflected forms of a term.

lenitive language: a language in which lenis consonants are predominant. English is a lenitive language & the only lenitive language among the major Occidental languages: French, German, Italian, Romanian, Spanish etc. See also, semi-consonant, semi-vowel

lenis consonant: a “weak” consonant produced by the lack of tension in the vocal apparatus. Weak consonants tend to be short, weakly voiced or voiceless, aspirated, low, and the following vowel tends to be lengthened.  Examples: l, m, r (especially l & r) in English. See also, semi-consonant, semi-vowel  

lexeme: The abstract unit of vocabulary, roughly corresponding to the set of words that are different forms of the same lemma. 
lexical: 1. concerning the vocabulary, words or morphemes of a language 2. concerning lexicography or a lexicon or dictionary + lexicology: specialty in linguistics dealing with the study of the lexicon 

lexical word: a morpheme/word which has a dictionary meaning. Examples: cat, green, house, sell, take  

lexicon: 1. A dictionary that includes or focuses on lexemes. 2. A dictionary of Classical Greek, Hebrew, Latin, or Aramaic. 3. The vocabulary used by or known to an individual. (Also called lexical knowledge)

lexis: 1. The total set of words in a language. 2. The vocabulary used by a writer

lingual: 1.(phonetics) a sound articulated with the tongue 2. related to language or linguistics.

literal translation: a translation that follows closely the form of the source language. Also known as: word-for-word translation.

litotes: the use of a negated antonym to make an understatement or to emphatically affirm the positive. Examples: She is not unqualified for: she is somewhat qualified + It was not a great victory : It was a Pyrrhic victory -or- It was a partial victory. 

locative case: the case that expresses location at the referent of the noun it marks.  In ancient Greek, it is indistinguishable from the dative.

M

metathesis: from Greek "putting in a different order" = Latin transpositio is the re-arranging of sounds or syllables in a word, or of words in a sentence. Most commonly it refers to the switching of two or more contiguous sounds, known as (1) adjacent metathesis or (2) local metathesis. Examples = foliage > foilage + cavalry > calvary

mora: term used in traditional metrics to refer to a minimal unit of metrical time equivalent to a short syllable + also used in recent phonological theories of prosodic features. Long vowels are often considered to be bimoraic (double the length of a mora), while short ones are monomoraic. This would explain the difference in behaviour with respect to stress-rules between these two classes of vowels in quantity-(in)sensitive (ancient Greek) versus quality-sensitive (English) languages. 

moraic language: a language exhibiting a syllable weight distinction typically also has a vowel length distinction, and vice versa. The term "mora-timing" does not mean "moraic". In a mora-timing language, each mora takes approximately the same time to pronounce- thus a heavy (2-mora) syllable will take twice as long as a light one (See, mora above). This phenomenon is also called isochrony, and is mainly a phonetic one. Moraic is a phonological phenomenon, in which a language is sensitive to the heavy/light distinction, regardless of timing (especially in stress or accent). So a language could be moraic but not mora-timing. The two ideas are quite different. Examples of moraic Languages: English, German & modern Greek. Examples of mora-timing languages: Sanskrit, ancient Greek & Latin.

morpheme: the traditional approximate definition: the minimal unit carrying meaning. More precise but less informative definition: the minimal unit relevant to morphological and syntactic analysis. Examples: the English word -trees- has two morphemes = tree + s & the Greek word -apudosis- (delivery, attribution) has four.

N

nonce word: a word invented for the occasion. Synonym: neologism.

O

onomasticon: a book, list, or vocabulary of names, especially of people. One could say, "I looked  up the origin of her name" in an onomasticon.

onomastics: the branch of lexicology devoted to the study of names and naming.

onomatology: the study of the origins of names; onomastics.

P

patronymic: name acquired from one's father's first name. Some cultures use a patronymic where other cultures use a surname or family name; other cultures {like Russia} use both a patronymic and a surname.

philology: the humanistic study of historical linguistics. 

phonetics: the study of the characteristics of human sound-making, especially of those sounds used in speech.

phonology: the study of the sound systems of languages, and of the general or universal properties displayed by these systems.

polysemy: the concept that words, signs and symbols may have multiple meanings + association of a lexical item with different but related meanings. Examples: bright = brilliant, intelligent, sunny 

polysynthetic: said of a language, characterized by a prevalence of relatively long words containing a large number of morphemes. Typically, the morphemes are bound (i.e., they cannot stand alone as independent words). Examples of polysynthetic languages: German & Greek.  

pragmatics: the study of the use of language in context. Research into Mycenaean Linear B & Arcado-Cypriot Linear C relies heavily on pragmatics on this blog. Any attempt to decipher or translate Mycenaean Linear B (tablets), without taking context into consideration on an obligatory basis, is bound to fail. 

prefix: an affix which precedes the element it is attached to. Examples: -in- in -indiscreet & -un- in -unlikely-

progressive spelling”, as promoted by Roger Woodard et al. This practice inserts consonants where none exists in Linear B to agree with Greek words (e.g. pe-ma to (sperma) “seed”), on the premise that the “borrowed” phonetic system was inadequate to represent the language. Progressive spelling is characteristic of syllabaries such as Linear B & Linear C.


Richard


REVISED: Archaic Declensions in “eu” in Mycenaean Greek = “eus” in Homeric Greek: Click to ENLARGE

Mycenaean Linear B Third Declension in EU

One of the most archaic declensions in ancient Greek is the Athematic Third Declension in which nouns in the nominative end in “eus” in Homeric Greek or “eu” in Mycenaean Greek, as illustrated by the complete declension table above of the noun “qasireu” = “viceroy” in Mycenaean Linear B, and of “basileus” = “(lesser) king” in Homeric Greek. The process whereby I can reasonably reconstruct any verb conjugation or any nominal or adjectival declension from the Homeric Greek of The Catalogue of Ships in Book II of the Iliad or, failing that, from Book II of the Iliad, I call regressive extrapolation. In the table of the athematic third declension above for “qasireu” = “viceroy” in Mycenaean Linear B, very few forms are already attested on the tablets (mainly the nominative singular), but all of the cases, singular, dual and plural, can be reconstructed with almost complete accuracy by means of regressive extrapolation. It is critical in this regard to understand that, if at all possible, the forms derived in this manner must reflect their most archaic equivalents in Homer, which is why I always resort to The Catalogue of Ships in Book II, and also why I have taken it upon myself to translate The Catalogue in its entirety (although I still have 4 more sequential sections to translate).

Once I have reconstructed any conjugation or declension, and the table is complete, as seen above, the process of reconstruction in Mycenaean Linear B forward through all the cases (nominative, genitive, dative/locative/instrumental & accusative) and all three numbers (singular, dual & plural) I call progressive extrapolation. Starting this month, and working through the spring of 2015, I shall attempt to reconstruct as many declensions of nouns and adjectives as I am convinced can stand the test of regressive-progressive extrapolation, without resulting in absurdities, i.e. without falling into the trap of reductio ab adsurdum. Unfortunately, such reconstruction can be and sometimes is open to precisely that pitfall. So where it is impossible to reconstruct any verbal conjugation or nominal/ adjectival declension without unsubstantiated Homeric or Arcado-Cypriot forms, I shall not do so.

Last year (2014), we successfully reconstructed verb tables for the present, future, imperfect, aorist & perfect tenses of the active voice of both thematic and athematic verbs in Mycenaean Linear B, of which the complete tables can be consulted in the CATEGORY, PROGESSIVE LINEAR B, of this blog.

In the next post, I shall provide a reasonably comprehensive list of nouns and adjectives in the Athematic Third Declension, ending in “eu” in Mycenaean Greek.

The likelihood that the Mycenaean Linear B syllabogram for WE is indicative of the nominative plural of certain Mycenaean nouns and adjectives of the athematic third declension was first brought to my attention by Ms. Gretchen Leonhardt, whose site is: Click on this Banner to visit -

Konosos.net
By extapolation, the same principle can be applied to the Mycenaean Linear B syllabogram for WA, which is reperesentative of the accusative plural of certain nouns and adjectives of the athematic third declension, among others. 

Richard    


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

Greekpolytonics
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.

Best,

Richard


Prepositions in Mycenaean Linear B & Homeric Greek & the Cases they Govern (Click to ENLARGE):

Mycenaean Linear B Prepositions and their Classical Equivalents
The use of prepositions and the cases they govern in Mycenaean Linear B correspond exactly to the use of the same prepositions in Homeric and Classical Greek. Just a few minor notes: first of all, Linear B uses the more ancient form “apu”, which is (not surprisingly) Arcado-Cypriot & hence also found in Linear C for “apo”, and again, uses “eni” (often used by Homer in Book II of the Iliad, in which we find the most archaic Greek) for “en”. Other than that, everything is pretty much straightforward.  Beginning with the next post, I shall proceed to illustrate the uses of the prepositions with examples of sentences in both Linear B and in (Homeric) Greek, according to the case(s) they govern, beginning with prepositions governing only 1 case, either genitive or dative or accusative, moving on to prepositions which govern 2 cases, and finally to those which govern 3 cases. Finally, while almost all the prepositions in Mycenaean Greek are either Attested [A] or Derived [D], we can pretty much assume their authenticity. However, I cannot guarantee the same for the prepositions "eke" or "eise", as they are entirely conjectural [C], and quite possibly unreliable.

Richard
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