Tag Archive: pronunciation

Linear B - KN Dd1171, article by Peter J. Keyse on academia.edu 

Click on this graphic to view Keyse’s article:

Linear B - KN Dd1171

Peter J. Keyse provides a thorough analysis of Linear B tablet  KN Dd 1171 in this fascinating article, which is well worth reading for anyone who is familiar with the Linear B syllabary, and certainly for anyone who is studying Linear B in depth. His article is not without errors. For instance, he deciphers PoRo as the name of someone in what he calls the PoMe “worker class” = a shepherd,

Linear B - KN Dd1171 PORO

but his interpretation of of PORO is clearly incorrect, as this word  has 3 distinct meanings, one of which is the Linear B word for “a foal”, as demonstrated by Chris Tselentis in his Linear B Lexicon, here:

Tselentis PORO

(The other 2 meanings of POME offered by Tselentis do not fit the context)

while POME is quite obviously Mycenaean Greek for “shepherd”:

Tselentis POME

Keyse also notes that Michael Ventris identified 3 major styles for incisions - those at Knossos, Pylos and Mycenae. In his own words: The vertical lines are quite faint scratches and not easily seen. The cuts in the clay are ‘under-cut’ i.e. pushed in at an angle . This preoccupation with Linear B scribal hands recurs in a great many articles on Linear B. Keyse also covers the what he ascertains to be the phonetic sounds of the numerics on this tablet. He also emphasizes the nature and particulars characteristics of the scribal hand on this tablet.

But it his conclusion which is most fascinating. He says,

In conclusion: 

What would Dd1171 sound like if read aloud? Po-Ro. 20 OVISm, 72 OVISf. Pa-I-To. Pa 8 OVISm. While it reasonable to say that Linear B was no more the spoken language of its day than ‘double-entry bookkeeping’ speak is for accounting clerks today it is also true to say that accountants do on occasions talk in journals and double-entry (and not only when at dinner parties and down the pub) and they certainly call over inventories to each other. It is clear that Linear B had a sound but perhaps it is unlikely that we can fairly reproduce it today. Considering the importance of numbers within the Linear B archive I find it surprising that no phonic system has been devised to represent them or if devised is not clearly documented in the literature. 

COMMENT by Richard Vallance Janke on the sound, i.e. the general pronunciation of Linear B. In actuality, we probably do have some idea of how Mycenaean Greek was pronounced. Its closest cousin was Arcado-Cypriot, represented both by its own syllabary, Linear C, and by its own archaic alphabet. The Mycenaean and Arcado-Cypriot dialects were much closer phonetically than even Ionic and Attic Greek. Phonological details of the archaic Arcado-Cypriot dialect appear in C.D. Buck, The Greek Dialects, © 1955, 1998. ISBN 1-85399-566-8, on pg. 144. He provides even more information on Arcado-Cypriot on pp. 7-8, and classifies it as an East Greek dialect, pg. 9. This is highly significant, because if Arcado-Cypriot is East Greek, ergo Mycenaean Greek also is. This places both of the archaic East-Greek dialects, Mycenaean and Arcado-Cypriot, firmly in the camp of all East Greek dialects, including Arcadian, Aeolic, Lesbian, Cyprian, Pamphylian, Thessalian, Boeotian, and the much later Ionic and Attic dialects. So it is probably fair to say that we may have at least an idea, even if somewhat inaccurate, of how Mycenaean Greek was pronounced. And this has huge implications for the further study of Mycenaean Greek phonology.

Arcado-Cypriot Linear C, the Elegant Culmination of Syllabaries from Minoan Linear A through to Mycenaean Linear B

The title of my submission to Vol. 13 (2017) Archaeology and Science (Belgrade) ISSN 1452-7448 is to be:

Arcado-Cypriot Linear C, the Elegant Culmination of Syllabaries from Minon Linear through to Mycenaean Linear B.


This article will feature an overview of each of the syllabaries in turn and the languages and dialects they represent: Minoan for Linear A, the earliest East Greek dialect Mycenaean for Linear B, and the slightly later dialect Arcado-Cypriot for Linear C. It will be quite some time before I will even be able to make my submission, as Vol. 12 (2016) is still in the pipeline, and authors articles have not been returned to them in their master format for proof-reading. Nor will they be returned to us before the end of 2017. But I like to hedge my bets, and anyway, the aforementioned topic for Vol. 13 (2017) is right down my alley, in view of the fact that I am expert in all three syllabaries (Linear A, B & C) and their respective languages.


NOTE it is absolutely de rigueur to read the table of the Arcado-Cypriot Linear C syllabary above, if you are to get any real grasp of its enormous significance, not only for the development of literary ancient Greek, which it pioneered, but retrospectively for a proper understanding of Mycenaean Linear B phonetics.

The article will explore in great depth the legacy of Minoan Linear A for Mycenaean Linear B and that of Mycenaean Linear B for Arcado-Cypriot Linear C in turn. Finally, we shall address the even more striking historical legacy of Arcado-Cypriot Linear C itself, as this last syllabary in the series of 3 syllabaries was to have a real impact on the historical Greek era (ca. 1100 BCE – 400 BCE).

What is most striking about the evolution of these three syllabaries is that, as we pass from one to the next, the syllabaries become more streamlined and more simplified. The Minoan Linear A syllabary is the most complex, with a very large number of syllabograms, many of which are undeciphered. While there are ideograms in Minoan Linear A, there are fewer of them in Linear A than in Mycenaean Linear B, which made extensive use of them for the purposes of accurate, minimalized inventory taking. On the other hand, by the time we get to Arcado-Cypriot Linear C, the picture changes drastically. Almost all of the syllabograms in Linear C look completely unlike their Minoan Linear A and Mycenaean Linear B forbears. They look different. But appearances can be and are, in the case of Arcado-Cypriot Linear C, very deceiving. While the syllabograms in Arcado-Cypriot Linear C look different from those in Mycenaean Linear B (leaving Minoan Linear A aside, because it is too archaic and too complex), almost all of them bear the same phonetic values as their Linear B counterparts. But what is most remarkable about Arcado-Cypriot Linear C is that it utterly abandoned ideograms, once and for all. There are several cogent reasons for this amazing development, which I shall address when I finally come around to writing this article, probably sometime in 2018.

I have already discussed this topic in recent posts on the Linear A, Linear B & Linear C keyboard templates, and so I would ask you to refer back to them for clarification on any issues which may elude you, and which I do not address in this post, for the simple reason that I have not even yet begun my article for Archaeology and Science. But, of one thing you can be certain, it is bound to be a ground-breaker, like all of my previous articles in this prestigious international archaeological journal.

KEY! The all-pervasive present participle active in Mycenaean Linear B & in all subsequent ancient Greek dialects:

Table of attributed (A) and derived (D) present participles actives in Mycenaean Linear B & in Attic Greek:


NOTE: It is crucial that you read all of the notes in this table in their entirety; otherwise, a sound grasp of the conjugation of the present participle, especially of the feminine singular, in Mycenaean Linear B will not make any sense whatsoever.

The present participle active was all-pervasive and extremely common in both Mycenaean Linear B & in all subsequent ancient Greek dialects. It was heavily used to express continuous action in the present tense as well as accompaniment, i.e. to indicate that someone or something was with someone or something else. Thus, in Mycenaean Linear B, the phrase eo qasireu could mean either “being an overlord” or “with an overlord”, just as in Attic Greek eon basileus could mean either “being king” or “with the king”. As I have pointed out in the table above, the word qasireu never meant “king” in Mycenaean Linear B, since king was always wanaka. The qasireu was a lower ranking supernumerary, something equivalent to an overlord or baron.

Another point which we simply must keep uppermost in mind is the fact that digamma (pronounced something like “wau” or “vau”, was extremely common in both Mycenaean Linear B and its kissing cousin dialect, Arcado-Cypriot Linear C, only falling permanently out of use in ancient Greek after the decline of these two dialects (Linear B, ca. 1600-1200 BCE & Linear C, ca. 1100-400 BCE). As is clearly attested by the table above, the feminine singular form of the present participle active, which was characterized by the all-pervasive presence of digamma in Mycenaean Linear B & in Arcado-Cypriot Linear C, had completely shed digamma even as early as the artificial amalgam, Homeric Epic Greek, even though digamma was still pronounced in the Iliad. 

Ancient Greek alphabet for the benefit of those of you who already know Linear B:

Here is  the ancient Greek  alphabet for the benefit of those of you who already know Linear B.


Although the table appears so tiny on the screen, if you RIGHT CLICK on it, and then input SAVE AS + a file name, it will save it on your computer full size, which is much larger than the tiny table you see here.

Please NOTE that same syllabograms in Linear B do not always have counterparts in ancient Greek. For instance, the syllabograms RA, RE, RI, RO & RU are sometimes spelled the same in ancient Greek, but since Linear B has no L series of syllabograms, the R series just as often corresponds to the amcien Greek spellings LA, LE, LI, LO & LU. For instance, the Linear B word rimene = limenei = to the harbour (dative singular). 

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)

A Lovely Ode to the Archangel Michael in Mycenaean Linear B: Click to ENLARGE

Ode to the Archangel Michael Akero Mikero in Mycenaean Linear B

NOTE that the English & French translations of my Ode to the Archangel Michael appear in the next post. Have you ever wondered what Mycenaean Linear B poetry would have sounded like? I know I have, many times over. I invite you to simply read aloud the Latinized version of the Ode in Mycenaean Linear B, even if you do not understand it. The point is to enjoy the music of the poetry, not to worry about your pronunciation or your accent. Nobody really knows how any ancient Greek dialect sounded anyway.

Here a few hints on how to bring out the music in the Mycenaean Greek.

1. Whenever you see the ending, oyo (genitive singular), pronounce it like “oiyo”, but in a single breath. It will sing that way.
2. If you put a little stress on the second-last syllable (penultimate) of words such as “peDIra ”“euZOno” “doSOmo” & “paraDEso”, this will also assist the melody of the poem.
3. Be sure to pronounce all “u”s & “eu”s (euzono) as you would “u” in French, if you can.
4. The disposition of the phrase “para paradeso para meso”  is very peculiar for Greek poetry... “meso ” should be on the same line as the previous words. But I did this deliberately, again for melodic reason. If you read this phrase like this, “PAra paraDEso PAra MEso”, it should sound very nice.
5. The word “mana” (“manna” in English) is obviously not Mycenaean, and not even Greek. It is Hebrew. But I could take liberties introducing this word into a Christian poem. So I did.
6. Recite “pamako atanatoyo” (medicine of the immortal...) like this “PAmako aTAnaTOyo”...

So long as you are consistent and satisfied with how it sounds to you, that is all you need. Yes, and do read it aloud. Otherwise, you will not benefit from hearing the music and the harmony of the Mycenaean Greek, which is after all the earliest of the ancient East Greek dialects, the great-great-grandfather of dialects such as the Ionic & Attic. Besides, you can always allow yourself the pleasure of admiring the pretty Linear B script, however weird it may look to you at first. Just give it a chance.

Being a poet of sorts myself, I decided to write this lyric ode, somewhat along the lines of Sappho (although I cannot even remotely claim a foothold on her astonishing lyrical powers!) It is by no means inconceivable that poetry may very well have been composed in the Mycenaean era, ca. 1450 – 1200 BCE. Simply because we do not have any evidence at all of such activity does not mean that the Minoan/Mycenaean scribes never wrote any poetry at all. The problem lies not with the non-survival of any Mycenaean poetry, but with the impossibility of conserving anything written on papyrus in a humid environment, such as that of Minoan Crete and of Mycenae.

It is indeed fortunate, fortuitous and a great asset to us today that so many Egyptian papyri have been preserved intact since a distant period equal to that of the Mycenaean civilization at its apogee. Call it what you like, the extremely arid sand of Egypt was far far more favourable to the survival of ancient papyrus than the moist climate of Mycenaean Crete and the Mycenaean mainland. That is the real reason why we have no extant literature from their great civilization. But given the astonishing levels their civilization reached in so many areas, in art, architecture, fresco painting, the textile industry, crafts of all kinds, international commerce and even science, it strikes me as passingly strange that no literature of any kind survives, apart from the thousands of Linear B inventory, accounting and ritual tablets, which can hardly be called literature in any sense of the word.

There are those who contend that in fact the Catalogue of Ships in Book II of the Iliad was derived from an earlier Mycenaean epic poem, no doubt in a much simpler and more earthy guise, stripped of much of the telling Homeric metaphorical language which is his hallmark even in the Catalogue of Ships. You can count me among these. For this reason, it strikes me as a distinct possibility that, if the Mycenaeans were able to tackle even a mini-epic poem, even if it were a much shorter, stripped down version of its descendant (if ever there was) of the Catalogue of Ships in the Iliad, they surely would have been up to the task of composing considerably shorter poems along the lines of this one you see posted here. Of course, they would never have written about angels and archangels. But that is beside the point. Simply by successfully composing this lyric poem, I believe I have demonstrated that such poetry was, at least conceivably, within the grasp of soi-disant Mycenaean bards. We shall never know, but it is well worth the speculation.

A comment on the phrase epi pedira euzona. As a preposition, epi should take the dative. But here I have used the accusative plural. My reason is this: in archaic Greek, prepositions were less common than adverbs, and in many cases, what we would recognize as a preposition in classical, say, Attic Greek, could very well have been an adverb in Mycenaean Greek. This is how it should be read in this context... pedira euzona is thus to be seen as accusative of aspect or aspectual accusative, reading literally something like this:

with his feet on them...    

I welcome comments on any aspect, as suggested above or otherwise, of my stab at composing a lyric poem in Mycenaean Linear B, Christian though it be.

English and French versions to follow in the next post.


Significant Phonetic Variations in the Pronunciation of the L & R + Vowel Series as Reflected in the Linear B & Linear C Syllabaries 

Comparison of the Mycenaean Linear B & the Arcado-Cypriot Linear C Syllabaries: Click to ENLARGE

Mycenaean Linear B & Arcado Cypriot Syllabaries compared

Where the phonetic values of the syllabogram series R + vowel series (the L series missing in Linear B) do sound somewhat different in the two syllabaries, Linear B & Linear C, there is in fact a very sound phonetic reason for this.

But first, let me tell you a little story. If there were such a thing as time-travel into the past or the future, modern Greeks from Athens travelling back to the city in 500 BCE would indeed be shocked at how Greek was pronounced then. Ancient Greeks thrust into the future would have the same reaction – utter disbelief. I myself put this hypothesis to test while I was in Greece in May 2012. I could read modern Greek fairly well even then. But when I tried to communicate with some folks I met in a restaurant with my own plausible version of the ancient Attic dialect (there are actually 3 or 4 possible versions), no-one could understand scarcely a word I spoke. And when I asked my colleagues to speak modern Greek to me, I was equally at a loss. But I could read the menu with no problem.          

Moving on then.

Although the Mycenaean Greeks were apparently unable to pronounce the letter “L”, nothing in fact could be more deceptive to the unwary Occidental ear. It all comes down to a matter of our own ingrained linguistic bias in our own social-cultural context. To us, the Arcadians & Cypriots indeed appear to have already made the distinction between L & R, given that their syllabary contains syllabograms consisting of both of these consonants (L & R) followed by vowels. But I stress, to us, we cannot be sure how they pronounced L & R, or to what extent they had by then become phonetically separate. Looking at the Linear C Syllabary, you can see the distinction right away. See above.

Now some of you may already be aware of the “fact” that to our ears in the West, the Japanese seem utterly incapable of pronouncing either L or R, but appear to be pronouncing something half-way between the two, which sounds like mumble-jumbo to our ears. Since the Linear B syllabary has no L + vowel series of syllabograms, the Mycenaeans too might have conflated L and R into one consonant in a manner similar to the way the Japanese pronounce it, at least in the early days of the Mycenaean dialect (possibly from 1450-1300 BCE). On the other hand, since the Arcadians and the Cypriots had apparently already made the distinction between L & R from as early as 1100 BCE, their immediate forebears, the Mycenaeans, might have already been well on the road to being able to pronounce L & R distinctly as consonants by 1300-1200 BCE, although they still may have been confusing them from time to time. However, they probably could see no point in adding an L + vowel series such as we see in Arcado-Cypriot Linear C, given that they had already used the Linear B syllabary for at least 2 and half centuries (ca 1450 – 1200 BCE). I am inclined to accept this hypothesis of the gradual emergence of L & R towards the end of Linear B's usage ca. 1200 BCE, in preference to a hypothetical Japanese-like pronunciation based on the assumption that the L+R concatenation is a merging of L & R as semi-consonants. Still, either scenario is perfectly plausible.

Allophone English speakers invariably find the pronunciation of L & R in almost all other Occidental languages (French, Spanish, Italian etc.) much too “hard” to their ears. This is because the letters L & R in English alone are alveolars, mere semi-consonants or semi-vowels, depending on your perspective as an English speaker, which is in turn conditioned by the dialect you speak. There are some English dialects in which the letter R is still pronounced as a trilled consonant, but for the most part, allophone English speakers pronounce both L and R very softly – at least to the ears of allophones from other European nations. Practically all other modern European languages trill the letter R, making it a consonant in their languages. But not English. This is due to the “Great Vowel Shift” which occurred in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries in English, whereby the earlier trilled R was abandoned in favour of the much softer semi-consonant or semi-consonant R we now use in English. For this reason and others besides, English alone of the Germanic languages is not guttural at all. At the same time, L, which had previously been pronounced just as in other European languages, became a semi-consonant.

You can put this to the test by pronouncing either letter aloud, paying close attention to where you touch the interior of your mouth with your tongue. Your tongue will instantly feel that the semi-consonant L scarcely makes any contact with any firm area of the mouth, but is pronounced almost the same way the vowels are – almost, but not quite. On the other hand, R, which is a true semi-vowel, at least in Canadian and American English, does not make any contact with any firm part of the mouth, in other words, it is pronounced just as the vowels are – no contact. So it really is a vowel. But English scholars and linguists in the sixteenth century could see no point in changing R to a vowel, any more than the Mycenaeans could be bothered with a new series of syllabograms beginning with L.      

But it matters little, if at all, whether or not we pronounce L & R as semi-consonants or semi-vowels, as in English, or as separate consonants as in the other European languages, since we all pronounce them as distinct letters. This ingrained linguistic bias greatly colours our perceptions of how others pronounce the “same” letters, if indeed they are the same at all. So it all boils down to just one thing: it all depends on your socio-culturally conditioned perspective as a speaker of our own language.

This state of affairs leaves me forced to draw the inescapable conclusion that to the Japanese it is we who have made a mess of things by separating the pronunciation of L & R, which sound identical to their ears, in other words as one consonant (which is neither a semi-consonant nor a semi-vowel). To assist you in putting this into perspective, consider the Scottish pronunciation of the letter R, which is also clearly a consonant, and is in fact the pronunciation of R before the Great Vowel Shift in Middle English. This is not to say that the Scottish pronounce their consonant R anywhere near the way the Japanese pronounce their single consonant, to our ears an apparent conflation of our two semi-consonants L & R.    

Again, the whole thing comes down to a matter of linguistic bias based on the socio-cultural conditions of two very distinct meta-cultures, Occidental and Oriental. In that context, the languages in their meta-classes (Occidental versus Oriental) are symbolic of two entirely different perspectives on the world. Need I say more?

In conclusion, it is extremely unwise to draw conclusions for phonetic distinctions between the socio-culturally “perceived” pronunciation of any consonant or any vowel whatsoever from one language to another, especially in those instances where one of the languages involved is Occidental and the other is Oriental. The key word here is “perceived”. It is all a question of auditory perception, and that is always conditioned by the linguistic norms of the society in which you live.

This still leaves us up in the air, so to speak. How can we be sure that the Mycenaean Greeks apparently could not pronounce their Ls “properly” (to be taken with a grain of salt). We cannot. Since we were not there at the time, our own linguistic, socio-cultural biases figure largely in our perception of what the so-called “proper” pronunciation was. If we mean by proper, proper to themselves, that is an altogether different matter. But what is proper to us was almost certainly not proper to them, of that we can pretty much rest assured. The same situation applies to every last ancient Greek dialect. What was proper pronunciation and orthography to the Dorian dialect most certainly was not for the Arcado-Cypriot dialect any more than it was for Attic Greek. To be perfectly blunt, we cannot ever be quite sure how anyone in ancient Greek pronounced their own dialect of the language, again because we weren't there.


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

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

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

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

NA PA TA * SE * LO * PO *

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Translation of Pylos Tablet: Ae 08 on the Internet vs. my own Translation: Click to Enlarge

A Pylos Ae 08
Comparing the translation of Pylos Tablet: Ae 08 currently available on the Internet with my own, we find some minor errors in it, and there are also a few points where it can be improved on, which is what I have done my level best to achieve in my own translation of the same tablet. My notes make it clear where the original Greek text in particular is found lacking. The translators have in fact translated the tablet into archaic (Homeric) Greek, which is very much to their credit. But there a few points for discussion. First of all, “honeka” for “heneka” is incorrect in the transliteration of the Linear B syllabograms into Latin script. Other than that, the transcription is fine. Where I am at odds is with the transliteration of the genitive, for which the Linear B syllabograms are either “ja” & “jo” or “ya” & “yo”. Personally, I prefer the latter, since the pronunciation much more closely approximates the archaic Greek “oio”, even though it is almost a certainty that the Mycenaeans very likely never pronounced “oio” either way. What do I mean by this? As the study of linguistics makes it perfectly clear, consonants have a tendency to mutate or morph over time. It is for this reason that I personally believe that the Mycenaean pronunciation probably fell somewhere between “ja” & “jo” as in the English “jam” & “joke” and “ya” & “yo”, being more like “ja” & “jo” in French, as in “jamais” & “joindre”. The French pronunciation of “j” is in fact intermediately situated about halfway between the English “j” and the Greek “i”.  Of course, all of this conjectural, but it does make some sense of the fact that some linguists prefer the English pronunciation to the Greek. To my mind, however, a pronunciation similar to the French “j”, falling somewhere between the two equally justifiable choices one can make neatly resolves the problem.  That is precisely why I lean towards the “y” option, as the French pronunciation more closely approximates the Greek “i” or “y” than the English pronunciation. But it is all a matter of taste, I suppose.


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