Tag Archive: vowels



The ancient Greek alphabet with Linear B equivalents where they exist:

Greek alphabet

Here we find the table of the ancient Greek alphabet including the archaic letter # (digamma), pronounced “wau” as in “wow!” It is clear from this table that many ancient Greek letters have no exact Linear B equivalents. However, even these Greek letters can be replaced by Linear B syllabograms, which we shall introduce later.


Converting Linear B to ancient Greek, Rule 6a, TA TE TI TO TU:

Rule 6a t = t

Rule 6a is very simple. In the majority of Linear B words containing TA TE TI TO TU, these syllabograms must be converted to ta te ti to tu in (archaic) ancient Greek. However, by now it is becoming obvious that almost all or all of the previous rules we have already learned (1-5) also apply to almost all Greek words, and so we must always keep this in mind. In other words, multiple rules almost always apply to almost all Linear B words converted into Greek. The best way to confirm this is simply to check the Greek spelling in Tselentis of every single word you convert from Linear B into Greek. This requires perseverance and above all, practice, practice, practice, until it sinks in. From here on in, as we learn each additional rule, from 6b upwards, the number of multiple rules applying to almost every Linear B word converted into Greek will increase by 1 with each new rule. So far the number of multiple rules applying to each Linear B word converted into Greek = 1 2 3a 3b 4 5 6a for a maximum of 7 possible variations. With rule 6b, the maximum number of multiples will increase to 8.  Rule 6b follows in the next post.

Minoan Linear A scribal hands: vowels A E I O U


Minoan Linear A scribal hands: vowels A E I O U

vowels

 


The Gezer Agricultural Almanac 925 BCE, Comparison Between the Paleo-Hebrew Alphabet on it & Mycenaean Linear B: Click to ENLARGE

Gezer Calendar or Almanach 925 BCE original versus Linear B

The Gezer Agricultural Almanac or Calendar was discovered in 1908 by R.A.S. Macalister of the Palestine Exploration Fund during the excavation of the ancient Canaanite city of Gezer, 32 kilometres to the west of Jerusalem. Inscribed on limestone, it describes monthly or bi-monthly periods of agricultural activities such as harvesting, planting or tending to specific crops. Paleo-linguistic scholars are divided concerning the language it is written in, some believing it to be Phoenician, others Proto-Canaanite, otherwise known as Paleo-Hebrew. But since the tablet makes as much sense in Paleo-Hebrew as it does in Phoenician (even though the translations must perforce differ), this raises a serious question which cannot be safely ignored over the perceived theoretical or actual relationship between the Phoenician and the Paleo-Hebrew alphabets, which in turn raises the further question whether or not Paleo-Hebrew is itself directly derived from Phoenician. Although open to dispute, if this notion holds any water, then the Proto-Canaanite or Paleo-Hebrew alphabet may very well be directly derived from the Phoenician, in which case even the ancient classical Hebrew alphabet, spawned from Paleo-Hebrew, is also indirectly derived from the Phoenician alphabet, despite appearances to the contrary.

But the vein may run even deeper. Since many scholars believe that the Phoenician alphabet grew out of Egyptian hieroglyphics, this in turn implies that the ancient Paleo-Hebrew alphabet at least is indirectly descended from Egyptian hieroglyphics. But there is a further complication. Since Paleo-Hebrew post-dates the almost identical syllabaries, Minoan Linear A by 7 centuries & Mycenaean Linear B, the latter falling into obscurity with the destruction of the Mycenaean civilization ca. 1200 BCE, fully 200 years before the advent of Proto-Canaanite, what are we to make of that? This is all the more pressing an issue, given that no fewer than 12 of 61 or 20 % of Linear B syllabograms look strikingly like the Paleo-Hebrew letters on the Gezer Calendar? if in fact it is written in Hebrew.

For the sake of argument and sheer practicality, let us say it is. If that is the case, then we have to wonder whether or not both the Phoenician and Proto-Canaanite alphabets were actually at least partially derived from either Minoan Linear A or Mycenaean Linear B or both. Given this scenario, it is open to serious doubt whether or not the Phoenician and Paleo-Hebrew alphabets were exclusively derived from Egyptian hieroglyphics alone. This hypothesis cannot be safely ignored, given the striking similarities in particular characters in all 4 of these scripts, Minoan Linear A, Mycenaean Linear B, Phoenician and Paleo-Hebrew. However, there is a wrench in the works. If this hypothesis is correct, then why on earth did both the Phoenician and Proto-Canaanite alphabets lose the five vowels of their more ancient predecessors, Minoan Linear A, Mycenaean Linear B? So we are left with an irresolvable conundrum.

Nevertheless, this hypothesis does raise doubts over Egyptian hieroglyphics being the sole ancestor of the Phoenician and Paleo-Hebrew alphabets. Why so? ... because neither Minoan Linear A nor Mycenaean Linear B are the offshoots of Egyptian hieroglyphics. Back to our messy little paradox. The Gezer Almanac is held in the Archaeological Museum Artifacts Collection of the Istanbul Archaeological Museums (ISTANBUL ARKEOLOJI MÜZELERI), here:

Istanbul Archeological Museums Logo
In the next three posts, I shall:

1. post a table illustrating the comparison between the Phoenician and Paleo-Hebrew alphabets, which are almost identical;
2. draw a thorough comparison between the Paleo-Hebrew letters (consonants only) on the Gezer Almanac and the 12 syllabograms + one ideogram in Mycenaean Linear B which resemble them;
3. translate the Gezer Calendar into Mycenaean Linear B, to clearly demonstrate the extremely close parallel in the efficacy of both scripts for statistical inventories. If anything, this remarkable parallelism reinforces the possibility that the Phoenician and Paleo-Hebrew alphabets may at least partially be outcrops of Minoan Linear A (preceding them both by at least 700 years) & Mycenaean Linear B, disappearing two centuries prior to widespread appearance of the former at the outset of what is commonly and largely erroneously referred to as the Dark Ages of the early Iron Age (ca. 1100-780 BCE).

Richard

							

An Introductory Glossary of General Linguistics Terminology: Part C: R-Z: This glossary is ostensibly not comprehensive in any sense of the term, but it serves as a solid baseline introduction to linguistics terminology.

introductory glossary of general linguistics terminology Part C R-Z 

R

recursive definition: a definition that refers to itself and thus defines an infinite set of things. = circular definition. Recursive definitions are all too frequently found in research, and they are a dangerous trap.

rhotacism: 1. an exaggerated use of the sound of the letter R 2. inability to pronounce the letter R. + 3. a linguistic phenomenon in which a consonant changes into an R, as in Latin flos, where flos becomes florem in the accusative case.

root: a morpheme from a lexical class, typically verbal, nominal or adjectival, from which a lexical word is built (by adding affixes). Examples: -song- in -songster- + -sing- in -singer- + -singing- See also, stem

S

segment: any discrete unit or phone (sound), produced by the vocal apparatus, or a representation of such a unit. 

semanteme: an indivisible unit of meaning. See also: semantics, semiology 

semantic role: the underlying relationship that a participant has with the main verb in a clause. Also known as: semantic case, thematic role, theta role (generative grammar), and deep case (case grammar). Semantic role is the actual role a participant plays in some real or imagined situation, apart from the linguistic encoding of those situations.

Examples (active & passive):
If, in some real or imagined situation, someone named John purposely hits someone named Bill, then John is the agent and Bill is the patient of the hitting event. Therefore, the semantic role of Bill is the same (patient=object) in both of the following sentences: John hit Bill. Bill was hit by John. In both of the above sentences, John has the semantic role of agent.

semantics: 1. (linguistics) the science of the meaning of words. 2. the study of the relationship between words and their meanings. 3. the individual meanings of words, as opposed to the overall meaning of a passage. 4. the study of meaning in language; in generative grammar: how the meanings of words combine to form complex meanings of phrases and sentences. 

semi-consonant: see semi-vowel (English only)

semiology: the study of meaning.

semiotics: the study of signs and symbols, especially as means of language or communication.

semi-vowel: speech sound produced with a little more constriction of the airflow in the oral cavity than a vowel. Semi-vowels in English = l & r, but not in any other modern Occidental Indo-European language, in which l & r are pure consonants. In English only, semi-vowels or semi-consonants are the result of the great vowel shift in the Middle Ages, which softened the harder consonantal pronunciation of l & r typical of French, German, Greek, Italian, Spanish, Russian and many other Occidental languages into a much softer l & r.

simulfix: a change or replacement of vowels or consonants (usually vowels) which changes the meaning of a word. Examples (English): -eat- becomes -ate - in past tense + -tooth- becomes -teeth- when plural.
 
speech community: a group of people sharing characteristic patterns of vocabulary, grammar, and pronunciation. 

stative verb: a verb that expresses a state of affairs or being rather than action. Stative verbs differ from verbs of action not just in meaning but in formal structure and usage. Some verbs can be both stative, expressing a state of affairs, and active. Stative English verbs include: be, concern, have. The verb -become- is both stative and active. 

stem: a morphological constituent larger than the root and smaller than the word. Derivational affixes are inside of the stem, and inflectional affixes attach to the stem. Examples: root = run + stem = runner + word = runners & root = sing + stem = singer + word = singers

stress: a syllable having relative force or prominence.

substantive: (broadly) a word or word group functioning syntactically as a noun.

suffix: an affix that is attached to the end of a root or stem. Example (English): the past tense suffix -ed- attaches to the end of the verb stem -walk- to form the past tense -walked- Likewise, -ingest- to -ingested- & -transport- to -transported-.
  
syllabary: 1. table or list of syllabic letters or syllables 2. writing system where each character represents a complete syllable. Minoan Linear A, Mycenaean Linear B & Arcado-Cypriot are all syllabaries.

syllable: 1.a unit of spoken language that is next bigger than a speech sound and consists of one or more vowel sounds alone or of a syllabic consonant alone or of either with one or more consonant sounds preceding or following; 2. one or more letters (as syl, la, and ble) in a word (as syllable) usually set off from the rest of the word by a centered dot or a hyphen and roughly corresponding to the syllables of spoken language and treated as helps to pronunciation or as guides to placing hyphens at the end of a line.

synchronic: relating to the study of a language at only one point in its history. For instance, when a researcher limits his or her study to Mycenaean Linear B in the context of ancient Greek, the research is synchronic. Thus, synchronic linguistics is a key definition in the study of Minoan Linear A, Mycenaean Linear B, Arcado-Cypriot Linear C & Homeric Greek.

syncretism: the fusion of different inflexional forms. 

synecdoche: a figure of speech in which the one of the following (or its reverse) is expressed either as: (a) a part stands for a whole (b) an individual stands for a class OR (c) a material stands for a thing. Examples (English): -fifty head- referring to -50 head of cattle- & -cat- referring to -lion-.

synonomy: the relationship between words (or expressions) of sameness of meaning in some or all contexts. Synonyms: words (or expressions) that have the same meaning in some or all contexts. Examples: car = automobile + house = residence

syntagma: syntactic string of words that forms a part of some larger syntactic unit; a construction. 

syntax: the study of the rules governing the way words and morphemes are combined to form phrases and sentences. 

synthetic: pertaining to the joining of bound morphemes in a word. Compare analytic  

synthetic language: a language with a high morpheme-per-word ratio, as opposed to a low morpheme-per-word ratio in what is described as an isolating language. Agglutinative languages tend to exhibit synthetic properties. Indo-European languages, Greek + languages of the Romance family (Latin, Italian, French, Romanian, Spanish etc.), of the Germanic family (English, German, Swedish etc.), of the Slavic family (Russian, Ukrainian, Polish, Czech, Slovak,Serbo-Croatian etc.) and of the Indoaryan family (Sanskrit, Hindi, Persian etc.) are all synthetic languages.
 
T

time deixis: time diexis refers to time relative to a temporal reference point. Typically, this point is the moment of utterance. Examples (English)= Temporal adverbs: now/then/yesterday/today/tomorrow = adverbial function.

tmesis: (prosody) the insertion of one or more words between the components of a compound word. Example: How bright (+the) chit (+and) chat, inserted into chit-chat 

trope: the figurative use of an expression. Tropes include euphemisms, hyperbole (exaggeration), irony, litotes (understatement), metaphor, metonymy, onomatopoeia and various other devices.  

typology: the systematic classification of the types of something according to their common characteristics.

U

unbound root: a root which can occur by itself as a separate word. Another morpheme need not be affixed to it to make it a word. Examples: root (instead of – roots- -rooted- - rooting- etc.) & think (instead of -thinks- -thinking- -think-tank- etc.)

univocal: 1. having only one possible meaning. -or-  2. containing only one vowel 

Ursprache: proto-language, such as the proto-language from ancient Greek and Sanskrit presumably arose. Although we can never know the actual structure, vocabulary etc. of a proto-language, we can attempt to re-construct it retrogressively. 


V

vocable: a word or utterance, especially with reference to its form rather than its meaning

vowel: speech sound produced without a significant constriction of the airflow in the oral cavity. 

vowel modification: an addition or alteration to the basic way that a vowel is articulated. For instance, in most languages, including English, most vowels can be articulated as long or short, as in: -a- in -father- (short) in -ate- (long), -e- in -set- (short) -meet- (long) & -o- in -got- (short) -goat- (long)


Alan Turing & Michael Ventris: a Comparison of their Handwriting

I have always been deeply fascinated by Alan Turing and Michael Ventris alike, and for obvious reasons. Primarily, these are two geniuses cut from pretty much the same cloth. The one, Alan Turing, was a cryptologist who lead the team at Bletchley Park, England, during World War II in deciphering the German military’s Enigma Code, while the other, Michael Ventris, an architect by profession, and a decipherment expert by choice, deciphered Mycenaean Linear B in 1952.

Here are their portraits. Click on each one to ENLARGE:

Alan Turing portrait


Michael Ventris Linear B grid AMINISO

Having just recently watched the splendid movie, The Imitation Game, with great pleasure and with an eye to learning as much more as I possibly could about one of my two heroes (Alan Turing), I decided to embark on an odyssey to discover more about each of these geniuses of the twentieth century. I begin my investigation of their lives, their personalities and their astounding achievements with a comparison of their handwriting. I was really curious to see whether there was anything in common with their handwriting, however you wish to approach it. It takes a graphologist, a specialist in handwriting analysis, to make any real sense of such a comparison. But for my own reasons, which pertain to a better understanding of the personalities and accomplishments of both of my heroes, I would like to make a few observations of my own on their handwriting, however amateurish.      

Here we have samples of their handwriting, first that of Alan Turing: Click to ENLARGE 

Alan Turing handwriting sample

and secondly, that of Michael Ventris: Click to ENLARGE

Michael Ventris handwriting letter 18 june 1952

A few personal observations:

Scanning through the samples of their handwriting, I of course was looking for patterns, if any could be found. I think I found a few which may prove of some interest to many of you who visit our blog, whether you be an aficionado or expert in graphology, cryptography, the decipherment of ancient language scripts or perhaps someone just interested in writing, codes, computer languages or anything of a similar ilk.

Horizontal and Vertical Strokes:

1. The first thing I noticed were the similarities and differences between the way each of our geniuses wrote the word, “the”. While the manner in which each of them writes “the” is obviously different, what strikes me is that in both cases, the letter “t” is firmly stroked in both the vertical and horizontal planes. The second thing that struck me was that both Turing and Ventris wrote the horizontal t bar with an emphatic stroke that appears, at least to me, to betray the workings of a mathematically oriented mind. In effect, their “t”s are strikingly similar. But this observation in and of itself is not enough to point to anything remotely conclusive.
2. However, if we can observe the same decisive vertical () and horizontal (|) strokes in other letter formations, there might be something to this. Observation of Alan Turing’s lower-case “l” reveals that it is remarkably similar to that of Michael Ventris, although the Ventris “l” is always a single decisive stroke, with no loop in it, whereas Turing waffles between the single stroke and the open loop “l”. While their “f”s look very unalike at first glance, once again, that decisive horizontal stroke makes its appearance. Yet again, in the letter “b”, though Turing has it closed and Ventris has it open, the decisive stroke, in this case vertical, re-appears. So I am fairly convinced we have something here indicative of their mathematical genius. Only a graphologist would be in a position to forward this observation as a hypothesis.

Circular and Semi-Circular Strokes:

3. Observing now the manner in which each individual writes curves (i.e. circular and semi-circular strokes), upon examining their letter “s”, we discover that both of them write “s” almost exactly alike! The most striking thing about the way in which they both write “s” is that they flatten out the curves in such a manner that they appear almost linear. The one difference I noticed turns out to be Alan Turing’s more decisive slant in his “s”, but that suggests to me that, if anything, his penchant for mathematical thought processes is even more marked than that of Michael Ventris. It is merely a difference in emphasis rather than in kind. In other words, the difference is just a secondary trait, over-ridden by the primary characteristic of the semi-circle flattened almost to the linear. But once again, we have to ask ourselves, does this handwriting trait re-appear in other letters consisting in whole or in part of various avatars of the circle and semi-circle? 
4. Let’s see. Turning to the letter “b”, we notice right away that the almost complete circle in this letter appears strikingly similar in both writers. This observation serves to reinforce our previous one, where we drew attention to the remarkable similarities in the linear characteristics of the same letter. Their “c”s are almost identical. However, in the case of the vowel “a”, while the left side looks very similar, Turing always ends his “a”s with a curve, whereas the same letter as Ventris writes it terminates with another of those decisive strokes, this time vertically. So in this instance, it is Ventris who resorts to the more mathematical stoke, not Turing. Six of one, half a dozen of the other.

Overall Observations:

While the handwriting styles of Alan Turing and Michael Ventris do not look very much alike when we take a look, prime facie, at a complete sample overall, in toto, closer examination reveals a number of striking similarities, all of them geometrical, arising from the disposition of linear strokes (horizontal & vertical) and from circular and semi-circular strokes. In both cases, the handwriting of each of these individual geniuses gives a real sense of the mathematical and logical bent of their intellects. Or at least as it appears to me. Here the old saying of not being able to see the forest for the trees is reversed. If we merely look at the forest alone, i.e. the complete sample of the handwriting of either Alan Turing or Michael Ventris, without zeroing in on particular characteristics (the trees), we miss the salient traits which circumscribe their less obvious, but notable similarities. General observation of any phenomenon, let alone handwriting, without taking redundant, recurring specific prime characteristics squarely into account, inexorably leads to false conclusions.

Yet, for all of this, and in spite of the apparently convincing explicit observations I have made on the handwriting styles of Alan Turing and Michael Ventris, I am no graphologist, so it is probably best we take what I say with a grain of salt. Still, the exercise was worth my trouble. I am never one to pass up such a challenge.

Be it as it may, I sincerely believe that a full-fledged professional graphological analysis of the handwriting of our two genius decipherers is bound to reveal something revelatory of the very process of decipherment itself, as a mental and cognitive construct. I leave it to you, professional graphologists. Of course, this very premise can be extrapolated and generalized to any field of research, linguistic, technological or scientific, let alone the decipherment of military codes or of ancient language scripts. 

Many more fascinating posts on the lives and achievements of Alan Turing and Michael Ventris to come! 

Richard



UD: The Real Problems with Gretchen E. Leonhardt’s Commentary on the Rôle of the Syllabogram WE in Linear B as Representative of the final “s” or sigma stem in Mycenaean Greek.

With reference to our previous post, I now fully acknowledge her unique contributions to the use of the syllabogram WE in Mycenaean Greek as follows:

Many Mycenaean Linear B [words] ending with “WE” indicate that “WE” as the last syllable of such Mycenaean words is actually the consonant “S”. Unfortunately, at the time of that post, I entirely neglected to credit Ms. Leonhardt for her professed “discovery” that the syllabogram WE in the ultimate position in Mycenaean Linear B words can and often does exactly correspond with a final sigma or “s” stem. I hereby correct my oversight.

Click this banner to read it in its entirety:

Lexicon post 1

However, on her own Linear A, Linear B & Linear C blog, Ms. Leonhardt makes this telling observation on the rôle of the syllabogram WE in Linear B as being the exact equivalent of final “s” or sigma stem in Mycenaean Greek when it is in the ultimate position in a Mycenaean Greek word stem (relevant parts underlined):

POST  Konosos.net re WE ultimate
Now this I believe to be a significant contribution to our ongoing understanding of the phonetic values of syllabograms in Mycenaean Linear B, in this particular instance of the possible of the final sigma stem to the syllabogram WE in the ultimate.

But I am obliged to set the record straight, reserving full copyright to Ms. Leonhardt on this account, with the strict provisos I underline below.

I am in fact, not at all in accord with with Ms. Leonhardt’s theory in this regard. Quite to the contrary. I understand that if Ms. Leonhardt wishes to take this stance, she is perfectly entitled to do so. But I respectfully disagree. In her observations on the syllabogram WE in the ultimate as acting as the sigma stem, I find myself greatly at odds with her conclusion on several key counts. Moreover, she flatly contradicts herself when she asserts that,These suggest that the inclusion of the final consonant * without a vowel nucleus was either a later development or was a contemporaneous dialectical development.” (where “final consonant * ” refers specifically to the sigma stem).  Apart from that fact that she unnecessarily repeats the word “development” the statement is clearly misleading on several counts:

(a) Why has Ms. Leonhardt omitted a specific reference to the consonant “sigma” in this summary statement? It is always preferable to repeat the actual consonant under consideration than not to, just to be certain readers clearly understand what that consonant is. I fully realize that Ms. Leonhardt will flatly disagree with me on this count, but I would much rather repeat the direct reference to sigma as the consonant stem in question than needlessly repeat the word “development”. In other words, I would have phrased the statement as follows:

These Linear B pairs suggest that the inclusion of the final consonant sigma without a vowel nucleus was either a later or a contemporaneous dialectical development.

... except that even with these changes, the statement is still unclear and quite misleading.  
   
(b) If Ms. Leonhardt means to say that this phenomenon was a later development (in Mycenaean Greek), this presupposes that in early Mycenaean Greek the inclusion of the final consonant sigma without a vowel nucleus did not in fact exist, and that the only phonetic attribution that could have been assigned to the syllabogram WE in early Mycenaean was, quite simply, WE.

(c) I am quite at a loss with reference to her claim that, on the other hand, it (meaning the assignment of ultimate sigma as consonant stem) was – as she calls it - “a contemporaneous dialectical development”. Contemporaneous with what? - with the early Mycenaean Greek value of WE, in which case WE would have simultaneously meant WE (i.e. itself ) and ultimate sigma as consonant stem in early Mycenaean Greek – OR -

that the evolution of the early Mycenaean phonetic value of WE as itself and nothing more than that into WE + ultimate sigma as consonant stem was in fact contemporaneous with the appearance of the latter in later Mycenaean Greek. But this constitutes a flat-out contradiction in terms. Either WE always stood for WE + ultimate sigma as consonant stem from the very beginning of Mycenaean Greek in Linear B, or it never did. You cannot have it both ways. Languages do not fundamentally and arbitrarily change the principle(s) upon which word stems are formed in mid-stream.

Languages simply do not arbitrarily change any of their grammatical underpinnings in mid-stream, without becoming another, entirely new language. This is the case with ancient Greek versus modern Greek. Modern Greek is a different and entirely new linguistic phenomenon, in other words, a new language, simply because it has fundamentally re-written wholesale so many of the grammatical principles underlying it, abandoning lock-stock-and-barrel huge chunks of the linguistic structural foundation(s) of ancient Greek. For instance, there are no infinitives as such in modern Greek. That is one huge departure from ancient Greek.

I am certain that Ms. Leonhardt certainly surely did not mean to imply anything like this, but her statement is so unclear that it begs the issue. This is precisely why I always spell out any observation whatsoever I make on Linear B down to the very last detail – even it entails repetition – because I must be certain that I have clearly and unequivocally made myself clear to my readers, most of whom are not familiar with Linear B at all, let alone with the notion of a syllabary.

(d)... and that is precisely where Ms. Leonhardt’s all too brief and all too terse statement falls flat on its face. She unfailingly assumes that her readers are familiar – even intimately so – with the concept of a syllabary. But if the majority of her readers do not know what a syllabary is (and we can be quite sure they do not), then how on earth she expects them to be familiar with the very arcane Minoan Linear A, the complex syllabary, Mycenaean Linear B, or with the slightly less arcane Arcade-Cypriot Linear C simply stumps me. Such an assumption leaves her wide open to misunderstanding, misinterpretation, if not complete bafflement, on the part of her readers, the majority whom are not even necessarily versed in linguistics. In fact, even among linguistics who are profoundly versed in Minoan Linear & Mycenaean Linear B, there are are almost none who have any understanding of Cypro-Minoan Linear C, by far the easiest of the three syllabaries to master. Apart from the Egyptologist, Samuel Birch, who, with the assistant of other researchers, deciphered Arcado-Cypriot Linear C in the first place in the 1870s, very few linguists these days can even read Linear C, apart from Ms. Leonhardt and myself. Summa in veritate, who says they should? Certainly not I. Yes, even we linguists have plenty to learn from one another. I for one am still struggling to unravel the the subtle niceties of both Mycenaean Linear B and Arcado-Cypriot Linear C. I have a long long road ahead of me just trying to cope with these two syllabaries, let alone any other!

e) She then rounds up her observations on the syllabogram WE by noting (correctly) that “As for /we/ in the initial and medial positions, the tentative conclusion is that /we/ shifts to /e/” (My apologies for being unable to reproduce epsilon in the body of my post). The problem here is that /we/ does not shift at all, because it never did in the first place. WE is WE is WE. A rose is a rose is a rose.     

(f) All of my observations above are absolutely critical to a clear-cut understanding the actual rôle the syllabogram WE plays in the ultimate in Mycenaean Linear B as merely an indicator of the unseen presence of a final “s” or sigma stem. I say, “unseen” or invisible, because – and I repeat - WE in Mycenaean Greek is just that WE, i.e. digamma followed by the vowel epsilon or eita ... and nothing else. Since Linear B, being an open-ended vowel-based syllabary, forbids the presence of a consonant in the ultimate of any syllabogram, and more to the point, since no-one in any language ever pronounces the ultima word stem alone without the addition of a proper inflection (verb conjugation or nominal/adjectival declension), the whole argument implodes on itself.

So while Ms. Leonhardt most assuredly holds the copyright on her own professed theory that the syllabogram WE in the ultimate is the exact equivalent of final “s” or sigma indicating the stem of the word in question, for all of the reasons I have cited above, I simply cannot agree with her hypothesis.

My counter-hypothesis, which I shall presently post in great detail, is firmly and roundly based on my regressive-progressive extrapolation of the declension of all nouns in adjectives in the Athematic Third Declension of Mycenaean Linear B I have just posted on our blog. My extrapolated declension of such adjectives and nouns makes it perfectly clear that, even if the syllabograms WE, as well as – I must also add - WA in the ultimate, might both be indicators of the presence of a final “s” or sigma stem pronounced in spoken Mycenaean Greek, this does not mean that WA & WE actually contain within themselves this putatively pronounced final “s” or sigma, simply because they cannot. In fact, the syllabogram WE in the ultimate position in the dative/locative/instrumental singular presupposes the total absence of any final “s” or sigma stem, clearly marking instead the actual presence of an ultimate “i”, the tell-tale indicator of that (those) case(s). The ultimate “i” in the dative/locative/instrumental was always present in archaic Greek dialects, and subscripted into the iota subscript much later in ancient Greek, as in the Attic dialect.

In other words, my own hypothesis of the actual rôle of ultimate WA & WE in Mycenaean Linear B is at marked variance with that of Ms. Leonhardt on the same issue.

Keep posted.

Richard


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.

Richard


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).

Richard

          

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