Linear A —- Can You Speak Minoan Yet?
There were four syllabic scripts used on Crete in the Bronze Age (before 1200 BCE approximately). In the subsequent Iron Age, the Phoenician and Greek alphabets were employed, and the syllabaries were discarded (though in Cyprus a syllabary based on the Cretan script, specifically Linear A, continued to flourish). We can speak of a northern pictophonographic script (KnP, particularly connected with the palaces of Knossos and Mallia) and a southern pictophonographic script (PhP, connected with the Phaistos palace). When the Linear A syllabary was established (as a stylized simplified form of the pictophonographic system) it became universal over the island, and the largest corpus of administrative tablets (that have so far been discovered) comes from Hagia Triada, near Phaistos. It must also be remembered that the three main systems (northern PG, LA, LB) are found beyond Crete, and it is not inconceivable that the original Aegean script was invented on the mainland (Greece) or on another island. An example of the northern pictophonographic writing was found in Kea/Keos, an island east of Athens; it is an impression on a hearth rim; and also Linear A inscriptions. This fact provides support for my hypothesis that this system was constructed acrophonically on the basis of a Hellenic dialect (examples: A axinê ‘ax’, O ops ‘eye’, TO toxon ‘bow’; NI nikuleon ‘fig’, a Cretan word). Two tables are offered here: the first (Cretan Syllabograms) shows my attempt to match up the signs of the three northern systems (PG, LA , LB, as P, A, B), on the principle that the pictorial signs become stylized in the Linear A inventory, and even more so in Linear B; the second table (Cretan Pictosyllabograms) presents the signs of the northern pictophonographic syllabograms. A paradox is that although the Linear A script evolved out of the northern picto-syllabary, the largest collection of Linear A administrative tablets comes from Hagia Triada, adjacent to Phaistos; while Knossos and Mallia have yielded only a few fragmentary clay tablets. However, at Phaistos there are tablets exhibiting the southern script (Phaistos syllabary) as well as the northern Linear A script. Notice that I reject the defeatist nonsense that there were not many Consonant+O signs in Linear A; supposedly lacking were so, do, dwo, mo, qo, yo, wo, no, two, ryo, zo, though o, po, to, ko, ro were grudgingly accepted onto the table; but it is true that they were not used frequently, and this says something about the language or languages in the Linear A texts. This is (1) a revised and expanded version of my recent release entitled “Table of Cretan pictoglyphs”, providing a description or drawing of the characters, and an attempt to match them with their counterparts in the Linear B inventory; (2) an additional reference table giving my suggestions for each syllable, and also those of Faure, Carratelli, and Younger. Some of my suggestions will be erroneous. The method involves trial and error in matching up the forms taken on by the stylized versions of the pictographs in the scripts of Crete and Cyprus. My previous experience is in the scripts of Canaan, tracing the pictographs of the syllabary and the proto-alphabet through their various stages of ‘deformation’. But there I am able to test my hypotheses on inscriptions in a *known* Semitic language (Canaanite, Phoenician, Hebrew). With Cretan texts (pictosyllabic and Linear A) we are still not sure about the language or languages we are playing with. And if the style of encoding PG and LA inscriptions is as shorthand-ish as in the LB Mycenean texts, then we are in deep trouble. On the other hand, it may be that even if the Linear B characters are ultimately derived from the pictographs, nevertheless the Myceneans ignored their original sound values and arbitrarily assigned new syllabic values to the characters. If this proves to be the truth, then my two tables will need to be interpreted in that light. Thus, the door-sign is certainly YA in Linear B, but not in its original pictographic usage. This would mean that our hopes of determining the phonetic values of most or all of the pictosyllabograms would be well and truly dashed. Notice that I have added (cat) to the list of pictosyllabograms, because the cat is certainly depicted on the seals, but it is allegedly only decorative or heraldic. If it is in fact MA, its few occurrences do not equate with the 2.9% for Linear A MA (apparently a cat). So, like the KU-bird, the MA-cat may be an illusionary chimera, fashioned out of the fruit (malon/melon/malum) or the pot with two lugs/ears. ((condensed))
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- July 6, 2010 / 12:23 am