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Linear B

Subject Linguistics

DOI: 10.1111/b.9780631214816.1999.x


One of two linear scripts used in ancient Crete which were first discovered at the beginning of the twentieth century. While linear A is still undeciphered, Linear B was demonstrated by Michael ventris in 1952 to represent a Greek dialect used between 1400 and 1200 bce . Hence, Linear B inscriptions represent the oldest documented form of Greek, now generally called ‘Minoan Greek’. Linear B shares many of its signs with the older Linear A. It has been suggested, therefore, that it came into existence when Minoan scribes adapted Linear A to a new language, Greek. Most Linear B inscriptions have been found in the deposits of Knossos, but the script was also used on the Greek mainland. The texts are primarily of an administrative nature, such as lists of goods, statements of delivery or other commercial transactions ( figure 11 ). The decipherment of Linear B was sensational because it produced evidence of a pre-alphabetic literate culture in Greece. Intellectually it was a great accomplishment, as it was achieved without a bilinguis and in the absence of collateral archaeological evidence that could have clarified the language of the inscriptions. Linear B is a syllabic writing system consisting of 90 syllable signs of the form CV or V and an indeterminate number of pictorial signs ( table 10 ). It cannot represent C clusters, which makes it a rather deficient system for Greek. ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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