Minoan is an IE language?

X99Lynx at aol.com X99Lynx at aol.com
Sun Mar 11 20:59:38 UTC 2001

On Sat, 3 Mar 2001, David Sanchez wrote:

> Could some of the Linear A inscriptions be different languages?
> A mathematical simple proof can answe the question.
> If one wish to know if two text are written in teh same language
> only it is necessary count the number of symbols in each text and
> make a simple statistical chi-2 test to obtain the answer!!!
> ( All, all text in a concrete languages present a very similar phonemic
> ocurrences. The same is true for non phonemic inscriptions).

In a message dated 3/10/2001 12:06:08 AM, gmcdavid at winternet.com replies:
<<This assumes you can separate the texts into two or more groups before
performing the test.>>

Linear A has presented all kinds of problems, not the least of which is the
rarity of texts over twenty characters long.  But even beyond that is the
distinct possibility that pictographic symbols were used as needed in the
writing of texts.  The problem with pure pictograms (to distinguish it from
the difficult-to-define "logogram") is that pictograms are language-free and
phonetically independent.  A picture of a grape, e.g., might refer to grapes
or wine or grape-tax or a grape god without regard to what the writer or
reader calls any of those items.   This is rather functional across languages.

It should be obvious why a script developed to accommodate multiple languages
might avoid phonetic equivalencies and therefore that the comparative
statistical distribution of symbols may not correlate to differences in the
sounds of different languages.

On this basis, there appears to be no strong reason to dismiss the notion
that Linear A at some point was used by "Eteo-Cretans" to write in Semitic or
by Lykians-speakers on other occasions.  Recent finds in Anatolia and the
Near East seem to support the notion that Linear A may have been
multi-lingual and there's site (http://www.duke.edu/web/jyounger/LinearA) for
what they are up against just in terms of Linear B phonetic equivalencies,
which seems to support the no known language conclusion.

As far as equating Minoan with "Pelagasian" or similar presumed substrate
languages, it seems those substrates sometimes seem almost universal.  On the
Aegeanet list, e.g., it's been written that forms like the often cited -ss-
have been found common in Hyksos and Hurrian and distributed in an enormous
area.  The fact is that we don't even know what substrates are represented in
the substrates (e.g., could the apparent Greek elements in Minoan texts have
represented a Greek substrate in Minoan?) and no one has convincingly
recreated any of these postulated languages.

In all of this we have evidence that Crete from a very early time was
energetically multilingual, so that who is talking creates a problem in
proper conclusions.  This point about placenames particularly as evidence of
language, by Tom Palaima, appeared recently on the Aegeanet:

"[John Chadwick] points out the positive results but the need for caution in
assessing this kind of documentation.  Take Minneapolis as a name of a place
in the heartland of the good old USA.  It is a hybrid, half Indian, half
Greek.  That tells us something, but just what?  That the founders of
Minneapolis were Indians who had conquered Greeks?  That they were Greeks who
had conquered Indians?  They were Greeks and Indians who had peacefully
coalesced?  Or that they were northern Europeans who inherited a traditon of
culture and learning that made them us e a Greek word, even though they were
not Greek themselves? So in able to be able to analyze and draw proper
conclusions from this other category of information requires a very close
and correct look at the archaeological evidence."

Steve Long

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