Linear B is a
Linear B consists of around 87 syllabic signs and over 100
The application of Linear B appears to have been confined to administrative contexts. In all the thousands of clay tablets, a relatively small number of different "hands" have been detected: 45 in
Linear B has roughly 200 signs, divided into syllabic signs with
Initial consonants are in the leftmost column; vowels are in the top row beneath the title. The transcription of the syllable (it may not have been pronounced that way) is listed next to the sign along with Bennett's identifying number for the sign preceded by an asterisk (as was Ventris' and Chadwick's convention).[note 1] In cases where the transcription of the sign remains in doubt, Bennett's number serves to identify the sign. The signs on the tablets and sealings often show considerable variation from each other and from the representations below. Discovery of the reasons for the variation and possible semantic differences is a topic of ongoing debate in Mycenaean studies.
|Recognised signs of shape V, CV[note 2]|
In addition to the grid, the first edition of Documents contained a number of other signs termed "homophones" because they appeared at that time to resemble the sounds of other syllables and were transcribed accordingly: pa2 and pa3 were presumed homophonous to pa. Many of these were identified by the second edition and are shown in the "special values" below. The second edition relates: "It may be taken as axiomatic that there are no true homophones." The unconfirmed identifications of *34 and *35 as ai2 and ai3 were removed. pa2 became qa.
|Transcription||a2 (ha)||a3 (ai)||au||dwe||dwo||nwa||pte||pu2 (phu)||ra2 (rya)||ra3 (rai)||ro2 (ryo)||ta2 (tya)||twe||two|
Other values remain unknown, mainly because of scarcity of evidence concerning them.[note 3] Note that *34 and *35 are mirror images of each other but whether this graphic relationship indicates a phonetic one remains unconfirmed.
|Untranscribed and doubtful values|
In recent times,
The signs are approximations―each may be used to represent a variety of about 70 distinct combinations of sounds, within rules and conventions. The grid presents a system of
Possible exceptions, Chadwick goes on to explain, include the two
𐁌 (Twe), 𐁍 (two), 𐁃 (dwe), 𐁄 (dwo), 𐁅 (nwa) and the more doubtful 𐁘 (swi) and 𐁚 (swa) may be regarded as beginning with
The one sign Chadwick tags as the exception to the monosyllabic rule is 𐁇 (pte), but this he attributes to a development pte<*pje as in kleptei<*klep-jei.
Linear B does not consistently distinguish between
The j-series represents the semivowel equivalent to English "y", and is used word-initially and as an intervocalic glide after a syllable ending in i: -a-jo for -αῖος (-aios); a-te-mi-ti-jo for Ἀρτεμίτιος (Artemitios). The w-series similarly are semivowels used word-initially and intervocalically after a syllable ending in u: ku-wa-no for kuanos (κύανος, "blue").
The r-series includes both the /r/ and /l/
The q-series is used for monosyllables beginning with a class of consonants that disappeared from classical Greek by regular phonetic change: the
Some consonants in some contexts are not written (but are understood): word-initial s- and -w before a consonant, as in pe-ma for sperma (σπέρμα, "seed"); syllable-final -l, -m, -n, -r, -s; only word-final velars are notated by plene writing: a-to-ro-qo for anthrōquos (ἄνθρωπος, "human being, person"). In the first example, the pe-, which was primarily used as its value pe of grid class CV, is being used for sper-, not in that class. This was not an innovative or exceptional use, but followed the stated rules. Similarly, a, being primarily of grid class V, is being used as an- and could be used for al, am, ar, and so on.
Clusters of two or three consonants that do not follow the initial s- and -w rule or the double consonants: ξ (ks or x), ψ (ps) and qus (which later did not exist in classical Greek) were represented by the same number of signs of type CV as the cluster had consonants: ko-no-so for Knōsos,[note 8] ku-ru-so for khrusos (χρυσός, "gold"). The consonants were the same as in the cluster. The vowels so introduced have been called "empty", "null", "extra", "dead" and other terms by various writers as they represent no sound. The sign was not alphabetic: rules governed the selection of the vowel and therefore of the sign. The vowel had to be the same as the one of the first syllable following the cluster or if at the end of the word, preceding: ti-ri-po with ti- (instead of ta-, te- and so on) to match -ri-. A rare exception occurs in words formed from wa-na-ka, wanax (ϝάναξ, Homeric and Classical ἄναξ): wa-na-ka-te for wanaktei (dative), and wa-na-ka-te-ro for wanakteros, the adjectival form.
Linear B also uses a large number of
They are typically at the end of a line before a number and appear to signify the object the number applies to. Many of the values remain unknown or disputed. Some commodities such as cloth and containers are divided into many different categories represented by distinct ideograms. Livestock may be marked with respect to their sex.
The numerical references for the ideograms were originally devised by Ventris and Bennett, divided into functional groups corresponding to the breakdown of Bennett's index. These groups are numbered beginning 100, 110, 120 etc., with some provision of spare numbers for future additions; the official CIPEM numberings used today are based on Ventris and Bennett's numbering, with the provision that three or four letter codes (written in small capitals), based on Latin words that seemed relevant at the time, are used where the meanings are known and agreed. Unicode (as of version 5.0) encodes 123 Linear B ideograms.
The ideograms are symbols, not pictures of the objects in question—e.g. one tablet records a
|People and Animals|
|U+10083||105 Ca S-||EQU
|"Adjunct to ox" (1973)|
|U+10086||106b C- D-||OVISf||EWE|
|U+10087||106a C- D-||OVISm||RAM|
|𐂈||U+10088||107b C- Mc||CAPf||SHE-GOAT|
|Units of Measurement|
|By Dry Measure|
|𐂎||U+1008E||120 E- F-||GRA
|𐂐||U+10091||122 F- U-||OLIV
"some kind of grain"
|𐂑||U+10091||123 G- Un||AROM
|By liquid measure|
|By weight or in units|
|Counted in units|
|𐃤||U+100E4||205 K Tn||
|𐃍||U+100CD||241 Sd Se||CUR
|𐃎||U+100CE||242 Sf Sg||CAPS
|𐃏||U+100CF||243 Sa So||ROTA