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date: 19 February 2019

Mycenaean Greek

Mycenaean is the name given to the form of the Greek language written in the Linear B syllabic script and found in the Mycenaean palaces (see pre-alphabetic scripts (Greece)). The nature of the script makes it impossible to give a full account of the dialect. In contrast to the Classical situation there appears to be considerable uniformity between all the sites so far known. It is clear that Mycenaean is a Greek dialect because of the presence of characteristic sound-changes, inflexions, and vocabulary. The genitive singular of o-stems in -οιο‎, of masculine a-stems in -ᾱο‎, the formation of substantives (including names) in -εύς‎, the feminine of the perfect participle of the verb in -υῖα‎, and the medio-passive participles in -μενος‎ are all typically Greek features. The vocabulary contains specifically Greek words (both Indo-European and non-Indo-European), such as ϝάναξ‎ (Homeric ἄναξ‎) ‘king’, ἔχει‎ ‘he has’, ἀμφιφορῆϝες‎ ‘amphoras’, ξένϝια‎ ‘for guests’.

A dialect 500 years earlier than Homer can be expected to show archaic forms later abandoned. For instance, ᾱ‎ is maintained, where Attic-Ionic substitutes η‎. The labio-velar stops of Proto-Indo-European appear to have survived: so ‘and’ is not τε‎ but kwe, ‘attendants’ not ἀμφίπολοι‎ but amphikwoloi, ‘halter’ not φορβειά‎ but phorgwēwiā. The vowel contractions of later Greek are absent, partly because the preservation of ϝ‎ and the aspirate prevented vowel contact (e.g. φάρϝεhα‎ ‘cloths’, χαλκῆϝες‎ ‘bronzesmiths’). A case ending in -φι‎ is used far more consistently than in Homer for the instrumental plural in some declensions (e.g. andrian(t)phi, ‘with statues’). The vocabulary contains a number of words later either unknown or in very restricted use (e.g. the word κτοίνᾱ‎ apparently meaning ‘estate’, later known only as a technical term in Rhodian inscriptions, or its epithet κτιμένᾱ‎, which recurs in the Homeric ἐυκτίμενος‎). The dialect cannot be identified with any of the first millennium dialects, but appears to be most closely related to Classical Arcadian and Cypriot. It shares with them and with Attic-Ionic the shift of final -τι‎ to -σι‎, and this distinguishes it from the whole of the West Greek group. Since these dialects are in some respects more archaic than Mycenaean, it follows that their ancestor must already have been in existence in Mycenaean times.


F. Aura Jorro, Diccionario micénico (1985–1993).Find this resource:

A. Bartonĕk, Handbuch des mykenischen Griechisch (2003).Find this resource:

Y. Duhoux and A. M. Davies, A Companion to Linear B (2008–2014).Find this resource:

I. Hajnal, Mykenisches und homerisches Lexikon: Übereinstimmungen, Divergenzen und der Versuch einer Typologie (1998).Find this resource:

L. Palmer, The Interpretation of Mycenaean Greek Texts (1969).Find this resource:

M. Ventris and J. Chadwick, Documents in Mycenaean Greek, 2nd edn. (1973).Find this resource:

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