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Writing systems. Linguistics 484. Thomas Young. Crucial contribution: recognition of alphabetic elements in the hieroglyphic script. Crucial non-contribution: stopped short of following through and recognizing native words. Champollion: conclusion.

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writing systems
Writing systems
  • Linguistics 484
thomas young
Thomas Young
  • Crucial contribution: recognition of alphabetic elements in the hieroglyphic script.
  • Crucial non-contribution: stopped short of following through and recognizing native words.
champollion conclusion
Champollion: conclusion
  • Some words e.g. ra = Sun are represented as semagrams.
  • Most of the writing is phonetic.
  • Some long words use the rebus idea.
  • The language is definitely Coptic.
If there are few vowels, hard to read, motivates use of determinatives
  • Direction of writing not fixed, animals always face the front of the sentence.
  • Horapollo’s disastrous error in thinking hieroglyphics were semagrams
how languages change
How languages change
  • The same text four times over, in English over a period of about 1200 years

The Lord's Prayer in Old English

Matthew 6:9-13

Fæder ure þu þe eart on heofonumSi þin nama gehalgodto becume þin ricegewurþe ðin willaon eorðan swa swa on heofonum.urne gedæghwamlican hlaf syle us todægand forgyf us ure gyltasswa swa we forgyfað urum gyltendumand ne gelæd þu us on costnungeac alys us of yfele soþlice

Father our thou that art in heavensbe thy name hallowedcome thy kingdombe done thy willon earth as in heavensour daily bread give us todayand forgive us our sinsas we forgive those who have sinned against usand not lead thou us into temptationbut deliver us from evil truly


Matthew 6.9 (Wycliffe's translation, c. 1380)Oure fadir that art in heuenes, halewid be thi name; thi kyndoom come to; be thi wille don in erthe as in heuene: gyue to us this dai oure breed ouer othir substaunce; and forgyue to us oure dettis, as we forgyuen to oure gettouris; and lede us not in to temptacioun, but delyuere us fro yuel.


Lord's Prayer

Matthew 6:9-13

King James Version

Our Father, who art in heaven,hallowed be thy name,thy kingdom come,thy will be doneon earth as it is in heaven.Give us this day our daily bread;and forgive us our trespasses,as we forgive thosewho trespass against us;and lead us not into temptation,but deliver us from evil.For thine is the kingdomand the power and the gloryforever and ever. Amen.


Newer Version

Our Father in heaven,hallowed be your name,your kingdom come,your will be doneon earth as it is in heaven.Give us today our daily bread.Forgive us our sins,as we forgive thosewho sin against us.Lead us not into temptation,but deliver us from evil.For the kingdom, the power,and the glory are yoursnow and forever. Amen

  • Linear B: c 1500 BCE
  • Homeric Greek: c 800 BCE
  • Classical Greek: c 400 BCE
  • Koine Greek : 50-100 CE
  • Modern Greek: now
language change
Language change
  • So, the amount of change in Greek is expected to be comparable with how English changed in similar time periods.
key ideas in linear b
Key ideas in Linear B
  • Syllabic writing
  • Inflection
  • Kober’s grid
alice kober
Alice Kober
  • If a language has inflection, certain signs are bound to appear over and over again in certain positions of the written words.
  • Argentina-Argentinian
  • Canada-Canadian
  • Argentina-Argentinian
  • Canada-Canadian
  • Phylum-phyla
bridging syllables1
Bridging syllables
  • Where did the stem go in case 3?
  • Answer: 41 and and 37 are bridging syllables with the same vowel but different consonants.
  • Also, 37 and 05 must share the same consonant.
  • 41 and 12 must share the same consonant
ventris s extra insights
Ventris’s extra insights
  • Don’t worry about final “s”,”n”,”m”
  • If it is wrong, we’ll soon run into inconsistencies.

Town names

Amnisos = a-mi-ni-so = 08-73-30-12

Knossos = ko-no-so =70-52-12

Tulissos = tu-li-so = 69-53-12

  • Why is Linear-B so unsuited to Greek?
  • Maybe it was the pressing into service of an older writing system for another language.
  • If so, this language probably had open syllables almost exclusively. No word final “s”.