|Spoken in:||southern Balkans/Crete|
|Language extinction:||12th century BC|
|Language family:|| Indo-European|
|Note: This page may contain IPA phonetic symbols in Unicode. See IPA chart for English for an English-
based pronunciation key.
- Note: This article contains special characters.
| History of the|
(see also: Greek alphabet)
| Proto-Greek (c. 2000 BC)
| Mycenaean (c. 1600–1100 BC)
| Ancient Greek (c. 800–300 BC) |
Aeolic, Arcadocypriot, Attic-Ionic,
Doric, Pamphylian; Homeric Greek.
Possible dialect: Macedonian.
| Koine Greek (from c. 300 BC)
| Medieval Greek (c. 330–1453)
| Modern Greek (from 1453) |
Demotic, Griko, Katharevousa,
Pontic, Tsakonian, Yevanic
Mycenaean is the most ancient attested form of the Greek language, spoken on the Greek mainland and on Crete in the 16th to 11th centuries BC, before the Dorian invasion. It is preserved in inscriptions in Linear B, a script invented on Crete before the 14th century BC. Most instances of these inscriptions are on clay tablets found in Knossos and in Pylos. The language is named after Mycenae, the first of the palaces to be excavated.
The tablets remained long undeciphered, and every conceivable language was suggested for them, until Michael Ventris deciphered the script in 1952 and uncontestably proved the language to be an early form of Greek.
The texts on the tablets are mostly lists and inventories. No prose narrative survives, much less myth or poetry. Still, much may be glimpsed from these records about the people who produced them, and about the Mycenaean period at the eve of the so-called Greek Dark Ages.
Unlike later varieties of Greek, Mycenaean Greek probably had seven grammatical cases, the nominative, the genitive, the accusative, the instrumental, the locative, and the vocative. The instrumental and the locative however gradually fell out of use.
Phonology and orthography
Template:Main article The Mycenaean language is preserved in Linear B writing, which consists of about 200 syllabic signs and logograms. Since Linear B was derived from Linear A, the script of an undeciphered Minoan language probably unrelated to Greek, it does not reflect fully the phonetics of Mycenaean: consonant clusters must be dissolved orthographically, and r and l are not disambiguated, nor is there a disambiguation for the Greek phonological categories of voiced/unvoiced (excepting dentals d, t) and aspirated/unaspirated; syllable-final l, m, n, r, s are omitted.
The script differentiates five vowel qualities, a, e, i, o, u, the semivowels w and j (also transcribed as y), three sonorants, m, n, r, one sibilant s and six occlusives, p, t, d, k, q (the usual transcription for all labiovelars) and z (which includes [kʲ], [gʲ] and [dʲ] sounds which later became Greek ζ).
Thus *khrusos, "gold" was spelled with the syllabic signs ku-ru-so 𐀓𐀬𐀰, *gwous, "cow" with the signs qo-u 𐀦𐀄, and *khalkos "bronze" as ka-ko 𐀏𐀒.
The Mycenaean form of Greek preserves a number of archaic features of its Indo-European language heritage, such as the labiovelar consonants that underwent context-dependent sound changes by the time alphabetic Greek writing began a few hundred years later.
- Main article: Linear B#Corpus
The corpus of Mycenaean-era Greek writing consists of some 6000 tablets and potsherds in Linear B, from LMII to LHIIIB. No Linear B monuments nor non-Linear B transliterations have yet been found.