What happened to Linear B skepticism?

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jeidsath
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What happened to Linear B skepticism?

Post by jeidsath » Fri Dec 12, 2014 6:49 pm

The more I find out about Linear B, the weirder and wackier the claims about its decipherment seem to be. For example, in the first chapters of Horrocks, we get repeated claims about the unexpected absence of expected linguistic developments. This is all very strange.

However, these sorts critiques seem explosive:

http://www.sunypress.edu/p-494-the-line ... contr.aspx

http://www.jstor.org/stable/20162981

So where is the modern skepticism? I can’t seem to find much after the 1960s. I would have expected that at least one person would have written up a paper demonstrated that Linear B = Modern Norwegian, based on syllable juggling. Ventris had to do it with pencil and paper, of course, but it would be fairly easy to churn out that sort of thing with a computer.

Or did we have some boat of new evidence that came along and confirmed everything Ventris thought?
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Re: What happened to Linear B skepticism?

Post by Scribo » Fri Dec 12, 2014 8:18 pm

Scepticism does remain amongst some, basically uninformed people and crackpots. Your second guess was right that continued work on the corpora have basically made the identification of Greek pretty obvious.

That's not to say there aren't problems with some readings and in fact our conception of the linguistic situation at the time has changed markedly and is considerably more sophisticated than Ventris and even Chadwick could have imagined.

That said Lin B studies don't draw the most philologically aware students so a lot of the work is...well...
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Re: What happened to Linear B skepticism?

Post by jeidsath » Fri Dec 12, 2014 9:26 pm

I guess I'd like to see some of the statistical work on this. The spelling rules described on Wikipedia strike me as generating a number of possible matches for any given set of Linear B characters. Combine that with a lack of coherent texts and you are in an area where false decipherment is not a small probability.

But this is something that could be found out easily enough by some back-of-the-envelope calculations of the search spaces involved. So I assume that somebody (decent) has done it?
Last edited by jeidsath on Fri Dec 12, 2014 10:01 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: What happened to Linear B skepticism?

Post by Scribo » Fri Dec 12, 2014 9:45 pm

The word for dog in English is, well, dog. There is also a Polynesian language with the exact same sound for dog. But it's quite easy to rule out any relationship. Phonological and morphological complexity make sheer chance basically impossible. That's more of a general question you need to examine basic textbooks on linguistics for.

For LinB in general bear in mind we're talking about a family of scripts (lin a, lin b, Cypriot) and it's not just the sound-logograph correspondence in any given set, but rather their combinations which are important. Colvin's "Brief History of Ancient Greek" or something is a good introduction, as is the chapter in the Bakker edited companion to Ancient Greek. For the decipherment in particular you can actually read Chadwick's account but in terms of linguistic theory obvs it's behind modern stuff.

EDIT: Also looking at the Wiki article now. Let's see what she says.
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Re: What happened to Linear B skepticism?

Post by jeidsath » Fri Dec 12, 2014 10:26 pm

"Dog" may be a great example. Our data on Linear B isn't nearly that good. We don't have a big bronze statue of a dog with the Linear B equivalent of κυνα engraved on it. Instead, we have a series of short documents where we have picked out two ideographs and called them "κυνα." Now, it's possible that place-names are unique enough give us confidence -- but it would all depend on your search space. If the search space is too big, you could start with any list of place names and find them in your corpus. According to the article I linked above: "the ambiguity inherent in the spelling-system obscures all distinction between Antiphos and Artipous, between Hagetas and Akestas." Apparently diphthongal iota is "not expressed" in the script? That makes it possible to match a lot of words. I recommend a read through the Young article that I linked above.
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