In the preceding post, we discussed a small but important part of the Linear A religious texts: Yet - literally - we did not get past the first word. In this chapter, we will attempt to analyse the deep structure of the whole Libation Formula, hoping to get insight into the meaning of its words. We shall make good use of the works of John Younger, who transliterated, classified and compared these inscriptions, and also made them available to the public on his website.
Our method is going to be a purely comparative one: using as little as possible input from other languages (not even Etruscan-Lemnian structures), our attempt will be a 'universal' one (informatics would call this 'platform-independent'). We only make one simple assumption: that the different texts found on libation vessels represent essentially the same grammatical structure, the same key words with slight variations, determined by the context (such as the subjects' number, the objects' number, and so on). Then, by comparing different sentences, looking at the word-formation carefully, we can attempt to build up a dependence-tree from the different words. And from these relations, with some luck one can assign the words their roles as subject, object, predicate or epithet.
So let us take our 'sample sentence' once again:
(α)A-TA-I-*301-WA-JA • (β)JA-DI-KI-TE-TE-DU-PU2-RE • (γ)JA-SA-SA-RA-ME • (δ)U-NA-KA-NA-SI • (ε)I-PI-NA-MA • (ζ)SI-RU-TE
As I mentioned it before, this is in fact a hybrid between two more-or-less complete inscriptions (PK Za 8 and IO Za 2). I made it up partly because the fragmentary nature of some finds would make it difficult to see the entire structure in one piece; and I also wanted this base form to feature the word JA-DI-KI-KI-TE-TE-DU-PU2-RE. (You will see what my motives were very soon.) Since this inscription above (with the constant variation of words in place β, but keeping all the other words α-ζ constant) represent the most common form, we will term this case as type #0 (or the base type).
As for the variations, inscriptions PK Za 11 and PK Za 12 shall represent type #1 and type #2, respectively. PK Za 12 (variant type #1) is depicted below:
(α)A-TA-I-*301-WA-JA • (β)A-DI-TE-TE-? (•) SI-? • (γ)?-RA-ME (•) A-?-NE • (δ)U-NA-RU-KA-?-JA-SI • (η)A-PA-DU-PA-?-JA (•) A-? (•) (θ)?-JA-PA-QA
As we see, word ε of the base formula was substituted with a chain of words I labelled η-θ. These do not occur anywhere outside these two Palaikastro libation vessels, so we cannot analyse them meaningfully with our comparisons. Still, we see many remarkable things: the words noticeably changed in position δ, and less profoundly but recognisably in position β. The inscription PK Za 11 (variant type #2) shows even more profound changes:
(α)A-TA-I-*301-WA-E • (β)A-DI-KI-TE-TE-?-DA • PI-TE-RI • A-KO-A-NE • (γ)A-SA-SA-RA-ME • (δ)U-NA-RU-KA-NA-TI • (ε)I-PI-NA-MI-NA • (ζ)SI-RU-? (•) (θ)I-NA-JA-PA-QA
Here barely a few words kept its original form. In addition to changes seen previously in positions β and δ, further important changes occurred at position α, γ, δ and ε. Pure common sense suggests that these secondary changes are independent from those already seen on PK Za 12. Since we now have a chain of words in position β instead of a single one, it is tempting to assume that we have some kind of singular-to-plural change in the structure. But let us not stop here, and take a look at the next more-or-less clearly identifiable class:
Variation classes #3 and #4 consist of inscriptions KN Za 10 and PR Za 1. These texts display a different type of deviation from our case #0. Most obviously, these begin with TA-N-, and - consequently - are much shorter, lacking parts δ-ζ:
(α)TA-NU-MU-TI • (γ)JA-SA-SA-RA-MA-NA • (β)DA-WA-? (•) DU-WA-TO (•) (η)I-JA-?
(α)TA-NA-SU-TE-?-KE • (β)SE-TO-I-JA • (γ)A-SA-SA-RA-ME
Here the mark η stands for unique parts not repeated on any other document. The truly interesting feature of these inscriptions (that otherwise have little in common) are the semi-regular changes in words α and γ. In the first example, we see a genuine case of declensional change on word γ (the addition of an intusive suffix -A-NA), concomittant with a different case-ending of the word at position α . Case #4 shows a different type of change on the same words: this time something reminiscent of the changes seen on PK Za 11 (case #2). The occurrance of an -E ending on word α is followed by the removal of the initial J- from word γ. Yet these two cases are too different to establish something systematic out of them. The only conclusion we can make is that "whenever word α changes its ending, corresponding changes in word γ will follow".
Finally, for comparison, we will inspect yet another class of the libation formula. These are not true grammatical variants, but instead represent the case when some words of the formula are substituted with logograms. Some pithoi contain such inscriptions, like SY Za 2 and ZA Zb 3:
(α)A-TA-I-*301-WA-JA • (β)JA-SU-MA-TU • (γ?)olives • A-JA • (δ)U-NA-KA-NA-SI • (ε?)olive-oil
(α)A-TA-I-*301-DE-KA • (β)A-RE-PI-RE-NA • TI-TI-KU • (γ?)wine • 32 • (η)DI-DI-KA-SE • A-SA-MU-NE • A-SE
It is quite interesting to see that positions γ and ε are used by names for commodities in these cases. It reminds us that whatever JA-SA-SA-RA-ME and I-PI-NA-MA stood for, had likely more to do with the fluids used for the libation than any other thing. But again, we have no direct proof, and the fact that JA-SA-SA-RA-ME in fact occurs on other objects such as statues as well, undermines any attempt to translate it as "olives", ''olive-oil' or 'wine'.
What could we have learnt from all the above examples ? If we gather all our observations on words showing corresponding changes, we can get the table below:
We can also use the (intuitive) assumption that additional changes in class #2 with respect to class #1 can be separated. With this, we can get a greatly simplified set of relations. The following rules can be obtained:
Rule I: word β lacking J- ↔ multiple words at β ↔
↔ word δ containing -RU- infix
Rule II: word α ending -E ↔ word ε ending -I-NA ↔
↔ word δ ending -A-TI
Rule III: word α ending -TI ↔ word γ ending -A-NA
Rule IV: word α ending -E ↔ word γ lacking J-
It is interesting to look at the initial J- elements. This particle has been variously interpreted from 'grammatical prefix' to 'dialectal or spelling variant'. But neither of these interpretations appears to be fully correct. Since we have specimens of the libation formula from Palaikastro with J- and without J-, the difference is anything but dialectal. However, we also know that the initial J- is a minor element of the language at best - prefixes are unlikely to be part of the Minoan language. This leaves us only one option: like the initial TA-N- (*tan), the demonstrative pronoun's accusative case, the initial I- or J- should be a pronoun or article (*i), simply written together with the word it refers to - as usual in Linear B.
No matter what this I- or J- exactly means, its role is secondary, and does not really modify the grammatical case of the word. But it still turned out to be pretty useful to detect declensional dependence relations. We can also depict these relations in the form of a 'dependence-tree' graph, as shown below:
Looking at this graph, there are two words that occupy a central position: α and δ. So either of them must be the predicate, hiding a verb or verbal derivative. We cannot decide this without getting some help from the previously-deciphered phrases. For example it is clear that word β is most commonly a place-name, and thus it has something to do with the subject of the sentence. On the other hand, word α appears to contain some sort of demonstrative pronominal particle (see part I of this post). Therefore its chances of being the predicate are low.
From here, a fairly trivial conclusion would be to regard word δ as the predicate - as an active verb - and word α as its subject. Despite referring to places and persons, word β cannot be the subject, due to formation issues in word δ (a verb - in a suffixing language - should not carry the plural marker buried inside the stem). But word δ still modifies the predicate, so we must assume the predicate refers to the object offered (word α) modified with its origin (word β) Words like γ, ε modify the subject, while word ζ does not seem to modify anything.
As for word δ, it not only occupies an important position in the structure, but also has a high number of forms possible. It is important to observe that not only the changes of the subject (word α, that also determines the form of both γ and ε) are reflected in the predicate δ, but also the changes of part β - so δ might be a compound word, like 'to give libation' (or even 'pouring of libation', if its not a verb). For example if U-NA-KA-NA-SI is "gives libation", then U-NA-RU-KA-NI-JA-SI (variant of U-NA-RU-KA-NA-SI) could mean "gives libations" and U-NA-RU-KA-NA-TI "give libations". The lack of J- on part β coincides with the presence of additional words in this position, therefore a singular-to-plural change is not a bad assumption at β, and that would naturally change the first part of verb δ (as multiple donors are expected to perform multiple libations).
The endings of JA-SA-SA-RA-ME and I-PI-NA-MA change in a distinct, though fairly similar way. In addition, they are both determined by the putative subject α. These two facts suggest that these two words fulfill a similar grammatical role in the sentence, further specifying the object of the action of libation. Finally, word ζ (SI-RU-TE) seems to incur no changes at all throughout the formulae, and thus might be something like an adverb. A suggested (though heavily tentative) translation of the entire formula is depicted below (I used Miguel Valerio's concept of translating JA-DI-KI-TE-TE-DU-PU2-RE as the 'Diktaian Master'. Other words were haphazardly given a meaning, except I-PI-NA-MA - I will devote an entire post to that later):
There is one more little bit of trouble with the above-mentioned interpretation: namely, the fact that texts beginning with TA-NA- are always shorter than the A-TA- types and these ones never contain the phrase 'U-NA-KA-NA-SI'. Since this class is numerous, one cannot help, but imagine that in these cases, the word α takes the role of the predicate. These cases feature a different composition of word α, and that suggests that its original noun was supplanted by or supplemented with a participle or an active verb. For example: "this vessel (nom)" contrasted to "this vessel (acc) gave" (Special thanks go to Glen Gordon for pointing out that TA-NA- is accusative case). The reconstruction featured on the figure above was based on the latter structure.