Minoan language

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Spoken in

formerly Crete
speaker none ( language extinct )

Aegean languages

  • Minoan
Language codes
ISO 639 -1


ISO 639 -2


ISO 639-3
  • omn ​​(Minoan)
  • lab (linear A)

The Minoan was a prior Greek language on Crete , possibly to the hypothetical Aegean languages belonged. It was spoken by the Minoans and is believed to be the predecessor of the Eeteocretic language . It is a written language that shows illiteracy from around 1900 BC. Chr. Had overcome.

Nevertheless, the classification of the Minoan or possibly the Minoan languages ​​in a certain language family remains unclear to this day. So it was for linguistic and partly also for archaeological reasons u. a. associated with Etruscan , Northwestern Semitic , Luwian or Hittite .


Minoan is mainly made up of the inscriptions in Linear A , which are somewhat legible by comparison with Linear B , but are still almost completely incomprehensible to this day, or the largely illegible inscriptions in Cretan hieroglyphs from the first half of the 2nd millennium BC. Known. The Linear A texts, mostly written on clay tablets, are distributed all over Crete with over 40 locations on the island. The tablet with the so-called "libation formula" found in several places also shows that the language was apparently uniform.

The Egyptian texts

There are four texts from the 18th dynasty of Egypt that contain names and sayings in the Keftiu language. As is usual with non-Egyptian texts, they are written in Egyptian group script, which enables a more precise pronunciation.

  • Magic Papyrus Harris (Papyrus magicus Harris XII, 1-5); Beginning 18th Dynasty: a saying in the Keftiu language.
  • Writing board (BM 5647); early 18th dynasty: school blackboard with Keftiu name.
  • London Medicine Papyrus (BM 10059); Late 18th dynasty: two proverbs against diseases (nos. 32–33).
  • Aegean place name list : some Cretan place names.

On the basis of these texts, the phonetic system of the Minoan language can be deduced, which has the following phonemes:

m n      
b d    
p t   k q
  s š   H
w r j    

It goes without saying that these are only approximations to the Minoan sound system, as far as the ancient Egyptian writing system allows. The presence of two s-sounds (s, š) and two series of plosives is striking . In addition, the spells seem to indicate an OVS structure in Minoan.


The study of Minoan has not progressed very well due to the shape of the inscriptions that have survived, since most of the texts appear to be lists; Most suitable for a grammatical analysis are short libation or dedication inscriptions, which have made it possible to isolate several suffixes that are uncertain in their function. Almost nothing is known in the area of ​​vocabulary either; the only words that can be determined with certainty are KU-RO “total, total”, which introduces a total at the end of lists, KI-RO “missing”, which indicates a missing quantity or a deficit and KI-KI-NA , which is a fig variety designated. There are also some place names, such as PA-I-TO " Phaistos ".

Cretan or Greek place names are also used to support these theses. The Greek place names on -ssos and -inthos are compared with Anatolian place names on -ašša or -anda . On the other hand, attempts have been made to interpret Cretan place names from Semitic. Accordingly, Crete is supposed to be arab. qaryatu "city", Knossos to Phoenician. knš "gather" or the south Cretan plain Mesara to akkad. mešurru "level" belong.

The poor grammatical and lexical knowledge have so far not allowed a clear assignment. Previous attempts to develop larger parts of the vocabulary by comparing it with a known language have not been recognized by the majority of researchers.

Text examples

Libation formula

A text is known from eleven places all over Crete which is structured according to the same pattern and contains the same words, some of which can be exchanged or also slightly changed. The most detailed libation formula comes from Palaikastro (East Crete), for comparison there are also variants of the mountain sanctuary of Kophinas (South Crete) and of Iouchtas (Central Crete):


The word (J) A-SA-SA-RA is often regarded as the name of a deity, after some of the goddess Astarte or after others of the Luwian goddess Ḫaššušara, "queen".

Linear A panel from Agia Triada (16th century BC)

HT 88
1. A-DU VIR + KA 20 RE-ZA
2. 6 FICUS · KI-KI-NA 7
3. KI-RO · KU-PA 3 -PA 3 1 KA-JU 1
4. KU-PA 3 -NU 1 PA-JA-RE 1 SA-MA-
5. RO 1 DA-TA-RE 1 KU-RO 6

Explanation: The place or person name A-DU is followed by the logogram VIR "man", which is identified more precisely with the additional character KA, followed by the number 20, thus roughly: "Adu: 20 KA men". RE-ZA cannot be interpreted, its amount is indicated at the beginning of the next line with 6. Then follows the logogram FICUS "fig" and after a separating point the word KI-KI-NA, which probably lives on in the ancient Greek word κεικύνη " sycamore fig" and thus specifies the fig variety, the number of which is 7. At the beginning of line 3 is the word KI-RO "missing", followed by six names, probably of people, followed by the number 1 after a separating point. At the end of line 5 is the word KU-RO "Total" and the indication 6.


  • Louis Godart , Jean-Pierre Olivier : Corpus hieroglyphicarum inscriptionum Cretae (Études Crétoises 31). Athens / Rome 1996 ( ISBN 2-86958-082-7 or ISBN 2-7283-0366-5 )
  • Louis Godart, Jean-Pierre Olivier: Recueil des inscriptions en Linéaire A . 5 volumes. Librairie Orientaliste Paul Geuthner, Paris 1976–1985, ( Études Crétoises 21, ISSN  1105-2236 ), (1: Tablettes éditées avant 1970 , 2: Nodules, scellés et rondelles édités avant 1970 , 3: Tablettes, nodules et rondelles édités en 1975 et 1976 , 4: Autres documents , 5: Addenda, corrigenda, concordances, index et planches des signes ). (Comprehensive inscription corpus).
  • Wolfgang Helck : The relationship between Egypt and the Middle East and the Aegean until the 7th century BC Chr . 2nd Edition. Darmstadt 1995, ISBN 3-534-12904-0 .
  • LR Palmer: Luvian and Linear A . In: Transactions of the Philological Society . 57, 1958, pp. 75-100. doi : 10.1111 / j.1467-968X.1958.tb01273.x .
  • Gareth Alun Owens : Η δομή της Μινωϊκής γλώσσας (Σύντομη έκθεση) - The Structure of the Minoan Language (Short discussion). Without place and year, (online) (PDF).

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Hans Lorenz Stoltenberg : The Minoan and other Larian languages. Etruscan, Termilian, Carian. Max Hueber, Munich 1961
  2. ^ Cyrus H. Gordon : Evidence for the Minoan Language . Ventnor, New Jersey (1966)
  3. Leonard Robert Palmer : Luvians and Linear A . in Transactions of the Philological Society 57: 75-100 (1958)
  4. Simon Davis: The decipherment of the Minoan Linear A and pictographic scripts . Witwatersrand University Press, Johannesburg (1967)
  5. H. Lange: The Magical Papyrus Harris ; Copenhagen (1927)
  6. ^ TE Peet: The Egyptian Writing Board BM 5647 bearing Keftiu Names ; Oxford 1927
  7. ^ Evangelos Kyriakidis: Indications on the Nature of the Language of the Keftiw from Egyptian Sources . In: Egypt and Levante / Egypt and the Levant Volume 12 (2002), pp. 211-219.
  8. ^ Evangelos Kyriakidis: Indications on the Nature of the Language of the Keftiw from Egyptian Sources. Inn Egypt and Levante / Egypt and the Levant Vol. 12 (2002), pp. 211-219.