It’s a tradition for the Cambridge classical linguists that in Easter (summer) term, instead of our usual research seminars, we all get together to learn a bit about an ancient language that most of us don’t usually study, and to try to read through a few inscriptions. It’s become equally traditional that I provide refreshments for these reading classes in the form of an inscribed cake. This term, my colleague Robert Crellin from the CREWS Project has been teaching us all some Middle Egyptian, and so I’m pleased to present my latest linguistic baking project, Egyptian hieroglyphic cake:
There’s been quite a lot of linguistics themed baking on this blog before, as well as from my colleagues at the CREWS project. We recently decided to expand into baking videos, so here just in time for Christmas is Philip from CREWS (with me behind the camera!) showing you how to make Ugaritic cuneiform speculoos:
Watch this space for (hopefully) more ancient writing baking videos in future – maybe I’ll even be in front on the camera next time!
I’m very pleased to announce the publication of a conference held here in Cambridge a couple of years ago on ‘Understanding Relations Between Scripts: The Aegean Writing Systems’. It’s edited by my colleague Pippa Steele, and features chapters on a wide range of topics relating to the writing systems used in prehistoric Crete (Cretan Hieroglyphic, Linear A, and Linear B) and Cyprus (Cypro-Minoan, Cypriot Syllabic). I have a chapter in it looking at various issues to do with the development of the Linear B script; equally importantly, there’s a picture of the conference cake I made!
Probably the best linguistics baking ever – Phaistos Discuits! (via the CREWS Project)
We all love a good pun. And by ‘we’, I mean ‘I’, and by ‘good’ I mean ‘terrible’. So for a long time I’ve wanted to make ‘Phaistos Discuits’ – biscuit versions of the famous Phaistos Disc.
The Phaistos Disc is probably the most controversial inscription from ancient Crete, showing a ‘writing system’ (if that is what it is) that is almost unparalleled – a one-off as far as ancient inscriptions go. Despite some (really very unconvincing) attempts at decipherment, our understanding of this object remains extremely limited. However, it is just the perfect shape to turn into a biscuit!
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I actually made the latest addition to the Linguistics Baking series back in Easter term for the most recent Linguistics Reading Group but didn’t have time to blog about it then. However, better late than never, so here (finally) is the Lycian Cake:
Lycian is a language that was spoken in south-western Asia Minor (now Turkey), and is attested in inscriptions dating from around the 5th-4th centuries B.C.E.; it’s part of the Anatolian branch of the Indo-European language family, so most closely related to other nearby languages like Hittite. The position of Lycia fairly near the Greek-speaking areas of Asia Minor along the Aegean coast meant that it experienced a considerable amount of contact with Greeks (in fact for part of the 5th century it was a member of the Athenian-controlled Delian League). This is most obvious when looking at the script, which (as can be seen from the cake) is an adaptation of the Greek alphabet. Most of the Lycian letters are taken directly from the Greek alphabet, and have the same or similar values: e.g. Ρ = r, Τ = t, Β = v. Others, however, have had their values changed – the letter that looks like Ε, for instance, actually represents i – and there are a few signs that were newly invented to write Lycian. For example, since E was being used for i, e is represented by the sign that looks like an arrow pointing up, while the third one along in the first row (looking a bit like a tree) is a nasalised e, ẽ – a sound that didn’t exist in Greek, but needed to be written in Lycian.
This particular text (like many of the surviving Lycian inscriptions) is an epitaph, and reads as follows:
ebẽñnẽ: xu-pã: this [accusative]: tomb [accusative]
m=ẽne pr-ñnawatẽ: [conjunction]-it [accusative]: built
me-de: epñnẽni: personal name: noun denoting some kind of relation, possibly ‘younger brother’
ehbi: hm̃prã-ma: possessive pronoun, dative singlar: personal name
se(j)=atli [conjunction]-reflexive pronoun, dative singular
‘M. built this tomb for his younger brother (?), H., and for himself’. Very sweet.
(Thanks to Pippa Steele for organising the Lycian Reading Group!)
As promised in my last post, I hereby present the official cake of the ‘Understanding Relations Between Scripts‘ conference (or, as it’s familiarly known, URBS) that just took place in the Faculty this weekend: Continue reading “Linguistics Baking Part VIII: Cypro-Minoan 0”
Another ancient scripts cake will be forthcoming very soon, as I’ve been commissioned to produce the Official Conference Cake for the ‘Understanding Relations Between Scripts’ conference, taking place in the Faculty in a couple of weeks’ time. Watch this space…*
Meanwhile, in a slight departure from the usual format of the Linguistics Baking series, here is a Modern Greek birthday cake. Yes, even in the Classics Faculty we occasionally venture out beyond the realms of dead languages in manuscripts and inscriptions, and attempt to use languages we can actually communicate in. My recent attempts at speaking in Modern Greek, however, were mostly sufficiently embarassing that sticking to writing it on cake seems the safest option.
*Yep, this is a shameless plug for a conference I’m speaking at. If neither the extremely exciting programme nor the at least equally exciting prospect of cake can tempt people to attend then I give up.