New book – Understanding Relations Between Scripts

I’m very pleased to announce the publication of a conference held here in Cambridge a couple of years ago on ‘Understanding Relations 2017-07-29 17.14.09Between 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!

Continue reading “New book – Understanding Relations Between Scripts”

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Phaistos Discuits!

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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Linguistics Baking Part IX: Lycian

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 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 – 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: hprã-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!)

 

 

Linguistics Baking Part VIII: Cypro-Minoan 0

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:'Cypro-Minoan 0' Continue reading “Linguistics Baking Part VIII: Cypro-Minoan 0”

Linguistics Baking Part VII: Modern Greek

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.

Happy birthday!

*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.

Linguistics Baking Part VI: The Labyrinth

Pylos labyrinth tabletJust for a change, I thought this time I’d do a cake that isn’t strictly speaking linguistic, though it’s still epigraphic: the labyrinth tablet from Pylos.

This drawing is actually found on the back of a tablet listing female goats (PY Cn 1287). Apparently the scribe found this list pretty boring, or perhaps they were kept hanging around waiting for whoever was bringing the information about the goats in question. Either way, they doodled this labyrinth on the back. It’s actually a reasonably complicated design – I had to trace it out on the icing to be sure of getting it to work, and the 1965 Cambridge Mycenaean Colloquium even featured a paper on how it could have been constructed* – and yet is drawn pretty neatly, so perhaps this was this scribe’s regular doodle of choice…? This isn’t unique as a doodle, by the way; there’s the odd drawing of a person or animal, plus a couple of tablets with a sequence that might (possibly) be the Mycenaean equivalent of an abecedary, giving the order of the first few syllabic signs in the sequence the scribes learned them. Continue reading “Linguistics Baking Part VI: The Labyrinth”

Linguistics Baking Part V: Byblian Pseudo-Hieroglyphic

I admit that this one is obscure even by my usual standards, but then, what else is the Epigraphic Cake series for if not increasingly obscure undeciphered scripts? Allow me, therefore, to present the Byblian Pseudo-Hieroglyphic cake:

Byblian Pseudo-Hieroglyphic Cake

Continue reading “Linguistics Baking Part V: Byblian Pseudo-Hieroglyphic”