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The Minoan language is the language (or languages) of the ancient Minoan civilization of Crete written in the Cretan hieroglyphs and later in the Linear A syllabary. As the Cretan hieroglyphs are undeciphered and Linear A only partly deciphered, the Minoan language is unknown and unclassified: indeed, it cannot be known that the two scripts record the same language, or even that a single language is recorded in each. The Eteocretan language, attested in a few alphabetic inscriptions from Crete 1,000 years later, is possibly a descendant of Minoan, but it is itself unclassified.

Minoan Linear A.png
Linear A tablet
Region Crete
Era About 1800–1450 BCE
Cretan hieroglyphs, Linear A
Language codes
ISO 639-3 Either:
omn – Minoan
lab – Linear A
omn Minoan
  lab Linear A
Glottolog mino1236  Minoan[1]



Minoan is mainly from the inscriptions in the Linear A, which are fairly legible by comparison with Linear B. The Cretan hieroglyphs are dated from the first half of the 2nd millennium BCE. The Linear A texts, mostly written in clay tablets, are spread all over Crete with more than 40 localities on the island.

The Egyptian textsEdit

From the 18th dynasty of Egypt there are four texts containing names and sayings in the Keftiu language (de). They are, as usual in non-Egyptian texts, written in Egyptian hieroglyphs, which allow a more precise pronunciation.

  • Magic Papyrus Harris (Papyrus magicus Harris XII, 1-5); Beg. 18th dynasty: a saying in the Keftiu language [2]
  • Writing board (B.M. 5647); early 18th dynasty: school blackboard with Keftiu name[3]
  • London Medical Papyrus (B.M., 10059); End of the 18th Dynasty: Two Sayings Against Disease (# 32-33)
  • Aegean placard list (de): some Cretan place names.

On the basis of these texts, the phonetic system of the Minoan language can be developed, which has the following phonemes:[4]

Consonant phonemes
  Bilabial Dental Alveolar Palatal Velar Uvular Glottal
Nasal m n
Stop p b t d k q
Fricative s h
Trill r
Approximant j w


  1. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Minoan". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History. 
  2. ^ H. Lange: Der Magische Papyrus Harris; Kopenhagen (1927)
  3. ^ T. E. Peet: The Egyptian Writing-Board B.M. 5647 bearing Keftiu Names; Oxford 1927
  4. ^ Evangelos Kyriakidis: Indications on the Nature of the Language of the Keftiw from Egyptian Sources. In: Ägypten und Levante / Egypt and the Levant Band 12 (2002), S. 211–219.

External linksEdit