Minoan language

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, with the existing evidence, it is impossible to be certain that the two scripts record the same language, or even that a single language is recorded in each.

Minoan Linear A.png
Linear A tablet
EraAbout 1800–1450 BCE
Cretan hieroglyphs, Linear A
Language codes
ISO 639-3Either:
omn – Minoan
lab – Linear A
omn Minoan
 lab Linear A
Glottologmino1236  Minoan

The Eteocretan language, attested in a few alphabetic inscriptions from Crete 1,000 years later, is possibly a descendant of Minoan, but is also unclassified.


Minoan is mainly known from the inscriptions in 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 (Latin: Papyrus magicus Harris XII, 1-5); Beg. 18th dynasty: a saying in the Keftiu language [1]
  • Writing board (B.M. 5647); early 18th dynasty: school blackboard with Keftiu name[2]
  • 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 reconstructed, and is considered to have the following consonant phonemes:[3]

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


Minoan is an unclassified language, or perhaps multiple indeterminate languages written in the same script. It has been compared inconclusively to the Indo-European and Semitic language families.[4]


Doctor Brent Davis, a linguist and archaeologist at the University of Melbourne, has discovered that the Linear A word order is verb-subject-object (VSO).[5]


  1. ^ H. Lange: Der Magische Papyrus Harris; Kopenhagen (1927)
  2. ^ T. E. Peet: The Egyptian Writing-Board B.M. 5647 bearing Keftiu Names; Oxford 1927
  3. ^ 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), pp. 211–219.
  4. ^ Stephanie Lynn Budin; John M. Weeks (2004). The Ancient Greeks: New Perspectives. ABC-CLIO. p. 26. ISBN 9781576078143. OCLC 249196051. Archived from the original on May 25, 2019. Retrieved May 25, 2019.
  5. ^ "How do you crack the code to a lost ancient script?". Pursuit by The University of Melbourne. Retrieved 11 October 2020.

External linksEdit