As we saw in a previous post on the Libation Formula, the initial J- does seem to carry meaning in the Minoan language. In that post, I mentioned without proof that this J- is the same as the I- part seen on some other words on the tablets. Now we shall look at some of these examples, one-by-one:
|Word with I-||Related word||Notes on meaning|
| JA-SA-SA-RA-ME |
(TL Za 1)
| A-SA-SA-RA-ME |
(PR Za 1)
|A word related to religious devotion|
| I-DA-MA-TE |
| DA-MA-TE |
(KY Za 2)
|Not 'ida-mater', but rather a place-name|
| I-QA-*118 |
| QA-*118 |
|Also occurs in the form of QA-*118-RA-RE (*qazir-ale?)|
| I-TI-TI-KU-NI |
| TI-TI-KU |
|A suffix *-i was also added (locative?)|
| JA-DI-KI-TE-TE-DU-PU2-RE |
(PK Za 15)
| A-DI-KI-TE-TE-? |
(PK Za 11)
|Likely a compound word (*adikthethe duphre)|
| JA-TA-I-*301-U-JA |
(AP Za 1)
| A-TA-I-*301-WA-JA |
(IO Za 2)
|Sign -U- stands for *wu (a substitute for WA)|
| JA-WA-PA3 |
| A-WA-PI |
(KN Zf 31)
|This identitification is dubious|
| I-PA-SA-JA |
| PA-SE-JA |
|This identitification is dubious|
| I-NA-WA |
|n/a||NA-WA probably means 'temple' (Greek Naos, archaic Nawos)|
As we see above, there are quite a few examples that demonstrate the use of this mysterious I-/J- particle. Most scholars up to date interpreted these particles as prefixes. Nevertheless, we know that the Greek pronouns like 'τον' were typically written together with the word they referred to in Linear B. If Greek were extinct, we might very well think it was a prefixing language by looking at the tablets!
Having dismissed the prefix theory, only one possible conclusion remains: the I-particle is a genuine pronoun or article. From its occurrances, a use like a definite article appears quite probable. For example if *nawa meant temple, then I-NA-WA (*i nawa) could have meant "the temple" (or even *i nawath = "at the temple"). Fully conforming this theory, the I-particle is most common on the first word of table headers. Even in the Libation formula, the I-particle can only be found if the sentence is long, thus necessitating repetition of the initial phrases.
Why have I talked about the Phaistos Disc so mysteriously in the introduction? Because the very disc is the greatest vault of I-particles ever found. Almost every second word begins with such a particle!
Looking at the disc, one thing immediately becomes clear: the heavy repetition of stems, words, and even complete sequences. Perhaps the most repetitive feature of the disc are the 'plumed-head' - 'cake' sign pairs, that precede roughly every second word. We know that this is just an attached particle because of two things: First, there are many words that occur both with and without this sequence. Second, there is an example of scribal error on side B, where these two particles were seemingly inserted after the following word had already been stamped into the surface.
How does this sequence (*02 - *12) read? First, we know that sign Pha *02 occurs in other words as well, but always as an initial. It is not a logogram that many have claimed before, for we see the same head on the Arkalochori axe as well - again, as initials. To find its Linear A counterpart, we have to look at carefully the signs of the Libation Formula, where the scribes had the time to fully work out the shape of the signs, unlike the clay tablets. Once we examined the Linear A signs, our eye will unfailingly tell that Linear A sign *28 (that is, the 'I' sign) is the plumed head! The only peculiarity of this sign is, that the 'hairy head' does not face the start of writing. But it is undoubtedly a head. The prominent hair is - again - not a mere fashion of that age. Since we also have a "bald but bearded" head on the Disc, it is clear that sign Lin A *28 and Pha *02 stood for 'hair'. (perhaps the word for 'hair' began with i- in the Minoan language)
For those still doubting in the identification of signs, that are mirrored in Linear A with respect to that of the Phaistos disc, one has to keep in mind that the very script (Linear A and B) did not fix the direction of animal and human heads toward the start point. This often resulted in figures pointing away from the start point with their head, towards the right side - directly to the opposite of what we would expect in a (classic) hieroglyphic script, like the Egyptian or Luwian Hieroglyphs, or even the Phaistos disc itself (where the figures were aligned just to give a better look). To provide examples, I will show a few Phaistos Disc signs and their Linear A counterparts. (Just watch the rotations and reflections!)
So we now see that sign Pha *02 is 'I'. This fits well with the notion that pure vowel signs should occur frequently as word-initials. As for the following 'cake' sign (Pha *12), the only Linear A candidates are KA (Lin AB *77) and QE (Lin AB *78). Based on shapes, the latter is much more likely. This line of thoughts gives the reading I-QE.
Now, what on earth could this particle mean? The initial 'I' was possibly used in Phaistos Disc words B3, B11 and B17 in a way identical to that of Linear A. But I-QE is not identical to the initial 'I', yet closely related, based on its usage. It looks like some sort of copula or conjunction between different phrases or sentences. Searching for parallels in languages like Etruscan, a word struck my eyes: it is the adjective Iχ meaning 'thus', 'then' or 'so' (e.g. check the Cippus Perusinus to see its use). Could this be a reflection of an earlier *iχe or *iχwe form?
Given the very repetitive structure of the Disc, it would not be surprising at all to see a word like 'thus' being repeated after each and every phrase. The inscription being in the form of two snakes (remember the Snake Goddess), together with its structure suggest ritualistic use of the language, probably a prayer. In such contexts, conjunctions like 'thus' are not only usual, but outright expected.
Searching for similar I- particles in the Hieroglyhic script was however disappointing. The 'head' sign is rare, and words beginning with it are even less frequent. This can partly be explained by the shortness of the texts (bare names and titles, no sentences). Also, there are problems with the correspondence between signs. Since going into this matter would go beyond the scope of the current post, I decided to break this post off here, and continue the discussion some time later.