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Linear A tablet
EraAbout 2100–1450 BC
Cretan hieroglyphs, Linear A
Language codes
ISO 639-3Either:
omn – Minoan
lab – Linear A
omn Minoan
 lab Linear A
Glottologmino1236  Minoan

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.

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 BC. The Linear A texts, mostly written in clay tablets, are spread all over Crete with more than 40 localities on the island.

The Egyptian texts

From the Eighteenth Dynasty of Egypt come four texts containing names and sayings in the Keftiu language (de). They are, as usual in non-Egyptian texts, written in Egyptian hieroglyphs, which have allowed the pronunciation of those names and sayings to be reconstructed.

On the basis of these texts, the phonetic system of the Minoan language can be reconstructed to have the following consonants:[3]

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


See also: Linear A § Theories regarding the language

Minoan is an unclassified language, or perhaps multiple indeterminate languages written in the same script. It has been compared inconclusively to the Indo-European, Semitic and Tyrsenian language families and is a language isolate.[4][5][6][7][8][9][10][11]


Brent Davis, a linguist and archaeologist at the University of Melbourne, has proposed that the basic word order of the language written in Linear A may be verb-subject-object (VSO), based on the properties of a common formulaic sequence found in Linear A.[12]


  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. ^ Facchetti, Giulio M.; Negri, Mario (2003). Creta Minoica: Sulle tracce delle più antiche scritture d'Europa (in Italian). Firenze: L.S. Olschki. ISBN 978-88-222-5291-3.
  6. ^ Yatsemirsky, Sergei A. (2011). Opyt sravnitel'nogo opisaniya minoyskogo, etrusskogo i rodstvennyh im yazykov [Tentative Comparative Description of Minoan, Etruscan and Related Languages] (in Russian). Moscow: Yazyki slavyanskoy kul'tury. ISBN 978-5-9551-0479-9.
  7. ^ Beekes, Robert S. P. (2014). Pre-Greek: Phonology, Morphology, Lexicon. Brill. ISBN 978-90-04-27944-5.
  8. ^ Raymond A. Brown, Evidence for pre-Greek speech on Crete from Greek alphabetic sources. Adolf M. Hakkert, Amsterdam 1985, p. 289
  9. ^ Chadwick, John (1967). The Decipherment of Linear B. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-39830-5.
  10. ^ Kazansky, Nikolai (2012-01-01). "The Evidence for Lycian in the Linear A Syllabary". FS Gregory Nagy Online. Awol - the Ancient World Online. ISSN 2156-2253.
  11. ^ Finkelberg, Margalit. "The Language of Linear A: Greek, Semitic, or Anatolian?". ((cite journal)): Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  12. ^ Brent Davis, 'Syntax in Linear A: The Word-Order of the ‘Libation Formula’ ' Kadmos 52(1), 2013, pp.35-52