Friday, January 07, 2011

The Origins of Writing and the Alphabet as a Derivation from Syllabic Script - 2 - LEXILINE JOURNAL 554

[In amended form later published as a book under the title Ancient Signs]

In addition, written signs and symbols permit the creation of "languages" whose function far exceeds the limits of human speech. Modern software programming languages, for example, apply written symbols as "machine language" to a host of hardware applications that would be impossible without writing. In human history, the digital revolution was preceded by the writing revolution, the discovery of script.

Without the advent of writing, the mass of mankind would languish in ignorance, as it still does today in regions marked by illiteracy. The written word opened up a magic reservoir of human talents and abilities from which many of us on this planet profit every day. Whatever the origins of writing may be, we are indebted to the men and women who invented, introduced and dispersed this technology to the world.

B. Michael Ventris, John Chadwick and the Decipherment of Minoan Linear B as Mycenaean Greek

When Michael Ventris deciphered Minoan Linear B as Mycenaean Greek, it was a landmark achievement that opened the doors of understanding to a previously closed world. Ancient Mycenaean Greek is written communication that represents the initial stages of writing in the Western world. This was the dawn of modern man.

Ventris, an amateur classical scholar whose profession was actually that of an architect, was -- after the initial decipherment -- assisted in his efforts by John Chadwick, a Greek philologist at Cambridge University, culminating in the joint publication of the pioneering Documents in Mycenaean Greek. [4] That publication enabled a much greater understanding of our common historical "written heritage". Ventris and Chadwick (and also previous Linear B researchers such as Alice Kober) thus revealed to us some of the mysteries of the origins of writing in Western Civilization. Andrew Robinson wrote as follows about this singular achievement:

"Experts dubbed Ventris’s decipherment the Everest of Greek archaeology. An American classicist remarked, Mr. Ventris would have no trouble getting a job as scribe for King Minos. A French scholar [Georges Dumézil, upon hearing of the untimely early death of Ventris:], noted, devant les siècles son oeuvre est faite (in the centuries to come his reputation is secure). Today, his achievement ranks above even the nineteenth-century reading of Egyptian hieroglyphic and Babylonian cuneiform, or the late twentieth-century reading of the Mayan glyphs of Central America, as the greatest intellectual triumph in archaeological decipherment."

[4] Michael Ventris and John Chadwick, Documents in Mycenaean Greek, Volume I,  1956 (1st edition), corrected 1959; Volume II, 1973 (the 2nd edition consists of both volumes).

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