For those of us with a passion for language and linguistics, the mysteries and histories of undeciphered languages always intrigue. Possibly the oldest extant script in Europe, the signs that made up the Linear A language of Crete and other parts of the Aegean three thousand five hundred years ago continue to confound scholars. Aeon has an excellent summary of the current state of Linear A studies and experiments.
A later version of the script, called Linear B, was finally deciphered by Ventris and others in 1952 as a form of archaic Greek. “We are therefore in a position to say that the Linear A to Linear B script-transmission process was prompted by the need to adapt the template script (Linear A) to a different language: Greek.” What is still missing is the identification of Linear A’s language.
“Once Linear B had been singled out as Greek, the different linguistic character of Linear A caught the eye. Linear A was unlikely to be Greek: no lexical correspondences could be securely identified between Linear A words and alphabetic Greek ones (as Ventris was able to do for Linear B), nor did Linear A show systematic patterns comparable with Kober’s triplets. From the very outset, Linear A has resisted decipherment: the Minoan language it encoded stood in stark contrast with the Mycenaean Greek language of Linear B.”
The article gives a fascinating account of the work that continues to be done on this enigmatic language. Well worth the read.