DAMOS — Database of Mycenaean at Oslo

Federico Aurora (Oslo)

Digital Classicist London & Institute of Classical Studies seminar 2015

Friday July 31st at 16:30, in Room G21A, Senate House, Malet Street, London WC1E 7HU

Video recording of seminar on YouTube

This paper presents DĀMOS, the first annotated corpus of all the published texts of Mycenaean Geeek, the earliest attested Greek dialect (ca. 1450 - 1150 B.C.).

Mycenaen texts are generally administrative documents, written mostly on clay tablets. They have been found within the rests of the Mycenaean palaces both on Crete and mainland Greece. They amount to something less then 6000 documents, but many of them are brief or fragmentary. They are written in Linear B, a syllabic script, not related to the later Greek alphabets, which was first deciphered in 1952, but in scholarly practice they are conventionally transliterated into Latin letters. It is important to remark that although Linear B as a writing system seems to have worked well as a tool for recording and retrieving administrative information, it is not, in fact, a very efficient instrument for rendering the phonetic system of Greek, presenting many inaccuracies and deficiencies in this regard.

The language of the documents, the oldest attestated Indo-European language after Hittite and the only attested Greek dialect of the II millennium B.C., presents several archaic and interesting linguistic features and poses some questions crucial for the history of Greek , which, especially because of the mentioned limitations of the content of the documents and the shortcomings of the writing system, are still in need of an appropriate answer.

To create the database, text files with current standard editions as starting point – but extensively revised and updated with new findings, new joins and new readings – have been imported into a relational database (Sql). The texts have then been (partly semi-automatically, partly manually) annotated for morphological, syntactic and lexical information for each word, phrase and sentence. A rich set of metadata (hand attribution, find place, chronology, etc.), including detailed epigraphic information on all textual levels (from syllable, to word, line and document level) has also been imported or entered, which is available for searches and can thus be crossed with more strictly linguistic data.

An important feature of DĀMOS is that it allows for multiple analyses of a given linguistic unity to be stored and retrieved. Thus, for example, different hypotheses for the meaning or the grammatical value (e.g. case) of a word can be entered and ranged according to different criteria. This feature is, indeed, essential for work with a corpus like the Mycenaean one, where script ambiguities and scanty texts make interpretations often uncertain and dependent on context and intertextual comparison. The linguistic interpretation of a given phenomenon (e.g. the expression of spatial relations in Mycenaean) can, indeed, depend on competing variants of a net of hypotheses (the hypothesized number of cases, the hypothesized phonemic value of certain graphemes, etc.) and implications; it is then crucial to be able to test and compare the different possible linguistic interpretations by varying the value of certain (sets of) analyses in performing complex database queries.

An online version of DĀMOS is accessible at: https://www2.hf.uio.no/damos/index/about


The seminar will be followed by wine and refreshments.