Bryn Mawr Classical Review

Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2007.10.17

Notes on D. Kölligan's review of T. Meissner's S-stem Nouns and Adjectives in Greek and Proto-Indo-European.   Response to 2007.02.05

Response by Michael F. Lane, Cultural Site Research and Management, Baltimore, Maryland, USA (

K's review of M's S-stem Nouns and Adjectives in Greek and Proto-Indo-European is a well informed and carefully written critique. I broadly agree with K when he writes that the book is "an exemplary work of sound philological investigation that should always precede any attempt to reconstruct words and patterns for the protolanguage." What I am concerned with here is how M takes Homeric Greek essentially as the baseline of his diachronic survey, while treating the Mycenaean Greek evidence partially and unsystematically. He has ventured into Mycenology more than a litte (e.g. 2004, 2006; Meissner and Tribulato 2002), and yet he uses the Linear B evidence almost exclusively to support comparative philological cases he makes with alphabetic Greek. More thorough treatment of the considerable evidence of s-stems in Mycenaean would have been appropriate to the topic of his work. A careful look at this evidence not only provides nothing to contradict the astute and often original observations he makes, but it also provides material to corroborate some of them.

The latest published effort toward a comprehensive list of s-stem nouns and adjectives in Mycenaean Greek identifies about three dozen more or less certainly, not including elements of personal names (Bartonek 2003: 260-272). By my count, at least two dozen more can be deduced from personal names, appellatives, verbal stems, and, in at least one instance, from an abbreviation. This brings the total to around 60. Perusal of M's main text and index shows that M considers only about 18 stems from this total. Remarkably, he misses some that could support his arguments about (a) the role many neuter s-stem nouns play as verbal nouns (likely deverbal), (b) the relationship between neuter s-stem nouns and the "Caland system" of adjective stems (particularly combination of non-Caland suffixes with nominal s-stems), and (c) the productivity of the nominal s-stem ending. Therefore, I offer the following relevant observations, using 22 of the more certainly translated Linear B s-stem nouns -- none of which M cites. (N.b.: Concerning the transliterations, there is reason to believe that Grassmann's Law did not obtain in Mycenaean Greek.)

A. Deverbals / Verbal Nouns

These are probably seen in

1) -e-de-i /hedehi/, dat.-loc. sing. of hedos "seat" (Pylos An 1281.2) < hezo: "to set" / hezomai "to sit"

2) o-pe-ro /ophelos/ nom./acc. sing. of "debt, obligation" (PY Ac, Ad, Cn 4.1, 595.1, Ma ser. passim Nn 228.1, Ub 1316, 1317; Knossos Ga, Gg, L, So ser. passim, Mycenae Ge 604. < opheilo:/ophello: "to owe"

3) re-ke-(e-) /lekhes-/ or /lekheh-/ (lekhos) in composition "couch, bed" (PY Fr 242, 1217.2) < lekhomai "to lie down"

4) te-u-ke-pi /theukhesphi/ instr. pl. of theukhos "equipment, implement" (PY Ub 1315.1) < theukho: "to prepare"

5) tu-wo /thuos/ nom. sing. "burnt sacrifice" (PY Un 219.1; also acc. pl. tu-we-a /thueha/, PY Un 267.3) < thuo: "to burn (in sacrifice)," and

6) ze-u-ke-si /zeugessi/ dat. pl. of zeugos "pair" (PY Ub 1318.4) < zeugnu:mi "to join together"

Of these, M deals only indirectly with (4) (in the personal pertinative o-pi-te-u-ke-e-u; pp. 167, 172). The verb ophello: is directly attested in Linear B o-po-ro, third person plural second aorist /*ophlon/ (MY Ge 602.1), and various present active participle forms, all referring to persons: o-pe-ro-sa /ophellonsa/ (fem. sing., PY Eb149.1/Ep 613.4), o-pe-ro-ta /ophellontas (acc. pl., PY An 724.3), and o-pe-ro-te /ophellontes/ (nom. pl., PY An 724.6, Aa 218.1). The verb teukho: is evident in the perfect active participle te-tu-ku-wo-a /thethukhuwoha/ (neut. pl., PY Sa 682; KN L 871.b), referring to either wheels or textiles.

B. Relationship of S-stem Nouns to the Caland System

Evidence exists in Linear B of Caland type adjectives and compositional -i-, the latter particularly in personal names. Unfortunately, no pairs of s-stem nouns with adjectives can be found to illustrate M's observation (p. 48), based on the analyses of Risch and others, that "if a noun in -os stands beside an adjective, in Greek, this adjective will almost unfailingly be of the 'Caland' type" (with exceptions easily explained away). However, his subsequent observations (p. 52) that (1) non-Caland suffixes may be used to derive adjectives from s-stem nouns, but (2) s-stem nouns may only be derived secondarily from Caland type adjectives (not from non-Caland adjectives), are important to analysis of Linear B forms. In other words, combinations like -es-to- and -es-yo- are permitted, but those like *-t-es- and *-y-es- are not.

7) we-we-e-a /werweh-e(y)a/ nom. pl. neut. "woolen" (KN L 178, 870) < *werwos (= eiros) "wool" and

8) te-re-ta /teles-ta:s/ nom. sing. of a pertinative or title (PY Eb/Ep passim, Ed 411.1, Eo/En passim, Eq 146.1, Er 312.6 ser. passim; KN Am 826.1, B 7036, Uf ser. passim; also gen. pl. te-re-ta-o /telesta:ho:n/, Er 312.5) < telos "duty, service"

illustrate the former observation, while

9) te-me-no /teme-n-os/ nom. sing. (Er 312.1) < temno: "to cut out"

illustrates the latter. M cites (9) only in its alphabetic form (pp. 50, 52-3), though the Mycenaean word serves as an example of the productivity of the -os- noun suffix in Greek at an early date (see further below).

His observations have important implications for the interpretation of the word (or set of interrelated words)

10) qe-te-a(2)/qe-te-jo/qe-te-o (PY Fr 1206, 1241, Un 138.1; KN Fh 348.2, Fp 363.1, L ser. passim; Thebes Wu sealings passim)

which is often taken to be an s-tem noun or adjectival derivative thereof. This variously describes oil (Knossos, Pylos), textiles (Knossos), and animals (Thebes) in different archives. However, it cannot involve an s-stem noun, if derived from *kwei- "honoring, paying" (cf. tio:, poine:), the widely preferred root for etymology, since derivation from a verbal adjective is presumed, and *-t-es- is forbidden. M has thus contributed a morphological argument against such a derivation, in addition to existing phonological arguments (e.g. concerning the full grade of the root) and doubts about reconstructing gerundive -teos (see Hutton 1990/1991: 124-131). At the same time, he lends credence to the most likely etymological alternative *kwhethos (< *gwhedh-es-), which could be primarily deverbal (cf. thessasthai, pothos), though this root's evident sense of "desiring" or "praying" does not clarify the contextual meaning.

C. Productivity and Further Combination with Suffixes

There are also neuter s-stem nouns in -as in Mycenaean Greek, which are built on stems with -h2-, possibly the old collective ending. The least controversial of these are

11) ke-ra /geras/ acc. sing. "gift of honor, perquisite" (PY Eb 416.1/Ep 704.2)

12) ke-ra-e /kerahe/ nom. dual/inst. pl. of "horn" (PY Ra 984.2; PY Sa 840; also nom. pl. ke-ra-a /keraha/, KN 872.1), and

13) ka-ma /khamas/ nom./acc. sing. "(plot of) ground" (PY An 724.11, Ea 28, Eb/Ep ser. passim, Un 718.11; also gen. pl. ka-ma-o /khamaho:n, PY Eb 156.2), cf. khama:ze, khamai.

M mentions only (12) indirectly in the adjectival form ke-ra-(i)-ja-pi /kera(h)yaphi/ "with horn-material" (p. 126).

14) (-)ka-ra-a-pi (PY Ta 708.2, 722.2)

may also belong here, if it is /k(a)rahaphi/ instr. pl. of /k(a)ras/ "head." It could be /k(a)rahat-phi/ with -ont- suffixed (see M, p. 126). It alternates with instr. sing. -ka-ra-o-re /k(a)rahorei/ (PY Ta 707.1, 714.1) in the Pylos Ta set, which suggests either alternation of -ont- with -or- in the same word (Aura Jorro I: 318, II: 287) or secondary derivation of -ka-ra-o-re from a stem without -ont- (see also Adams 1991: 10).

Already in Mycenaean, foreign words were being interpreted as neuter s-stem nouns in both -os and -as, e.g. di-pa /dipas/ = nom. sing. depas "cup" (KN K 875.1-5; also nom. dual di-pa-e /dipahe/, PY Ta 641.2) and qi-si-pe-e nom. dual /kusiphehe/ (Ta 716.2), only the former of which M mentions in the context of productivity (p. 125).

Mycenaean appears to have inherited several neuter s-stem nouns of more or less certain etymology:

15) we-to /wetos/ acc. sing. "year" (PY Aq 64.2.5-7.13-16; also we-te-i-we-te-i /wetei-wetei/ "from year to year," PY Es 644.1-13; KN Fh 5451.a)

16) (-)a-ke-e/a-ke-i dat.-loc. /ankehei/ or /ankehi/ "to/in the glen" (PY An 661.10, Cn ser. passim, Jn 829.13, Ma 123.1, 225.2a, Na 361)

17) e-re-e/e-re-i dat.-loc. /helehei/ or /helehi/ "to/in the marsh, wet meadow" (PY Jn 829.19, Jo 438.19)

The last two describe places; in fact, (17) is used as a proper name. To this topographic pair could be added

18) o-re-i dat.-loc. /orehei/ "on the mountain" (KN B 7034; also seen in several personal names)

Indeed, neuter -os appears to be quite productive among toponyms in Mycenaean Greek. The most lexically transparent examples are

19) e-ra-te-i, plausibly /Elatehi/ dat.-loc. "at the Place of Firs" (PY Cn 608.9; also allat. e-ra-to-de /Elatos-de/; PY Vn 20.9) < elata: (= elate:)

20) e-ri-ka-we-e /Helika:wehei/ dat.-loc. "at the Place (full) of Willows" (PY Un 1319.3) < e-ri-ka (KN So ser. passim) /helika:/ (= helike:), and

21) ne-de-we-e /Nedwehei/ dat.-loc. "at the Place (full) of ?Currents" (PY Cn 595.3; cf. PY Cn 4.6 ne-do-wo-te /Nedwontei/, An 661.13 ne-do-wo-ta-de /Nedwontade/; later Greek Nedo:n).

(20) and (21), together with

22) pa-wo /pharwos/ nom. sing. "cloak, mantle" (KN Wm 8499.C; also nom. pl. pa-we-a(2), KN Lc, Ld, L ser. passim, MY L 710.2, Oe 127; gen. pl. pa-we-o, KN L 651.1.2; dat. pl. pa-we-si, MY Oe 111.1; instr. pl. pa-we-pi, KN L 104.a)

whatever the etymology of (22), imply suffixation of nominal -os to Calandic -u- or thematic -wo-, the second of which M suggests is derivative of the first and itself essentially Calandic (pp. 49, 52, 109-110). The probable coexistence of place names in -w-os with others in -w-a: militates in favor of M's hypothesis about the nature of adjectival -wo-. For example, one finds pi-*82 /Pitwa:/ (< pitus "pine"; PY Ac 1276, An 424.1, 830.12, Cn ser. passim, Jn 829.4, Jo 439.26, Ma 225.1, Na 322, Vn 19.1) and u-ra-*86 /?Wladwa:/ (PY Na 466, ?1039, 1086; cf. Lado:n) (see Aura Jorro II: 131-132, 390). The -wont- suffix in a great number of Mycenaean place names (= Attic -ous in toponyms), as in example (21) above, may reflect -wo- + -ont-; ne-da-wa-ta- (PY An 657.6, Jo 438.7), a toponymic used as a personal name, may imply Nedw-ont-a:s.


Both neuter s-stem nouns in -os and -as are represented in Mycenaean Greek. Many neuter nouns in -os appear to be deverbal, serving as verbal nouns at least, though some are inherited words, probably old, of unclear etymology. Neuter nouns in -as may be secondary derivatives of collective nouns in -h2. Both endings had already attached themselves to words of foreign origin by Mycenaean times. M's observations about the differential combination of neuter -os with Caland and non-Caland adjective suffixes has important implications for the interpretation of Linear B, particularly of the frequently encountered word qe-te-a(2)/qe-te-jo/qe-te-o (and perhaps also, for the same reasons, the hapax a-te-re-te-a). The productivity of -os in Mycenaean place names is interesting in its own right, and its addition to -u-/-w(o)- not only supports M's observation about the combination of -os with Caland suffixes but also suggests that he is correct in thinking that thematic -wo- is simply a variant of Calandic -u-.

References Cited

Adams, D.Q. "'Head' and 'horn' in Tocharian and Albanian," in L. Isebaert (ed.) Studia etymologica indoeuropaea: memoriae A.J. Van Windekens (1915-1989) dicata, Orientalia lovaniensia analecta 45. Leuven: Department Oriëntalistiek / Uitgeverij Peeters, 1991, pp. 3-11.

Aura Jorro, F. (ed.) Diccionario micénico (D.Mic.), vol. I and II. Madrid: Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Cientificas, Instituto de Filología, 1985-1993.

Bartonek, A. Handbuch des mykenischen Griechisch, Indogermanische Bibliothek, erste Reihe. Heidelberg: Universitätsverlag C. Winter, 2002.

Hutton, W.F. "The meaning of qe-te-o in Linear B," Minos 25-26, 1990/1991, pp. 105-131.

Meissner, T. "Two Mycenaean problems," in J.H.W. Penny (ed.) Indo-European Perspectives: Studies in Honour of Anna Morpurgo Davies, Oxford: OUP, 2004, pp. 258-265.

Meissner, T. "Notes on Mycenaean spelling," paper delivered at the XII Colloquio Internazionale di Micenologia, Rome, 25 February 2006.

Meissner, T. and O. Tribulato, "Nominal composition in Mycenaean Greek," Transactions of the Philological Society 100, 2002, pp. 289-300.

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