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解码神秘语言的竞赛

The race to decode a mysterious language - Susan Lupack

语言是一座城市 每个人都为这座城市的建设增添了砖瓦——拉尔夫·沃尔多·爱默生《文学与社会目的》
In the early 1900s on the island of Crete,
在20世纪初的希腊克里特岛上
British archaeologist Sir Arthur Evans uncovered nearly 3,000 tablets
英国考古学家阿瑟·埃文斯发现了将近3000块石碑
inscribed with strange symbols.
上面都刻有奇怪的符号
He thought these symbols represented
他认为这些符号代表
the language spoken by Europe’s oldest civilization.
欧洲最古老的文明所使用的语言
Their meaning would elude scholars for 50 years.
50年来 学者都没有弄清楚它们的含义
Evans discovered these tablets amid the colorful frescoes
埃文斯在克诺索斯宫的彩色壁画
and maze-like hallways of the palace of Knossos.
和迷宫般的走廊中发现了这些石碑
He called the civilization Minoan—
他把这里称为米诺斯文明
after the mythical Cretan ruler, King Minos.
以神话中的克里特统治者 米诺斯国王命名
He thought the script, dubbed Linear B, represented the Minoan language,
他认为这种叫做线性文字B的铭文是米诺斯语
and scholars all over the world came up with their own theories.
全世界学者都提出了他们自己的理论
Was it the lost language of the Etruscans?
这是伊特鲁里亚人消失的语言吗?
Or perhaps it represented an early form of Basque?
亦或是巴斯克语的一种早期形式?
The mystery intensified because Evans guarded the tablets closely––
埃文斯严密看守着这些石碑 使其更为神秘了
only 200 of the inscriptions were published during his lifetime––
在他的一生中 仅公布了200篇碑文
but he couldn’t decipher the script.
但他无法破译这些文本
However, he did make two accurate observations:
不过 他确实有两项准确的观察
the tablets were administrative records, and the script was a syllabary,
这些石碑是行政记录 其中的文字是音节文字
where each symbol represented both a consonant and a vowel,
每个字符都代表了一个元音和一个辅音
mixed with characters that each represented a whole word.
并融进了一些代表整词的字符
Evans worked on Linear B for three decades
埃文斯花了30年研究线性文字B
before a scholar from Brooklyn, New York,
直到一个来自纽约布鲁克林的学者
named Alice Kober set out to solve the mystery.
爱丽丝·科贝尔开始着手解决这个谜题
Kober was a professor of Classics at Brooklyn College
科贝尔是布鲁克林大学的古典学教授
when few women held such positions.
很少有女性担任这样的职位
To help in her quest, she taught herself many languages––
为了完成任务 她自学了多门语言
knowledge she knew she would need to decipher Linear B.
以及能帮助她破译线性文字B的相关知识
For the next two decades, she analyzed the symbols.
接下来的20年 她分析了这些字符
Working from the few available inscriptions,
根据仅有的铭文
she recorded how often each symbol appeared.
她记录了每个字符出现的频率
Then she recorded how frequently each symbol appeared next to another.
然后又记录了每个字符出现在其他字符旁边的频率
She stored her findings on scrap paper in cigarette cartons
她把她的发现记录在烟盒里的包装纸上
because writing supplies were scarce during the Second World War.
因为当时是二战期间 书写用品匮乏
By analyzing these frequencies,
通过分析这些字符频率
she discovered that Linear B relied on word endings
她发现线性文字B依靠单词的结尾
to give its sentences grammar.
来构成句子的语法
From this she began to build a chart of the relations between the signs,
从那时起 她开始建立一个符号之间关系的图表
coming closer than anyone before to deciphering Linear B.
从而比任何人都更接近破译线性文字B
But she died, probably of cancer, in 1950 at the age of 43.
但她于1950年去世 疑似死于癌症 享年43岁
While Kober was analyzing the Knossos tablets,
科贝尔研究克诺索斯碑文时
an architect named Michael Ventris was also working to crack Linear B.
一位名叫迈克尔·文特里斯的建筑师也在试图攻破线性文字B
He had become obsessed with Linear B as a schoolboy after hearing Evans speak.
他在学生时代听了埃文斯的演讲后就迷上了线性文字B
He even worked on deciphering the script while serving in World War II.
甚至在二战服役期间仍致力于破译这些文字
After the war, Ventris built on Kober’s grid
战后 文特里斯在科贝尔的基础上
using a newly published cache of Linear B inscriptions
研究了一些最新发布的线性文字B的铭文
excavated from a different archeological site called Pylos, on mainland Greece.
这些铭文出土于希腊大陆的另一处考古遗址皮洛斯
His real breakthrough came when he compared the tablets from Pylos
他将两处铭文进行对比
with those from Knossos
从而取得了重大突破
and saw that certain words appeared on tablets from one site but not the other.
他看到某些特定的词汇只出现在一处铭文上 另一处则没有
He wondered if those words represented the names of places
他猜想这些词汇是否代表了地名
specific to each location.
具体到各个位置
He knew that over centuries, place names tend to remain constant,
他知道 几个世纪以来 地名是保持不变的
and decided to compare Linear B
于是决定将线性文字B
to an ancient syllabary from the island of Cyprus.
与塞浦路斯岛上的古老音节表进行对比
The Cypriot script was used hundreds of years after Linear B,
塞浦路斯音节表是在线性文字B之后几百年使用的
but some of the symbols were similar—
但是其中有些符号很相似
he wondered if the sounds would be similar, too.
他想知道这些符号的发音是否也相似
When Ventris plugged some of the sounds of the Cypriot syllabary
当文特里斯将这些塞浦路斯音节表的发音
into the Linear B inscriptions,
与线性文字B进行对比时
he came up with the word Knossos,
他找到了诺索斯这个词
the name of the city where Evans had discovered his tablets.
也就是埃文斯发现铭文的那个城市
In a domino effect, Ventris unraveled Linear B,
于是像多米诺骨牌一样 文特里斯破解了线性文字B
with each word revealing more clearly that the language of Linear B
每个词都更清楚地揭示了线性文字B所代表的语言
was not Minoan, but Greek.
实际上并不是米诺斯语 而是希腊语
Ventris died in a car crash four years later, at the age of 34.
四年后文特里斯死于车祸 年仅34岁
But his discovery rewrote a chapter of history.
但是他的发现重写了历史的新篇章
Evans had insisted that the Minoans conquered the mainland Greeks,
埃文斯曾坚持认为米诺斯人征服了希腊大陆
and that was why examples of Linear B were found on the mainland.
这也就是线性文字B在希腊大陆被发现的原因
But the discovery that Linear B represented Greek, and not Minoan,
但文特里斯发现线性文字B代表希腊 而不是米诺斯
showed that the opposite had happened:
也就证明了相反的史实
mainland Greeks invaded Crete and adopted the Minoan script for their own language.
即希腊人入侵了克里特 并且将米诺斯文字吸收进了自己的语言
But the story isn’t over yet.
但故事还没有结束
The actual language of the Minoans,
真正的米诺斯语言
represented by another script called Linear A,
实际上由另一个叫线性文字A的铭文所表示
has yet to be deciphered.
而且尚未被破译
It remains a mystery— at least for now.
它仍然是一个谜——至少到现在还是

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视频概述

学者发现并破译古希腊线性文字B的轶事

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视频来源

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iePEw_cHp8s

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