破译一种神秘语言的竞赛——苏珊 · 卢派克 Susan Lupack: The race to decode a mysterious language

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演员: Susan Lupack


台词
In the early 1900s on the island of Crete,
在 20 世纪初的克里特岛上,
British archaeologist Sir Arthur Evans uncovered nearly 3,000 tablets
英国考古学家亚瑟·伊文斯爵士 (Arthur Evans)发现了将近 3000 块
inscribed with strange symbols.
刻写着奇怪符号的泥板。
He thought these symbols represented the language spoken
他猜测这些符号代表着 欧洲最古老的文明
by Europe’s oldest civilization.
所使用的语言。
Their meaning would elude scholars for 50 years.
这些符号的含义让学者们 摸索了整整五十年。
Evans discovered these tablets amid the colorful frescoes
伊文斯是在克诺索斯宫殿 色彩绚丽的壁画
and maze-like hallways of the palace of Knossos.
和迷宫般的走廊中 发现这些泥板的。
He called the civilization Minoan—
他把这个文明叫做米诺斯文明——
after the mythical Cretan ruler, King Minos.
这个名称出自神话中 克里特的统治者,米诺斯国王。
He thought the script, dubbed Linear B, represented the Minoan language,
他猜想这种被称作“线形文字 B”的文本 代表了米诺斯文明的语言,
and scholars all over the world came up with their own theories.
而全世界的学者则众说纷纭。
Was it the lost language of the Etruscans?
这是伊特鲁里亚人失落的语言吗?
Or perhaps it represented an early form of Basque?
还是巴斯克语的一种早期形态?
The mystery intensified because Evans guarded the tablets closely––
由于伊文斯对那些泥板戒备森严, 这些文字愈发显得神秘莫测——
only 200 of the inscriptions were published during his lifetime––
在他生前,仅有两百块 刻字泥板公诸于众——
but he couldn’t decipher the script.
而他却无法破解这种文字。
However, he did make two accurate observations:
不过,他的确做出了 两项准确的观察:
the tablets were administrative records, and the script was a syllabary,
这些泥板是行政记录; 文字是音节文字,
where each symbol represented both a consonant and a vowel,
其中的每个符号 都代表了一个辅音加元音,
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 before a scholar from Brooklyn, New York,
在伊文斯对线形文字 B 研究到第三十个年头时,
named Alice Kober set out to solve the mystery.
一位来自纽约布鲁克林的学者,
Kober was a professor of Classics at Brooklyn College
爱丽丝 · 科博(Alice Kober) 决心揭开这个未解之谜。
when few women held such positions.
科博是布鲁克林学院的古典学教授, 当时仅有极少数女性能位居这样的职位。
To help in her quest, she taught herself many languages––
为了她的理想追求, 她自学了很多门外语——
knowledge she knew she would need to decipher Linear B.
她知道在破解线形文字 B 时 需要用到这些知识储备。
For the next two decades, she analyzed the symbols.
在接下来的二十多年里, 她对那些符号进行了分析。
Working from the few available inscriptions,
她钻研了为数不多的铭文,
she recorded how often each symbol appeared.
记录了每个字符出现的频率,
Then she recorded how frequently each symbol appeared next to another.
以及每对字符彼此相邻的频率。
She stored her findings on scrap paper in cigarette cartons
她把自己的发现记录在碎纸片上, 保存在香烟盒里,
because writing supplies were scarce during the Second World War.
因为在二战期间, 书写用品非常稀缺。
By analyzing these frequencies,
通过分析这些字符的出现频率,
she discovered that Linear B relied on word endings
她发现线形文字 B 是通过单词词尾的变化
to give its sentences grammar.
来改变句子的语法。
From this she began to build a chart of the relations between the signs,
由此,她开始制作一份符号关系表,
coming closer than anyone before to deciphering Linear B.
比之前的任何人都更接近 对线形文字 B 的破译。
But she died, probably of cancer, in 1950 at the age of 43.
但她却在 1950 年 疑似死于癌症,享年 43 岁。
While Kober was analyzing the Knossos tablets,
在科博研究克诺索斯泥板的期间,
an architect named Michael Ventris was also working to crack Linear B.
一名叫迈克·文特里斯(Michael Ventris)的 建筑师也在试图破解线形文字 B。
He had become obsessed with Linear B as a schoolboy after hearing Evans speak.
他在孩提时听过伊文斯的演讲, 由此对线形文字 B 产生了浓厚的兴趣。
He even worked on deciphering the script while serving in World War II.
他甚至在二战服役期间 还在对铭文进行解读。
After the war, Ventris built on Kober’s grid
战后,文特里斯进一步完善了 科博的字符关系表,
using a newly published cache of Linear B inscriptions
他参照了新公布的 一批线形文字 B 铭文,
excavated from a different archeological site called Pylos, on mainland Greece.
这批泥板是在希腊大陆上的 另一处遗迹皮洛斯出土的。
His real breakthrough came when he compared the tablets from Pylos
他在对比皮洛斯和 克诺索斯两地的泥板时
with those from Knossos
取得了关键突破:
and saw that certain words appeared on tablets from one site but not the other.
他发现某些词只出现在 其中一处遗址的泥板上。
He wondered if those words represented the names of places
他猜想那些词语是否代表了
specific to each location.
两个地点各自特有的地名。
He knew that over centuries, place names tend to remain constant,
他知道,即使历经数个世纪, 地名也大多保持不变,
and decided to compare Linear B
于是他决定将线形文字 B
to an ancient syllabary from the island of Cyprus.
和塞浦路斯岛上的 古代音节文字进行对比。
The Cypriot script was used hundreds of years after Linear B,
塞浦路斯文字比线形文字 B 晚诞生了几百年,
but some of the symbols were similar—
但其中一些字符比较相似——
he wondered if the sounds would be similar, too.
他猜想它们的发音是否也会相似。
When Ventris plugged some of the sounds of the Cypriot syllabary
当文特里斯将塞浦路斯 音节文字的某些发音
into the Linear B inscriptions,
代入到线形文字 B 中时,
he came up with the word Knossos,
他得到了“克诺索斯”这个词,
the name of the city where Evans had discovered his tablets.
也就是伊文斯发现泥板的 城市的名字。
In a domino effect, Ventris unraveled Linear B,
如多米诺骨牌一般,文特里斯 环环相扣地破译了线形文字 B,
with each word revealing more clearly that the language of Linear B
每个词都愈发清晰地表明 线形文字 B
was not Minoan, but Greek.
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.
文特里斯在四年后的 一场车祸中丧生,终年 34 岁。
But his discovery rewrote a chapter of history.
但他的发现重写了历史的篇章。
Evans had insisted that the Minoans conquered the mainland Greeks,
伊文斯曾坚持认为, 米诺斯人征服了希腊大陆,
and that was why examples of Linear B were found on the mainland.
因此才能在大陆上 发现线形文字 B 的范本。
But the discovery that Linear B represented Greek, and not Minoan,
但线形文字 B 属于希腊语, 而非米诺斯语这一发现
showed that the opposite had happened:
揭示了事实恰恰相反:
mainland Greeks invaded Crete and adopted the Minoan script for their own language.
大陆上的希腊人入侵了克里特岛, 并借用了米诺斯文字作为自己的语言。
But the story isn’t over yet.
然而故事尚未结束。
The actual language of the Minoans,
米诺斯人实际使用的语言——
represented by another script called Linear A,
另一种叫做线形文字 A 的文本,
has yet to be deciphered.
还尚未被破解。
It remains a mystery— at least for now.
它依然是未解之谜—— 至少到目前为止。