Paradigms Regained

Subject: VMs: Re: Paradigms Regained
From: Rene Zandbergen
Date: Tue, 15 Oct 2002 03:06:28 -0700 (PDT)

Gabriel and Dennis wrote:

D:> Which brings us back to the theme I like to harp
D:> on. Could the Voynichese 'words' be syllables of
D:> a European language like French, Italian,
D:> German, Croatian, etc.?

G:> To my taste, there are too many different words,
G:> unless some of the words represent more than one
G:> syllable.

If the VMs words are syllables from a polysyllabic
language like the ones suggested by Dennis, then
we are faced with two problems. I tend to agree
with Gabriel that we should see fewer different
words in the MS.
Monosyllabic languages have invented tones
just to avoid the 'shortage' of words that would
otherwise arise.
The second problem is: the labels in the MS are
like all other words in the MS and it wouldn't
make much sense that these are only syllables,
i.e. parts of words, not whole words.

So if the VMs words are syllables, they should
belong to a mono-syllabic language.

Also that is not without problems. There are quite
a number of VMs words which seem really too long to
be mono-syllabic, but then again, mono-syllabic
languages can (and do) have loan words which are
posted by ぶらたん at 15:56| Comment(0) | 書かれた言語


writing systems and cultural identities were mixed in Central Europe

Petr Kazil wrote:
Among the many hypotheses this one might be testable. But this would require a big detour through secondary literature. There might exist some books on vanished European (sub-)cultures. Two were discussed extensively - the Cathars and the Bogomils. Another example is the Coptic language. However I can't think of an isolated cultural center that would produce such a mature artifact - Spanish Islamists, Greek Byzantine Monks? The problem becomes even worse if you follow the hypohesis that the VMs is not an "elite" artifact but a "popular" artifact - then it must have been a large subculture. Still I would be very interested if
someone produced a list of vanished European subcultures and their dates.

From: "Rafal T. Prinke"
Date: Sat, 18 May 2002 10:20:36 +0200

But note that on the whole it does not seem to be an original creation - rather a compilation (perhaps with some modifications) of general knowledge. I have just read an article (in Polish) about a newly discovered 17th c. manuscript of an alchemical treatise which was written partly in Latin, partly in Polish, and partly in Armeno-Kiptchak language using the Armenian alphabet. The author was a Pole of Armenian descent living in Lvov, which had a sizable Armenian community. It has no resemblance to the VMS - but shows how languages, writing systems and cultural identities were mixed in Central Europe.
posted by ぶらたん at 00:14| Comment(0) | 書かれた言語



> [Philp Neal:] I know that there was contact between Europe and
> South East Asia in the relevant period. But most of the
> languages of Chinese type already had their own scripts, and
> Tibetan, Burmese, Thai and Khmer had alphabets in the Indian
> tradition. I don't see why explorers or missionaries would
> devise a totally new script and use it to write secular
> material. If they wanted to communicate with Asians, they would
> have adopted an Asian script, and if they wanted to keep
> something secret they would not have used an Asian language.
> Supporters of the Chinese theory have to tell us who was
> supposed to read the manuscript.

From: Jorge Stolfi
Date: Sun, 24 Feb 2002 23:34:43 -0300 (EST)

You have two questions here: (1) "why not use the native scripts", and (2) "why not use a script based on the Roman alphabet".

The answers obviously depend on who wrote the manuscript, and why. The author could be either an European, or a native. In this message I will explore the first alternative only.

An European author could be either a missionary or an educated explorer. In either case, the VMS is most easily explained as a record of native lore that was dictated to the author by a native, possibly from native books. Dictation was used because our author could neither read nor write the native script himself, and had no hope or intention of mastering it. (He may or may not have understood what he was writing.)

In the case of a missionary, we don't need to speculate on the "why"s: it suffices to note that there *were* indeed many instances of missionaries inventing new scripts for languages that already had their own scripts. While most of those new scripts used the Roman alphabet, with diacritics when needed, in some cases the inventor thought that it was cool to redesign the entire symbol set.

Missionary-invented scripts were meant to serve two purposes. First, to make the spoken language easier to learn by new missionaries; in particular, to allow the production of printed grammars, dictionaries, and practice texts. Second, to make Western written materials (especially catechisms and other religious literature) more accesible to the converted natives.

Native scripts were often perceived (rightly or wrongly) to be inadequate for such purposes, because they were all fairly complex and often required more effort to learn than the language itself. Note that that by 1500 most countries in East Asia (China, Japan, Korea, Vietnam) used scripts based on Chinese characters, which were difficult enough for Chinese, and nightmarish for the other languages.(**) Even the Hindu-based scripts (like those of Burma, Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, Tibet) had developed very complicated and unsystematic spelling rules, because of the need to record tones and sounds not present in Hindu languages.

Another reason for inventing a new script would be plain cultural chauvinism. Even today Westerners tend to assume without proof that alphabetic scripts are "smarter" than syllabic or logographic ones; and a missionary usually assumes that he is there to teach his "superior culture" to the "ignorant natives", not the other way around.

Finally, there may have been a conscious or unconscious "marketing" reason. If the missionaries tried to use the native script, they would be seen as semi-literate and hence culturally inferior to the native scholars. If they instead promoted a "new, better" script, the positions would be reversed.

Cultural chauvinism didn't prevent the missionaries, however, from sending back to Rome copies and translations of native books, and illustrated reports on native culture. European libraries today still keep thousands of manuscripts, both native and missionary-written, that were sent from East Asia during the 1500's and early 1600's. In my view, that "documentary urge" would have been enough motivation for a missionary to write the VMS in the manner described above. (After all, we only need to explain how *one* missionary could have decided to do such thing.)

I see two problems with this "missionary" theory, though.

First problem: a respectable European missionary would hardly draw all those naked nymphs, even if he were merely copying the illustrations from a native book. To explain them, we need to assume either a rather peculiar personality working in rather unusual circumstances; or that the Beinecke book is second-generation copy, made by a lay scribe who, after doing Aries, decided that naked nymphs were easier to draw (and sell) than the dressed ones drawn by the missionary.

Second problem: as far as I know, the scripts developed at that time by missionaries in SE Asia --- who were all more or less in contact with each other --- generally followed the Roman-plus-diacritics model, probably because it was more "friendly" not only to Western novices but also to Western printers. The examples of missionaries inventing new alphabets/sillabaries are either much earlier than the 15th-16th century (Cyrillic, Armenian) or much later (Cree, Inukitut, Cherokee, Miao(*)). To get around this problem, we would have to assume that the Voynichese script is an early or "eccentric" attempt, which was soon abandoned for a Roman-based solution. Again, note that the VMS may be a copy of a much earlier original.

Apart from missionaries, there were many other European travelers who had both the skill and the occasion to produce something like the VMS. Marco Polo is only one out of hundreds of European explorers who visited SE Asia before 1600 and lived there long enough to learn the local language. Many of those were well-educated gentlemen, aware that there was a good market in Europe for "scientific" information from faraway lands, especially herbal and medical knowledge -- the VMS subjects.

Those travelers would have had no problems with naked ladies; on the other hand, their motivation to invent a new script would have been smaller. Still, I can imagine a doctor-explorer, or a trader in medicinal herbs, who managed to learn the spoken language but not the written one, producing the VMS in order to take home a record of the local medical knowledge, in a form that *he* could read later. This was, by the way, the theory of Georg Baresch, the first confirmed owner and student of the manuscript.

Such an author could have used a Roman-plus-diacritics script, but that may have been too inefficient for dictation. (Languages from SE Asia generally have more than 20 consonants and more than 5 vowels, plus multiple tones. The Roman-based Vietnamese script, for example, may use 3-4 diacritics on the same syllable, often 2 on the same letter. Althoug we still don't know the "stroke efficiency" of the Voynichese script, its design apparently was meant to optimize that factor. On the other hand, our doctor-traveler presumably had no plans to print the untranslated manuscript, nor to teach the script to other Europeans; so the two main advantages of a Roman-based script did not apply to him. That is to say, Voynichese would have been essentially a personal stenographic system.

The other major alternative -- a native author -- is best left for another message.

All the best,



(*) Dan Moonhawk Alford claims that the North American native scripts were not invented by the missionaries, but had long been used by the natives themselves. Even if that claim is true, the missionaries at least adopted those scripts in preference to Roman-based ones, and tried to turn them from an elite/secret script into an universal one. Thus the point stands: a western missionary author would not necessarily use a Roman-based script.

Furthermore, the Miao alphabet seems to be a genuine missionary invention.

(**) St. Francis Xavier once joked that Japanese script must have been designed by the Devil for the purpose of preventing the Christianization of the land. It reminds me of a joke by another, priest, centuries earlier: that the Basques were the only people without sin, because the Devil himself had not been able to learn their language

From: Jorge Stolfi
Date: Mon, 25 Feb 2002 23:47:51 -0300 (EST)

> [Philip Neal:] The scenarios you give are clearly possible, and
> I do not dismiss the Chinese theory entirely, but I think it is
> much more probable that a group of Europeans enciphered secret
> knowledge about herbs, times of conception etc for their own
> private use.

For sure, the Human Rights declaration gives to every man the right to pick his own a prori probabilities; and then Bayes gives him the right to ignore an arbitrary amount of opposing evidence. Short of finding an "obviously correct" solution, I don't know how I could change people's "gut feelings", nor why I should try to.

Still, it is strange that people find the Crypto Theory more likely than the Chinese Theory. Scores of professional and amateur cryptographers have tried to crack the "code" for almost 90 years, and have made absolutely *zero* progress. Worse, the crpto camp cannot even explain away the many arguments that point to the VMS *not* being a code.

I can understand that people are reluctant to look at East Asia when there is nothing obviously Chinese in the pictures or texts (at least, not if you look at it in the wrong way... More on that later). But what should we make of the natural-looking Zipf plots, the statistics on figure labels, and the binomial word-length distribution? These features are strong arguments against any character-level, Vigenère-style code. If we exclude the Chinese Theory by axiom, the only other alternative that I can think of is a word-level, codebook-based system. Why hasn't *that* been discussed in the list?

There is also the matter of the peculiar word structure. I understand that my description of it is not as clear and succint as it could be, and people may be put off by the comparison to East Asian word (syllable) structure. But the word structure is there, and demands *some* explanation. A Roman-like number system could be another possibility; shouldn't that be looked into?

From: "GC"
Date: Wed, 27 Feb 2002 01:39:38 -0600

To me the first thing to consider is the source of the manuscript. Everything points to a western country as a source. The plants are not Chinese plants, and the astrological signs are not Chinese astrology, so it's highly doubtful that the author was hiding Chinese secrets of some sort. Barring alien abduction or out-of-body astral projection, I feel extremely comfortable in asserting that the author was a westerner. And with nothing to go on in the drawings or script to indicate that the author had knowledge of anything other than Latin and Greek, I'd have to venture that he was western educated as well.

The next question would be, what is the probable content and why would the author find it necessary to write something like this in a strange script? It obviously contains some information the author wanted to keep secret, either for personal or professional purposes.

Reason dictates that our search be limited to the western christian world, and this for numerous reasons. There were of course western languages even from the 15th and 16th century for which no example exists. One I can think of is one supposedly used by the traders who bordered England and Wales. One Welshman describes this as a ignorant mix of the two languages. There's no reason however to believe that this language required its own alphabet, since the Latin alphabet was a universal feature of christianity. We're down to two things then, artificial language or cipher.

In considering whether it is artificial language or cipher, the use of the script must be taken into account. Inventing your own language simply to encode an herbal is possible, but a bit farfetched. Then there's that nasty problem is teaching someone else to read your language so they can understand what you've written. Cipher on the other hand is described in a few minutes, or by a table, and much more economical on development time than the extensive language necessary to explain plant virtues and astrological calculations. If the system is simple enough, it may even be committed to memory fairly quickly, where it can be written almost as fluidly as natural language.

The choice of alphabets is also a fairly good indicator, as Nick has stated. Latin shorthand, mirrored Latin shorthand, and that very odd 4o. I found this symbol on some old astrological charts. I thought it meant Sun in Jupiter, or something like that, but I think Nick nailed it down. I don't exactly remember what Nick said it was, but it's clearly astrological. Whoever the author was, he had seen a few cipher alphabets, and made up a few things of his own. The alphabet itself points more to cipher than to artificial language. Cryptography was also very popular during this time, a time when it is said that every educated person had their own personal cipher. The vast majority of these fall into simple systems that were easily remembered, but the point is made that cipher was not a nearly as arcane a pursuit as artificial language, and they could be found in abundance around universities. This guy got his education in some western university, and probably got his cipher there as well.

Then there's that nasty little habit the author has of grouping things in three, four or five. It's almost like the system forces him to write in groups of three, and the characters many times seem jammed into these groups, even when there's ample space to write at length. It's the feel and the texture, something difficult to quantify, that gives me this notion that the author's system forced him to write in small groups. The handwriting doesn't flow like language, even much later when a copyist or scribe would have known enough of the script to be able to visualize a word at a time when writing. (Also my favorite reason for thinking this is an original and not a copy.)

I'm really not trying to convince the Language camp that this is cipher, rather convince the cipher camp that much more needs to be done on quantifying the script so real numbers can be extracted from it. If you've made up your mind that this is Language, then to you it is language. If you're on the border between the two and haven't made up your mind, I encourage you to go back and consider what we know before travelling to the far east in search of an answer. The Dhali Llama is just going to tell you it's a Tibetan mystery, so save yourself the airfare!

Meanwhile, we have much to work with at the moment. Several plant identifications and possible meanings for astrological drawings. Somewhere in here are a few choice matchups for probable words. Trying to match up 57v with an astronomical instrument may also prove a very worthy effort. We have several avenues to travel at the moment that have the promise of making real progress in the Voynich cipher.

I'm working on my chart of character usage, and even some disagreement on what a character is will not change the numbers much, so we're still within a 23 or 24 character alphabet which varies only slightly from page to page. Those variations could be caused by changes in the system, for instance choosing an alphabet that has a character in it for one page, and using a different one on another page that does not have the character. Pages need to be grouped together by what they do and do not include, which is the purpose of my chart. I'm also staying within the herbal section at present, since the other sections have obvious variances from this section. I don't believe the two sections were composed within the same time frame.

From: Jorge Stolfi
Date: Fri, 7 Jun 2002 10:48:32 -0300 (EST)

> 5. Some people seem to lean toward the idea that its language is
> a monosyllabic East-Asian language such as Chinese or
> Vietnamese; what are the arguments and counter-arguments?

I am the chief believer, it seems. The main arguments are: the internal structure of words; word statistics (word-length histogram, frequency of repeated words, number and mean length of the "recipes"); the lack of obvious gramatical structure; the complete absence of european symbols in the text (not glyphs that look like medieval letters, but conventional symbols --- numerical, zodiacal, alchemical, scribal --- which could have their conventional meaning); the fact that not even medieval doctors could recognize any of the plants; and the two big red glyphs on the cover.

The main weaknesses that I see are

(1) there seem to be too many different words (at least twice what would be normal for Chinese).
(2) there are no recognizable Chinese elements in the illustrations.
(3) there is still no really convincing scenario for who would have written the book, and why.

In order to defend the "Chinese theory" against these arguments, I would blame item (1) on spelling variation (common in medieval texts) and joined words. For item (2), I will point to medieval illustrations for Old Testament scenes, which usually show European faces, clothes, and buildings. As for item (3), there are in fact many *possible* scenarios; although none of them seems especially likely, well --- truth often turns out to be far more unlikely than any fantasy...
posted by ぶらたん at 18:51| Comment(0) | 書かれた言語


medieval French would be a good candidate

2001/4/26, posted by Dennis Stallings

Jorge once said, "Many of us believe that Voynichese is a monosyllabic language in a complex script". To that I add, it may be such a representation of a common European language broken into syllables, ie. the words are actually syllables of a common European language.

I think medieval French would be a good candidate for this. Consider:

1) In spoken medieval and modern French, words are not distinguished separately; the stress on each syllable is about the same.

2) French poetry is not the weak-STRONG, weak-STONG, etc. iambic pentameter of English, nor the LONG-short-short, LONG-short-short, etc. dactylic hexameter of ancient Greek (and ancient Latin under Greek influence); no, a French verse is a fixed number of *syllables*! The alexandrine verse, the rough equivalent of heroic couplets in English, is a rhymed couplet of two lines of eleven syllables.

3) Louis XIV'x Royal Cipher was never broken in his lifetime, and records of it were lost afterward. When the late-19th-century crippie Ètienne Bazeries finally broke the cipher, which was expressed in groups of three numerals, he found that French *syllables* were enciphered, not single letters.

4) I believe that by the time of the VMs' origin (ca. 1480), French had become the language of communication of Europe's upper classes. In 1290, Marco Polo dictated his story of his travels - in French.

Of course, it could be a dialect of Italian. After all, the Renaissance was going on there at the time. René noted that the Vat. 1291, showing the nymphs Voynich-style, was in northern Italy at about the time. Toresella suggests Venice because of the prevalence of the "alchemical herbals" around there. Certainly Venice was a crossroads of many cultures then.

Jorge has done admirable work on the structure of all Voynich words. But let's not forget that Tiltman came up with a paradigm that explains 55-60% of Voynich "words". Even better, Robert Firth came up with a paradigm that explains 75-80% of Voynich "words":


So. Choose three French texts of ca. 1480 (Rabelais and Montaigne are later, ~ 1550, so perhaps Marco Polo?), manually break them down into syllables, and get counts of the syllables. Then compare the top 280 syllables to the 280 Voynichese "words" that fit the Firth paradigm.

Yes, Voynichese may be homophonic, offering several alternatives for a given number of syllables; thus the top 280 Voynichese words may represent the top 100 French syllables. Yes, 8000 other Voynichese words represent the remaining 20%. But, instead of an empty volume, what I suggest might give us a piece of Swiss cheese whose holes we could fill later.
posted by ぶらたん at 17:43| Comment(0) | 書かれた言語



In addition, experts at the McCrone Research Institute in Chicago determined that the ink was not added in a later period. The text was likely written in Northern Italy.
- EarthTimes, 03 Dec 2009

1997/10/30, posted by Dennis Stallings
If the VMs originated in northern Italy, then Latin, an Italian dialect, or a French dialect would be good candidates for the underlying language. And all of these are Romance languages. All that should help with statistical analysis.

Incidentally, even at that time French was the lingua franca of the European upper classes; Marco Polo wrote his story in French.

posted by ぶらたん at 22:31| Comment(0) | 書かれた言語









Jim Reedsの仮説

"I think:
(1) the VMS was written in Europe by a literate European, and
(2) if it has a plain text, it is in a widely used European language such as Latin or Italian. Why by a "literate European"? Because the author clearly knows the ordinary Latin alphabet, a distorted and elaborated version of which forms the VMS character set. If he usually only wrote in Arabic or Hebrew, say, his letters would not look the way they do. I suppose
(3) the author must had had some contact with cryptography, which in 1470 (to make up a date) meant he had some contact with some potentate's secretary.

(4) the book was not written by a non-European,
(5) was not written in a non-European language, and
(6), on the grounds of anachronism, was not written in a deliberately invented artificial language (but I don't mean to rule out a kind of spontaneously generated glossolalic sort of writing, or "outsider" art" writing, etc)."

posted by ぶらたん at 22:58| Comment(0) | 書かれた言語






1996/12/10, posted by Bob Richmond

The language appears to have a small number of phonemes. The languages of the Malayo-Polynesian family, as many observers have suggested, are the most likely possibility. The many languages of the Philippines make that area I think a very likely candidate, since the Spanish began extensive colonization there around 1565, with many Roman Catholic priests in isolated outposts.

Imagine then a young priest posted to the Philippines in the late 16th century. He reduced a local language to writing, as was becoming a widespread practice then - he would have known, for instance, about literary Nahuatl (since the Philippines were a province of Mexico!). Isolated, though, he went native, succumbed to the pleasures of the flesh, and kept some sort of record, using his invented alphabet and the local language. Perhaps he simply recorded his amorous doings with his wife - such records can become very repetitious.


1997/10/31, posted by Rene Zandbergen
When Malay was mentioned in two contexts, I did not realise just how many features Malay written in an Arabic script would have in common with Voynichese. The prefixes and suffixes, the short words, the full-word repetitions, the absense of repeated characters.

1997/10/31, posted by Dennis Stallings
Jacques discussed the Jawi (Arabic) script used for Malay in the Voylist archives. Jawi does represent vowels, but in a complex manner.

However, I think you would see the same thing with Malay even in Latin orthography. And I'm pretty sure Malay would be a low-entropy language. It's in the Malayo-Polynesian group, and visually it looks low-entropy.
posted by ぶらたん at 13:56| Comment(0) | 書かれた言語




Leo Levitov published his purported solution of the Voynich Manuscript in *Solution Of The Voynich Manuscript: A Liturgical Manual For The Endura Rite Of The Cathari Heresy, The Cult Of Isis* (Aegean Park Press, 1987). Levitov claims that Catharism was actually a survival of the Greco-Roman-Egyptian cult of Isis and that the Voynich Manuscript is a liturgical manual of this cult. He further claims that the Voynich nymphs in the tubs are undergoing a Cathar sacrament called *Endura* - group suicide by opening veins in warm water.

1996/12/29, posted by CLARY Olivier

Niel says the association between Catharism and suicide has been propagated by Catholic sources and novel writers. The main origin of this claim is that groups of Perfects prefered to throw themselves into the fire singing psalms than make the smallest act against the wishes of the consolamentum, like pronouncing an oath or eating meat, and this could be viewed as a suicide. Also, Inquisition registers do mention endura ordered to some people, mainly women, by the diacon of their community, in very late Catharism (14th century), when Cathar churches had already disappeared long ago.
posted by ぶらたん at 21:26| Comment(0) | 書かれた言語

EKT Hypothesis

1996/8/6, posted by Dennis Stallings

My hypothesis is that the concealment system for the VMs is a word game, like Pig Latin. I have devised a homophonic word game that would be less detectable than Pig Latin and would account for the presence of Voynich A and B, the low variety of digraphs (the low second-order entropy of the text), and the (relative) absence of long repeated phrases.

*King Tut*

The system that interests me the most is called King Tut. One makes the following substitutions:

A - a I - i R - rur
B - bub J - jug S - sus
C - cut K - kam T - tut
D - dud L - lul U - u
E - e M - mum V - vuv
F - fuf N - num W - wuv
G - gug O - o Y - yec
H - hush P - pup Z - zuz

"The sunflower is a marvellous plant with powerful virtues that must needs be concealed from the ignorant and uninitiated."


"Tuthushe susunumfuflulowuverur isus a mumarurvuvelullulousus puplulanumtut wuvituthush pupowuverurfufulul vuvirurtutuesus tuthushatut mumusustut numeedudsus bube cutonumcutealuledud fufruromum tuthushe igugnumoruranumtut anumdud unuminumitutiatutedud."

*Extended King Tut (EKT)*

With modifications, the King Tut system can account for other properties of the Voynich text. I shall call this modified system Extended King Tut (EKT).
posted by ぶらたん at 20:27| Comment(0) | 書かれた言語


1996/8/6, posted by Dennis Stallings

Here's a good crackpot idea: Old Gaelic! It was written in a Latin alphabet with 5 vowels and 13 consonants. Just about what we're looking for! An accent mark was placed over vowels to indicate a long vowel. A dot was placed over a consonant to indicate that it was "aspirated". "Aspirated" does not mean the modern linguistic term but rather that the consonant is changed, often that a stop is changed to the corresponding fricative (bh = v, ch = voiceless velar fricative). In modern Gaelic an "h" is placed after the consonant rather than a dot placed over it. Suppose that one Voynich character is the "h"? Then we get a lot of consonant phonemes with maybe half the characters!

I wrote the preceding paragraph with a very broad grin on my face, for I know very little about Gaelic. However, it illustrates my idea. Suppose that one Voynich character were used, like "h" in Gaelic, mostly to modify the preceding character to represent a different phoneme. Suppose that this one character were used widely in that role, so that 8-10 different characters were modified to a different phoneme. Would our tests show that this one character was a vowel? If so, that would explain a lot of things!
posted by ぶらたん at 11:32| Comment(0) | 書かれた言語



1996/7/1, posted by Jacques Guy

If I am to believe the comparative historical work of Larry Trask on Basque (and I believe it) Ancient Basque would have been a candidate for voynichese.

1996/7/1, posted by Dennis J. Stallings

This is interesting. A long time ago you suggested that Voynichese might be a pre-Indo-European survival in Europe, like Basque,Etruscan, or Pictish. Such a language might have survived into the Middle Ages in a small, isolated pocket. This pocket could have harbored a subculture unnoticed by history that produced the VMs. That's a logical scenario. Basque is not that small a pocket but is isolated.

If the underlying language is Basque or maybe Etruscan, we have a chance of decrypting the VMs. Of course, the underlying language could be completely extinct, leaving no trace in modern times.

1996/7/12, posted by Rene Zandbergen

I totally believe that supposedly lost cultures have been able to continue to exist, the scenario where one or a few individuals have continued a style known to them, 'while the rest of the world had a renaissance' is a more plausible explanation for the Voynich Ms. (IMHO of course).Mind you, the Basque/Aquitanian/Iberian theory should definitely be pursued. (Jacques' Salir Salirbosita Salibos has such a nice Voynichese ring to it :-)). Same Robert Firth did once point to Spain as one of the good candidate countries of origin, and the Arab connection is another strong point.

1996/7/12, posted by Dennis Stallings

Another of my pet hypotheses is that the VMs originated in Eastern Europe. That is an area that is less known to Western European scholarship and where the subculture that produced the VMs might have more easily passed unnoticed. Consider too where the VMs first appeared in history: in Rudolf II's Prague. I like D'Imperio's idea that the original components of the Voynich alphabet are early Arabic numerals and medieval Latin abbreviations. If you accept that, that points to areas using the Latin alphabet: Poland, Czech/Slovakia, Hungary. If you accept Cyrillic or Arabic as possible bases, then Russia and Ukraine are right next door for Cyrillic, and I believe that the Turks were in Hungary at the time for Arabic.

1997/11/12, posted by Jorge Stolfi

(0) The VMs is written in cypher. I will leave this hypothesis to the crypto experts to explore.

(1) The Voynich "words" are syllabes; the two classes of letters defined above are basically the vowels and consonants. there are about 10-12 significant prefixes, and about 20 significant suffixes; which offhand seems right for many languages, including English (12 vowel sounds, a couple dozen vowel clusters).

The number of consonants seems a bit to high: around 20 "simple" consonants, plus a long tail of consonant pairs.

(2) but for a tonal language like Chinese or Vietnamese. The difference is mainly that some of the letters (soft ones, presumably) would have to indicate the tones. This alternative has the merit that, in Chinese, the syllabes are indeed the natural unit of text. On the other hand, the "V" syllabes may be hard to explain (unless some of my "soft" letters are actually consonants).

(3) Voynichese is an agglutinative language like Turkish: the "hard" letters are the stem of the word, and the soft letters are modifying affixes.

(4) Voychinese is a semitic language like Arabic or Hebrew; the prefix, midfix, and suffix correspond to the three basic consonants, and attached vowels.
posted by ぶらたん at 21:07| Comment(0) | 書かれた言語



1995/08/09, posted by Mike Roe

``The Decipherment of Linear B''
John Chadwick
Cambridge University Press, 1958

``Breaking the Maya Code''
Michael D Coe
Published by Thames and Hudson, 1992

The Mayan script and calendar system is a very interesting distraction, even if it isn't particularly relevant to the Voynich MS.

Both of these books explain that you can estimate whether a script is alphabetic, syllabic or logographic from the number of symbols it uses. Based on the small number of symbols it uses, the Voynich MS appears to be an alphabetic script. Linear B is syllabic, while Mayan is partly logographic and partly syllabic. Many of the specific techniques used in deciphering Linear B or Mayan aren't applicable to alphabetic scripts (which we hypothesize the Voynich MS to be).

It is worth noting that the decipherment of both Linear B and Mayan depended on the decipherers knowing a relative or descendant of the underlying language. (Greek and Yucatec respectively). As far as I know, no combination of unknown script + unknown language has *ever* been solved.

1995/12/7, posted by Adams Douglas

no one was able to decode Egyptian Heiroglyphics until the Rosetta stone was discovered, which provided a Greek translation of a Heiroglyphic text, and also a Coptic version which essentially provided the Egyptian in another (partially known) writing system.
posted by ぶらたん at 22:23| Comment(0) | 書かれた言語