18 votes

The Voynich Manuscript may have successfully been decoded

10 comments

  1. [6]
    krg Link
    Here's a long takedown and discussion of this person's research.
    11 votes
    1. alyaza Link Parent
      honestly, i feel like the very act of trying to decode the voynich manuscript in a manner like that while presenting some sort of definitive conclusion should itself at this point be a sign to...

      honestly, i feel like the very act of trying to decode the voynich manuscript in a manner like that while presenting some sort of definitive conclusion should itself at this point be a sign to disregard someone's research into it. the extent of what we have definitively established about it with respect to actual linguistics (at least from what i've seen) is that when you analyze it, it seems to have a pattern of writing which is similar to that of a natural language--and that's where the buck stops. we simply don't know what that language is (if it is even a real language, which is obviously up for debate itself because there are tons of voynich theories) and even most people who run complex analyses on the manuscript with computers generally don't speculate at all with respect to what language it is or is not--or if they do, they make very sweeping claims like "it's probably an indo-european language"--much less make definitive claims.

      9 votes
    2. [3]
      CALICO Link Parent
      From a quick googling, this blog is run by a man of the name Nick Pelling. He seems to primarily be a programmer, with a lengthy list of video games he hass worked on. The only scholarly bit I see...

      From a quick googling, this blog is run by a man of the name Nick Pelling.
      He seems to primarily be a programmer, with a lengthy list of video games he hass worked on. The only scholarly bit I see attributed to him is a 2006 book titled, The Curse of the Voynich: The Secret History of the World's Most Mysterious Manuscript, in which his core idea seems to be that the VM was written by a 15th century Florentine architect. Reading through some reviews of his book, some readers opine that Mr. Pelling has made a poorly structured argument to support his theory, and there lacks sufficient evidence to say for sure.

      Given his apparent lack of formal academic education in this subject, and his personal theory as a potential motive to disparage or dismiss alternative theories, why should I trust his analysis more than that of Dr. Gerard Cheshire?

      8 votes
      1. alyaza Link Parent
        eh. he might have a motive to disparage cheshire, but in general like i noted in my comment, the extent of what we seem to know definitively about the manuscript as far as its linguistic contents...

        Given his apparent lack of formal academic education in this subject, and his personal theory as a potential motive to disparage or dismiss alternative theories, why should I trust his analysis more than that of Dr. Gerard Cheshire?

        eh. he might have a motive to disparage cheshire, but in general like i noted in my comment, the extent of what we seem to know definitively about the manuscript as far as its linguistic contents is that the writing patterns contained within it resemble what you'd expect of a natural language. anything beyond that is basically speculative, so even if you know nothing about the manuscript academically, i think you can pretty much discount cheshire's research--or at absolute minimum, take it with a massive grain of salt--without being an academic on the simple basis that he's already asserting the following:

        Furthermore, some of the manuscript text uses standard Latin phrasing and abbreviations, only adding a fourth dimension of difficulty.

        which, if it was true, would presumably have been proven by the numerous previous claims of decipherment based on the notion that the manuscript is in latin, none of which have been really backed up. in general though, reading this his claims seem pretty bombastic, which is another reason that i feel like you can discount his work:

        Unbeknown to the scholarly community, the manuscript was written in an extinct and hitherto unrecorded language as well as using an unknown writing system and with no punctuation marks, thereby making the problem triply difficult to solve. Furthermore, some of the manuscript text uses standard Latin phrasing and abbreviations, only adding a fourth dimension of difficulty.

        this is something he'd realistically have to back up with actual evidence--which he does not in any way, shape, or form. just off the top of my head, here are some of the bigger problems:

        • he doesn't explain how he concluded that the writing is an alphabet running from a to z, nor how he managed to map these characters; moreover, he has literally no answer for why exactly this manuscript is the only written example of this script that we have ever found, despite the fact that (1) by his own claims the people who would be using it were not especially far from continental europe and in fact were quite connected to it and would, therefore, presumably be quite numerous; and (2) despite the fact that this manuscript has been floating around for literally six centuries now and has probably had more work done on it to extract its meaning than any other singular manuscript from the time period.
        • he does not explain how he came to his transliteration scheme, nor how it is he can determine the origin of the letters used within, even though he boldly claims every one of these letters has an origin in a writing system like greek or arabic or phoenician. he then uses this scheme to basically slap together a hodge-podge of various words belonging to different romance languages and act like this proves his scheme correct, even though again, he doesn't explain how he concluded his transliteration scheme. for all intents and purposes, it's indistinguishable from bullshit.
        • he does not explain in any way how this proves the existence of the 'proto-Romance' language which, as the link up there mentions, is a term that has no academic capital to my knowledge and is basically just another way of saying vulgar latin which is not a singular language but a vast array of sociolects. he appears to distinguish the two, actually, acting as if the progression here is Latin -> Vulgar Latin -> Proto-Romance -> Romance even though i'm pretty sure the linguistic consensus is that vulgar latin became the romance languages with no in-between step (i.e. it would be the proto-romance language he apparently seems to think he discovered).
        • he also doesn't explain how literally every linguist alive which studies PIE and its descendants missed this proto-language and anything about it before he discovered it, even though PIE-descended languages (and their proto-language counterparts) are some of the most comprehensively documented languages we have available and studies of them have created many now-standard linguistic practices such as the comparative method. the missing of his proposed proto-language here also can't be explained away like the general lack of documentation of vulgar latin can--he claims the voynich manuscript was done basically on behalf of a royal court, which suggests that there were higher-class speakers or people who used this/spoke this proposed language and presumably would have written it down (vulgar latin by comparison was heavily lower-class and thus quite poorly represented in literature and writing).

        and that's off the top of my head with that one part. there's probably way more that i missed!

        5 votes
      2. krg Link Parent
        The ensuing discussion is more illuminating, I think.

        The ensuing discussion is more illuminating, I think.

        2 votes
  2. aphoenix Link
    Of interest is the Abstract of this article, which I will post here in full: Manuscript MS408 (Voynich) is unusual in a number of respects: 1. It uses an extinct language. 2. Its alphabet uses a...

    Of interest is the Abstract of this article, which I will post here in full:

    Manuscript MS408 (Voynich) is unusual in a number of respects: 1. It uses an extinct language. 2. Its alphabet uses a number of unfamiliar symbols alongside more familiar symbols. 3. It includes no dedicated punctuation marks. 4. Some of the letters have symbol variants to indicate punctuation. 5. Some of the symbol variants indicate phonetic accents. 6. All of the letters are in lower case. 7. There are no double consonants. 8. It includes diphthong, triphthongs, quadriphthongs and even quintiphthongs for the abbreviation of phonetic components. 9. It includes some words and abbreviations in Latin. As a result, identifying the language and solving the writing system required some ingenuity and lateral thinking, but both were duly revealed. The writing system is rather more singular and less intuitive than modern systems, which may explain why it failed to become culturally ubiquitous and ultimately became obsolete. On the other hand, a significant vestige of the language has survived into the modern era, because its lexicon has been sequestered into the many modern languages of Mediterranean Europe. Here, the language and writing system are explained, so that other scholars can explore the manuscript for its linguistic and informative content.

    6 votes
  3. alyaza Link
    just as a little update on this, which demonstrates why people need to really stop falling for these "decoding" claims: less than nothing has come of this paper at all despite its bombastic,...

    just as a little update on this, which demonstrates why people need to really stop falling for these "decoding" claims:

    "The manuscript is written in proto-Romance—ancestral to today's Romance languages including Portuguese, Spanish, French, Italian, Romanian, Catalan and Galician. The language used was ubiquitous in the Mediterranean during the Medieval period, but it was seldom written in official or important documents because Latin was the language of royalty, church and government. As a result, proto-Romance was lost from the record, until now."
    It's impossible for anything resembling "proto-Romance" to have existed at the time when the Voynich manuscript was created (early 15th century judging by radiocarbon dating). Romance languages were already well-established in writing at that point - we're talking a century after Dante wrote the Divine Comedy.

    2 votes
  4. Bishop Link
    Oh now hell the fuck yeah. The Voynich Manuscript has been one of those "unsolved mysteries" that always interested me the most, this is so exciting. I wonder if there's going to be any attempt by...

    Oh now hell the fuck yeah. The Voynich Manuscript has been one of those "unsolved mysteries" that always interested me the most, this is so exciting.

    I wonder if there's going to be any attempt by linguists to sort of catalogue the language in here and release a small grammar/dictionary based on what they find. I've got a penchant for dead languages and would adore the chance to pick something like this up.

    3 votes