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Old 16th May 2019, 03:29 PM   #1
luchog
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Yet Another Voynich Decoding Claim

So, yet another claim to have decoded the Voynich manuscript. This one seems on the surface to be more likely than most, but is still lacking in hard facts.

Bristol academic cracks Voynich code, solving century-old mystery of medieval text

Excerpt:
Quote:
A University of Bristol academic has succeeded where countless cryptographers, linguistics scholars and computer programs have failed—by cracking the code of the 'world's most mysterious text', the Voynich manuscript.

Although the purpose and meaning of the manuscript had eluded scholars for over a century, it took Research Associate Dr. Gerard Cheshire two weeks, using a combination of lateral thinking and ingenuity, to identify the language and writing system of the famously inscrutable document.

In his peer-reviewed paper, The Language and Writing System of MS408 (Voynich) Explained, published in the journal Romance Studies, Cheshire describes how he successfully deciphered the manuscript's codex and, at the same time, revealed the only known example of proto-Romance language.

And that appears to be the big difference between this and all other claims of having solved the mystery. The others generally assumed it was written in Latin, a manufactured language or cipher, or some combination of languages.

If this is actually proto-Romance, aka pre-Romance language late Vulgar Latin, its importance would go well beyond it's contents.

But that's a big If.

ETA: A link to the actual published paper. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full...4.2019.1599566
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Last edited by luchog; 16th May 2019 at 03:33 PM.
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Old 16th May 2019, 04:02 PM   #2
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Originally Posted by luchog View Post
So, yet another claim to have decoded the Voynich manuscript. This one seems on the surface to be more likely than most, but is still lacking in hard facts.

Bristol academic cracks Voynich code, solving century-old mystery of medieval text

Excerpt:



And that appears to be the big difference between this and all other claims of having solved the mystery. The others generally assumed it was written in Latin, a manufactured language or cipher, or some combination of languages.

If this is actually proto-Romance, aka pre-Romance language late Vulgar Latin, its importance would go well beyond it's contents.

But that's a big If.

ETA: A link to the actual published paper. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full...4.2019.1599566
Also covered in CQ. It seems itís not what it seems. Far too many inconsistencies, not to mention nonsense. With a goodly dose of, um, academic irregularities.
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Old 16th May 2019, 04:34 PM   #3
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I'll say that while this analysis initially looks promising, I'd like to see an explanation that's accompanied by a full interlinear translation of several of the text-only pages of the manuscript, along with the grammar rules of the language being proposed.

He's certainly given enough information in his paper to allow for the transliteration of the text into Roman script. Given that there are already other transliterations available on the internet, one should be able to put together a program that will take one of these and modify it to his (provided the trigraphs, etc, are also transliterated consistently.) That project could be done by a competent programmer inside of a week.

That text could then be given to an expert in medieval Latin languages to see if it makes sense.
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Old 16th May 2019, 04:41 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by Blue Mountain View Post
I'll say that while this analysis initially looks promising, I'd like to see an explanation that's accompanied by a full interlinear translation of several of the text-only pages of the manuscript, along with the grammar rules of the language being proposed.

He's certainly given enough information in his paper to allow for the transliteration of the text into Roman script. Given that there are already other transliterations available on the internet, one should be able to put together a program that will take one of these and modify it to his (provided the trigraphs, etc, are also transliterated consistently.) That project could be done by a competent programmer inside of a week.

That text could then be given to an expert in medieval Latin languages to see if it makes sense.
Inside of a week? What if the programmer is only working part time? Say, as a hobby, only 5 hours a week?
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Old 16th May 2019, 09:09 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by theprestige View Post
Inside of a week? What if the programmer is only working part time? Say, as a hobby, only 5 hours a week?
I could still do it inside of a week
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Old 16th May 2019, 09:38 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by luchog;12698102ETA: A link to the actual published paper. [url
https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/02639904.2019.1599566[/url]
Unfortunately when people look at the paper and author what is seen is an amateur scholar allowing confirmation bias to twist what he thinks is in images and text into his story.
Gerard Cheshire has no training to support decoding of any medieval manuscript.

Cheshire looks at an illustration and sees a volcano erupting with lave flows which is not bad because that is one interpretation of the illustration. The others are mountain springs or a river delta or something else we do not know. Where he goes wrong is making up a story about which volcano is erupting is and an unsupported rescue mission.
The Language and Writing System of MS408 (Voynich) Explained
Quote:
Within the manuscript there is a foldout pictorial map that provides the necessary information to date and locate the origin of the manuscript. It tells the adventurous, and rather inspiring, story of a rescue mission, by ship, to save the victims of a volcanic eruption in the Tyrrhenian Sea that began on the evening of the 4 February 1444...

Looking at Figure 38, vignette A illustrates the erupting volcano that prompted the rescue mission and the drawing of the map. It rose from the seabed to create a new island given the name Vulcanello, which later became joined to the island of Vulcano following another eruption in 1550
But Record of historical eruptions at the Fossa and Vulcanello cones
  • "183 BC -- island of Vulcanello emerges in the strait between Vulcano and Lipari, formation of Vulcanello I cone"
  • "4 February 1444 -- eruption from unknown source on Vulcano, blocks or bombs thrown up to 10 km away"
He has the wrong date for Vulcanello. That source dos not mention lava flows in 1444.
He neglects to show that Vulcanello and/or Vulcano were inhabited in 1444.
He neglects to show independent documentation of that rescue mission or that he tried to find it.

He has a story that Maria of Castile, Queen of Aragon lead that rescue mission but the lives of royalty are usually well documented. Her regency is recorded but not a rescue mission?

He has a story of "images of Queen Maria and her court conducting trade negotiations whilst bathing" in the hot volcanic spas of Ischia. The hot pools were used by the Greeks and Romans but mostly abandoned until late 1500: Thermal history of the island of Ischia. Was this behavior that would have happened in the 1400's?

He has a story of "the writing system of the manuscript was evidently unique to Ischia". Cheshire seems to think that just because Ischia was an island it must have had "localized" and "anachronistic" language and writing systems. The history of Ischia during the medieval period is repeated invasions by Italian forces. A reasonable expectation is that Ischia had early Italic as a language and writing system. But once again where is his evidence, e.g. other manuscripts from Ischia?
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Old 19th May 2019, 03:37 AM   #7
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Cheshire has been around the Voynich community for about two years. And probably since 2007 under a pseudonym that is an anagram of his name. This is nothing new. His "solution" has been widely rejected from the start and he has consistently reacted with misleading, dismissal, and arrogance.

The problems with the way Cheshire's has handled this are simply too numerous to go into. The problems with Cheshire's "solution" are simply too numerous to go into.

Cheshire provides an intriguing solution, but it doesn't work and is ultimately not anything that hasn't been proposed before. The only thing Cheshire adds is the credibility of a doctorate degree and a university willing to publish his rubbish.

Bristol University has issued a statement that the work is solely that of Cheshire and they have removed the article from the website due to numerous concerns of the validity of the work.

This is essentially just another crank who has been debunked who managed to get headlines. Same old same old for the Voynich crowd.

(Well, I shouldn't call him a crank. His work actually has a significant basis in history and philology and so forth, which cranks lack. His approach to deciphering the text is a very good approach. While most of his research is significantly valid to the Voynich manuscript, his solutions ultimately fail and his research and ideas mostly cover known ground. If he had proposed his ideas as some additional insights rather than insisting it as an unquestionable and definitive solution, the possibilities he has suggested would have been more welcome.)
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Old 19th May 2019, 04:39 AM   #8
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Originally Posted by DevilsAdvocate View Post
His approach to deciphering the text is a very good approach.
What is his approach? I didn't read every word of that document yet, but when I quickly scanned through it earlier with the specific goal in mind of going straight to the methods, I couldn't find any; it seemed to just go straight into asserting conclusions from nowhere. And that lack of any sign of methods is a classic sign of quackery, which is one of the two reasons why that was the first thing I looked for. (The other is that even if a method is described, it needs to be the right one. Only one method has ever worked for deciphering an unknown alphabet, or even can, so even a document that properly describes its methods will still be quackery if its methods are anything else but what we already know works.)
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Old 19th May 2019, 12:29 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by Delvo View Post
What is his approach? I didn't read every word of that document yet, but when I quickly scanned through it earlier with the specific goal in mind of going straight to the methods, I couldn't find any; it seemed to just go straight into asserting conclusions from nowhere. And that lack of any sign of methods is a classic sign of quackery, which is one of the two reasons why that was the first thing I looked for. (The other is that even if a method is described, it needs to be the right one. Only one method has ever worked for deciphering an unknown alphabet, or even can, so even a document that properly describes its methods will still be quackery if its methods are anything else but what we already know works.)
You can read his older and more detailed paper here: https://sites.google.com/site/48ques...-missing-links

His basic approach is that it is a natural language. The glyphs are standard Italic characters, but with stylistic differences that can be traced back to other origins. Some glyphs represent multiple letters and some letter are represented by more than one glyph depending on the placement in the word.

The problem is that once those substitutions are applied, it doesn't look like any known language. His solution is that it is not a known language, but is a proto-Romance or proto-Italian language. It's possible (although unlikely) that a small group of people continued to speak some "proto" language at the time the manuscript was written.

To find the meaning of the word we have to look at a number of other languages that would have been derived from this proto language. He looks through dozens of languages to find a similar word.

The problem is that many of the words don't match. He starts adding apostrophes and breaking up words into smaller words. This isn't entirely wrong. It has been suggested before due to the apparent lack in Voynich of small words like "and" and "the", and because Voynich has common word beginning and endings that may be substitutions for those types of words.

He also has to interpret some words as abbreviations. For example "t" becomes "terminus" which means "pregnancy" and "inaus" becomes "inauspicious". Again, the possibility of abbreviations in Voynich has been proposed before.

Voynich has the curious property of words next to each other or in close proximity that are identical or nearly identical. In many cases his solution for these repetitive word patterns is to simply ignore them.

You can see that when he combines all of these plausible approaches that have been suggested before, this is starting to become simply shoehorning meaning onto the words.

The big problem is that even this does not result in any clear meaning. The result has no grammatical structure. It's a just a collection of vague ideas. He has to transliterate the result to get meaning. So "golden bird" becomes "well behaved" and "family pot" becomes "pregnant woman".

This would all be fine if we got something like "Here Vulcano erupted and we rescued the people from the island." But we don't. We get something like "wings as waves of god he is in southerly wind or the ship of Lar the southerly wind and waves and are torment and acquire to be warned of culling itís him the omen the sea is disagree of equal waves to calm the bones".

While his approach is sensible and well researched and he uses techniques that have been proposed before, it obviously builds to a point where it is just shoving subjective meaning onto the text.
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Old 19th May 2019, 02:39 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by DevilsAdvocate View Post
Voynich has the curious property of words next to each other or in close proximity that are identical or nearly identical. In many cases his solution for these repetitive word patterns is to simply ignore them.

That's unusual for expository or journalistic text, but not in other uses of language.

Liturgy ("glory glory glory")
Poetic emphasis ("the blood ran red red red...")
Onomatopoeia ("clang clang clang went the trolley")
Songs in general ("all you need is love, love; love is all you need")

I'm sure serious linguists have thought of and tried everything to decipher the text, though. It's a shame this new paper amounts to less than it seemed at first.
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Old 19th May 2019, 04:10 PM   #11
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Originally Posted by DevilsAdvocate View Post
His basic approach is that it is a natural language.
So far, so good.

Originally Posted by DevilsAdvocate View Post
The glyphs are standard Italic characters, but with stylistic differences
That's the problem right there. That's not a method for arriving at conclusions about the language; it's a conclusion itself, with no apparent method to get there.

Originally Posted by DevilsAdvocate View Post
The problem is that once those substitutions are applied, it doesn't look like any known language.
I've seen his list of substitutions. If they were true to the sounds of Voynichese, Voynichese wouldn't even sound like an Italic language; it would have far too many of some sounds and far too few (including none) of others.

Originally Posted by DevilsAdvocate View Post
His solution is that it is not a known language, but is a proto-Romance or proto-Italian language. It's possible (although unlikely) that a small group of people continued to speak some "proto" language at the time the manuscript was written.
Given the amount of change he's calling for in the manuscript from the actual "proto" state that the modern ones trace back to, it would clearly need to be highly derived from the "proto" language, so he's not even using basic linguistic terminology correctly.

Originally Posted by Myriad View Post
That's unusual for expository or journalistic text, but not in other uses of language.

Liturgy ("glory glory glory")
Poetic emphasis ("the blood ran red red red...")
Onomatopoeia ("clang clang clang went the trolley")
Songs in general ("all you need is love, love; love is all you need")
And others can arise in one language that don't work in another. For example, in a language that only has one conjunction (equivalent of English "and", "but", "or", "yet", & "however"), it can get repeated to show that more than one sense of the word is meant at once, roughly equivalent of English putting two of them in a row like "and yet" or "but yet", or it can get repeated to show the kind of emphasis we Englishers could only add by pronouncing the word extra-loud & extra-long. And some languages don't have intensifiers like "very" or are just as likely to want to intensify or emphasize a noun or verb (to which "very" couldn't apply) as an adjective or adverb, so they do their intensification by repetition. And in writing without punctuation, words that mark the end of one idea and the beginning of another can get repeated to show that the ideas before & after are more separate than usual, so it's not just a new sentence but a change of subject (about equivalent to our paragraph breaks or even adding extra things like "* * *" between paragraphs).
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Old 19th May 2019, 04:58 PM   #12
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Originally Posted by Myriad View Post
That's unusual for expository or journalistic text, but not in other uses of language.

Liturgy ("glory glory glory")
Poetic emphasis ("the blood ran red red red...")
Onomatopoeia ("clang clang clang went the trolley")
Songs in general ("all you need is love, love; love is all you need")

I'm sure serious linguists have thought of and tried everything to decipher the text, though. It's a shame this new paper amounts to less than it seemed at first.
Others (including Cheshire) have proposed that the repetition of same words is meant to represent numbers. So "domina domina domina domina domina" means "five ladies". That seems plausible because Voynich appears to be devoid of numerals, which would be rather easy to identify. But it does raise the question of why they would do that. And the rarity of exactly repeated words makes it unlikely.

Another suggestion is that it is meant to be poetic. We see repetitions in Latin text with things like "Praise be to....this" and "Praise be to....that". But the repetitions in Voynich are just general text where there is no other indication that it is meant to be a poem or incantation or something similar.

The big issue is not the exact repetitions, but the near repetitions that are only found in near proximity. An example (using EVA)

tolkeey.ctheey
ykeol.okeol.ockhey.chol.cheodal.okeor.olcheem.orar
okeeey.keey.keeor.okeey.daiin.okeols.aiin.olaiir.o olsal
qokeey.okeey.qokeey.okesy.qokeey.sar.sheseky.or.al
yshain.yckhey.octhey.dy.daiin.okor.okeey.shcthy.sh
ychor.ols.or.am.airam

How do we explain "qokeey.okeey.qokeey.okesy.qokeey"? Why would this section have all of okesy, okeey, okeeey, qokeey, tolkeey? And ykeol and okeol? And aiin and daiin? These words aren't common elsewhere in Voynich. Why do we keep finding segments of texts that have these types of patterns of similar words?

These grouping of similar words in close proximity are perhaps the biggest stumbling block to interpreting Voynich as natural language or a simple substitution cipher.
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Old 19th May 2019, 11:26 PM   #13
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Originally Posted by DevilsAdvocate View Post

The big issue is not the exact repetitions, but the near repetitions that are only found in near proximity. An example (using EVA)

tolkeey.ctheey
ykeol.okeol.ockhey.chol.cheodal.okeor.olcheem.orar
okeeey.keey.keeor.okeey.daiin.okeols.aiin.olaiir.o olsal
qokeey.okeey.qokeey.okesy.qokeey.sar.sheseky.or.al
yshain.yckhey.octhey.dy.daiin.okor.okeey.shcthy.sh
ychor.ols.or.am.airam

How do we explain "qokeey.okeey.qokeey.okesy.qokeey"? Why would this section have all of okesy, okeey, okeeey, qokeey, tolkeey? And ykeol and okeol? And aiin and daiin? These words aren't common elsewhere in Voynich. Why do we keep finding segments of texts that have these types of patterns of similar words?

These grouping of similar words in close proximity are perhaps the biggest stumbling block to interpreting Voynich as natural language or a simple substitution cipher.
that looks like conjugating verbs
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Old 22nd May 2019, 07:18 AM   #14
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I thought it was considered a hoax document, on account of there being no correction marks anywhere in it.

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Old 22nd May 2019, 07:50 AM   #15
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Originally Posted by Wowbagger View Post
I thought it was considered a hoax document, on account of there being no correction marks anywhere in it.

Isn't it obvious what it is?

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Old 23rd May 2019, 06:36 PM   #16
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Originally Posted by Wowbagger View Post
I thought it was considered a hoax document, on account of there being no correction marks anywhere in it.
While that can be seen as giving weight to the possibility of a hoax, it is hardly conclusive evidence. There are many manuscripts from the time that have no corrections. Maybe the author could write without making errors. Maybe it was carefully copied from some other manuscript or a preliminary manuscript. Maybe there are errors and the author didn't bother to correct them. Maybe if the author made errors he scrapped the page and started over. There are two versions of two of the zodiac pages, so we know the author was making corrections or changes or different versions.

I think there is significant evidence that the manuscript is most likely a early 15th century document created to look like similar manuscripts of the time while not actually having any content. Repeated similar words, lack of "small words", lack of numerals, low entropy, change of "feel" of the language between sections (as outlined by Neal), the text "expansion-to-fit" issues, no discernable cipher method, the length of time it would take to cipher/decipher such a long work, drawings with a similar look to other manuscripts of the time but without any similar meaning, etc.

But the manuscript remains so confounding because it is so large a complex and purposeful and convincing. There are so many details and small things that would be utterly unnecessary for a hoax.

Yet it can't be the ramblings of a madman because it has such similarity to other manuscripts. The author was clearly educated to some degree and had a familiarity to other magical manuscripts.

So the Voynich manuscript remains baffling. There is no satisfactory solution as to what the manuscript even is, let alone what it might say.
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Old 23rd May 2019, 07:29 PM   #17
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Originally Posted by DevilsAdvocate View Post
I think there is significant evidence that the manuscript is most likely a early 15th century document created to look like similar manuscripts of the time while not actually having any content.
Well, that would make it a hoax then. An old one, of course. And, perhaps my previous post should have included the word "old".
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Old 23rd May 2019, 08:23 PM   #18
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Originally Posted by Wowbagger View Post
Well, that would make it a hoax then. An old one, of course. And, perhaps my previous post should have included the word "old".
I did not presume that you meant a modern hoax.

The primary classifications are:

1. Hoax (it has no actual meaning, even if it was not intended to be deceptive)
2. Language (natural or constructed, even if it is nonsensical ramblings)
3. Cipher
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Old Yesterday, 06:11 AM   #19
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Originally Posted by DevilsAdvocate View Post
I did not presume that you meant a modern hoax.

The primary classifications are:

1. Hoax (it has no actual meaning, even if it was not intended to be deceptive)
2. Language (natural or constructed, even if it is nonsensical ramblings)
3. Cipher
4. RPG source book
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Old Yesterday, 12:21 PM   #20
abaddon
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Originally Posted by Hellbound View Post
Originally Posted by DevilsAdvocate View Post
I did not presume that you meant a modern hoax.

The primary classifications are:

1. Hoax (it has no actual meaning, even if it was not intended to be deceptive)
2. Language (natural or constructed, even if it is nonsensical ramblings)
3. Cipher
4. RPG source book
5. Work of Art
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