Friday, March 1, 2013

Question 1467: Fascinating

The text was clearly written from left to right, with a slightly ragged right margin. Longer sections are broken into paragraphs, sometimes with star or flower-like "bullets" in the left margin. There is no obvious punctuation, and no indications of any errors or corrections made at any place in the document. The ductus flows smoothly, giving the impression that the symbols were not enciphered, as there is no delay between characters as would normally be expected in written encoded text. 
The text consists of over 170,000 glyphs, usually separated from each other by narrow gaps. While there is some dispute as to whether certain glyphs are distinct or not, an alphabet with 20–30 glyphs would account for virtually all of the text; the exceptions are a few dozen rarer characters that occur only once or twice each. Various transcription alphabets have been created, to equate the glyphs with Latin characters in order to help with cryptanalysis. The first major one was created by cryptographer William F. Friedman in the 1940s, where each line of the text was transcribed to an IBM punch card to make it machine-readable.
Wider gaps divide the text into about 35,000 "words" of varying length. These seem to follow phonological or orthographic laws of some sort, e.g., certain characters must appear in each word (like English vowels), some characters never follow others, some may be doubled or tripled but others may not, etc.
Statistical analysis of the text reveals patterns similar to those of natural languages. For instance, the word entropy (about 10 bits per word) is similar to that of English or Latin texts. Some words occur only in certain sections, or in only a few pages; others occur throughout the text. There are very few repetitions among the thousand or so "labels" attached to the illustrations.
On the other hand, the "language" is quite unlike European languages in several aspects. There are practically no words comprising more than ten glyphs, yet there are also few one- or two-letter words. The distribution of letters within words is also rather peculiar: some characters occur only at the beginning of a word, some only at the end, and some always in the middle section. 
The text seems to be more repetitive than typical European languages, causing single-substitution alphabet decipherings to yield babble-like text. 
There are only a few words written in a seemingly Latin script. The lettering resembles European alphabets of the late 14th and 15th centuries, but the words do not seem to make sense in any language. Also, a series of diagrams in the "astronomical" section has the names of ten of the months (from March to December) written in Latin script, with spelling suggestive of the medieval languages of France, northwest Italy or the Iberian Peninsula. However, it is not known whether these bits of Latin script were part of the original text or were added later. With everything from its origin, purpose, ownership, significance and authenticity a mystery, what is this?

1 Answers:

VK Handa said...


Voynich Manuscript