Voynich – The Agony And The Possibly

One of my minor interests is cryptography. Why? Partly from the importance of it to secure computing and communications. Partly from understanding the importance to history. From various war communications be it cloth wound on a spear (Rome) to Engima (and wining a rather important war), cryptography really is important.

This laterally connects to undeciphered manuscripts and scripts. From Linear-A to more recent works.

One of these is the Voynich Manuscript. Those wanting a more detailed description can hit the wiki (or other sources). I’m just going to point out it is an early 1400’s dated book, written by hand, in an unknown script and language, with lots of (expensive) hand drawn color illustrations in it.

It has puzzled folks for hundreds of years.

Every so often someone claims to have deciphered it. So far, all of them have been bunk. (Ever wonder why, if something is bunk, the process of showing it is bunk is called DE-bunking it?…)

I’m going to present two recent claims. The first, IMHO, is complete trash. It’s all dressed up in lots of big sounding words and strange stuff. But just a little bit of “dig here!” makes it looks suspicious, then silly, then like a way to sell a book and make some money. The second has me thinking they’ve done it. Good process, visible chain from reasoning to content. Content makes sense (in a mundane “that’s why you write a book with pictures of flowers in it” kind of way.)

Honerable mention goes to the guy who’s A.I. claims to have deciphered it, but you must resort the letters and leave out the vowels and… Let’s just say I think his A.I. has a bit too much imagination and not enough Q.A. checking. So before we get to “the Two”, here’s the A.I. sidebar:

https://edition.cnn.com/2018/06/15/health/voynich-manuscript-mystery/index.html

One recent theory that triggered an entire news cycle was the claim by a professor and grad student at the University of Alberta in Canada that artificial intelligence had finally cracked the code.

They claimed the text was originally written in Hebrew, before being encoded, but Davis and others have disputed that idea.

Following their link you get to:

https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/edmonton/computer-scientist-claims-clues-to-deciphering-mysterious-voynich-manuscript-1.4503571

“She made recommendations to the priest …”

And that, mysteriously, is the start of an enigmatic medieval book that has baffled experts for generations — at least according to the Edmonton computer scientist who believes he’s cracked the baffling code of the Voynich manuscript.

Uh huh. A book of clearly plant descriptions and such is talking about women telling priests what to do.

What was their process? Feed known languages into a “computer” (oh boy…) and have it match stuff and make a computer proven absolutely right guess.

First whack of the Clue Stick: When you tell a computer to FIND A MATCH from a FIXED SET, it WILL FIND A MATCH even if none of them is the right one. From {Enlish, Hebrew, Russian} which is the best match for “0hmiz” will pick one of them. Maybe English and call it Ohm for the person or “Oh Mi” in an implied plural… In truth, they are random keystrokes.

Second whack of the Clue Stick: What on Earth makes them think that the Universal Human Rights thing is a suitable sample text and / or anywhere near enough sample text? It is just way short and not broad enough to cover whole swathes of language. Any Botany in there? Astronomy? Anatomy? Sheesh. Moving on…

“The first step is to try and find out what the language is.”

He and his co-author Bradley Hauer took the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights and translated it into 380 languages. Using a series of complex statistical procedures and algorithms, they were able to get a computer to identify the correct language up to 97 per cent of the time.

Putting the manuscript through the same statistical procedure yielded the hypothesis that it was written in Hebrew.

Then they went after the Voynich code. The letters in each word, they found, had been reordered. Vowels had been dropped.

So, OK, it’s supposed to be Hebrew, minus vowels, consonants swapped around a bunch. Uh Huh. Right… With that big a hole you can fit an elephant… Imply all the vowels alone gets you thousands of choices per page. Reordering the consonants lets you change whole word families. (Hebrew uses 3 consonants but occasionally 4, to pick a meaning cluster, then the vowels change the specific. So library, book, and magazine might have the same root with vowels making the specific choice. Arabic and other Semitic languages work the same but with different specifics.

In my opinion? It’s computer generated trash.

But Kondrak said there’s much more to translation than feeding the Voynich into a computer. A human is needed to make sense of the syntax and intent of the words.

“Somebody with very good knowledge of Hebrew and who’s a historian at the same time could take this evidence and follow this kind of clue. Can we look at these texts closely and do some kind of detective work and decipher what can be the message?”

Ya think? Yeah, get yourself a Rabi and ask him to read it…

Ancient Unknown Language!

That just happens to be important to a “see-er” that nobody else has ever found…

https://blog.world-mysteries.com/ancient-writings/voynich-manuscript-ms408-decoded/

Introduction
I would like to inform you that Voynich Manuscript MS408 is already decoded by me. Each page of the Manuscript, from the first to the last, was read. The Manuscript was written in ancient forgotten Senzar language, like mix of the Vedic Sanskrit and Devanagari, which was before them – Proto-language. The Manuscript was written in November-December 1417, in Vilnius, by Metropolitan of Kyiv and All Rus-Ukraine, Lithuania, Zhemaytia, Mlodovlakhia (Moldova), Gregory (Gabriel) Tsamblak (Samvlah), and his monks specially for the Queen of Bavaria and Bohemia Sophia, who was the second wife of King Wenceslav IV.
This Manuscript was written because Queen Sophia considered herself a goddess Ra, after burned down Jan Hus, and Jeronim of Prague.
I was working with decoding this Manuscript almost 16 years.

Betcha wish you had those 16 years back, or at lest an ROI…

OK, first bit of suspicion is raised with ‘forgotten’ language. OK, how do YOU know a language that has been forgotten? Then we start getting more flags. Hot Button references to “vedic” and “sanskrit” seasoned with an unrelated language Devanagari. Except Devanagari isn’t a language. It is a writing system. Many languages can be written in Devanagari script. But maybe the guy was just sloppy and meant Sanskrit IN Devanagari… But if that’s the case, why haven’t all the hundreds of thousands of Sanskrit speakers spoken up and read it to us? Then we jump off to Ra in Egypt? Why would someone fixated on Egypt want a book written in Sanskrit?

OK, time to take a look at the unknown thing here. Senzar.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Senzar_language

Senzar is a supposed original language of the stanzas of Dzyan. It is referenced in multiple locations in works of Helena Blavatsky.

A supposed language. Envisioned by a Mystical Seer Helena Blavatsky. Hoo-boy, off to lalaland…

In her Secret Doctrine Blavatsky calls Senzar “a tongue absent from the nomenclature of languages and dialects with which philology is acquainted” (SD, I, xxxvii). While The Theosophical Glossary (p. 295) defines it as “the mystic name for the secret sacerdotal language or the ‘Mystery-speech’ of the initiated Adepts, all over the world.”

In Isis Unveiled Blavatsky identifies Senzar as being “ancient Sanskrit” (Isis, I, 440). As noted by John Algeo in his book, Blavatsky’s other statements about Senzar (including the above linkage to Sanskrit) create a number of puzzles, which make it difficult to take the etymological language family references literally, since some link to Egyptian sources, while yet others are still of other roots. Obviously, as she says multiple times in her works, nothing truly esoteric is ever given out to the public, let alone is it published in any widely circulated volume. The origin of the language Senzar must be taken as secret, and the puzzles encountered by Alego are merely blinds. As Blavatsky writes from the perspective of an occultist with a perennialist bent, she insists on a common root to all things, language and the secret sciences of adepts chief among them. This is reflected directly in her references to a worldwide “brotherhood” of occult adepts.

OK, HUGE whack with the King Clue Stick. Occult Adepts Mystery Trash… But wait, what is further down his page?

The result of my research for almost 16 years, was the writing of this book “Mystery of Senzar”. It contains a very concentrated explanation of the origin of the Manuscript, the reason for its writing, and who was the author and recipient. I hope the book will be interesting to readers. At the present time, I’m working on a more complete version of the book that will contain the full text of the scanned Manuscript.

Oh, right, the Book Deal. But not just one book. A few of them. Ca-Ching!

FWIW, here’s a sample of the start of his “translation” (that bears no connection to the pictures, BTW):

Translation

What is God Go Ra – Eye of Go(Cow or Ox)? What for are you carrying this pseudo-god’s Eye? Where is Eye of Ox? O Lady, is this Go Ra pseudo-god’s Foot{of Budha}?
Is that according to this Eye? Is this Eye Evil’s Eye? Are you this? Are you former pseudo-god’s Eye according to this Eye? Is this Evil’s God? What are you – Evil’s Godddess according to Evil’s Go?
Are you mixed-up this Eye of God Ra? This Eye? Is it Eye? Are you mxed-up this Eye? Are you this Evil God’s Go Eye? Are you this Eye of that God Ra? Are you this Eye of Evil’s Go?
What is God – that God Ra? Is this Naked Eye according to Eye? Is Mother-Glory that Go Ra? Is Goddess Ra according to Eye? What is God – are you this Eye? Is Lady this Eye? Is this Shadow this Eye? Are you Eye – God’s Eye? Goddess Eye of Grass-snare?

Minor whack of clue stick: LOTS of repeats of hot button concept phrases from their Mystical World View. Slugging in concepts for words and sounds is a common “Aw Shit” mistake, IMHO. You get stuff that your brain tries to accept but it’s just about as useful as slugging in words for letters in English. It will LOOK like sentences, but be trash.

Sounds Right

Then there’s this one. It just rings true to me. From the CNN link we have:

Many will want to apply those criteria to a new theory, from a family in Canada, who claim to have deciphered the text.
Ahmet Ardic — an electrical engineer by profession, whose lifelong passion has been researching Turkic languages, linguistics and etymological roots — stumbled upon a copy of the Voynich manuscript online four years ago.
Like so many others, he was intrigued and began working on it by himself for a year. He then enlisted his two sons, Ozan and Alp Erkan, to help.

The Ardic family have published a video on YouTube explaining their theory. They say they’re certain the manuscript is written in a type of Old Turkic dialect or a combination of dialects — mostly written in phonemic orthography, or language written as it is spoken.

He looked at the text, and noticed a familiar agglutinative language pattern. Lots of “ROOT+modifiers” with repeated roots in the first position. Then proceeded to look at what seemed an astrological 12 month wheel and trying Turkish month names, fit to the symbols. Figured out it was not written in either the current western script, or the older Turkish that used the Arabic alphabet, but phonetically by sounds. Then worked out what symbol goes to which sound.

Elsewhere I saw a reference that said many of the letters in the manuscript show up in other languages, like Hebrew and Indoeuropean languages. It is quite possible the person just picked up some sounds from various writings and fit letters to his own language. A self taught writing system. Or it could be a personal encoding system (that worked rather well for 600 years…) like Da Vinci’s mirror writing. I’ve done both mirror writing and a modified encoding alphabet in some private writings of my own. It isn’t an unusual idea.

Slowly, that approach was extended to other parts of the text. The reading of some that they give in the video, looks to connect nicely to the images. The content of it is what I would expect someone to be interested in when traveling about and documenting different plants and habits of the people.

In short, it just looks, sounds and feels like “they got it”.

Old Turkish was written in Arabic.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Old_Anatolian_Turkish

Old Anatolian Turkish (Turkish: Eski Anadolu Türkçesi) is the stage in the history of the Turkish language spoken in Anatolia from the 11th to 15th centuries. It developed into Early Ottoman Turkish. It was written in the Arabic script. Unlike in later Ottoman Turkish, short-vowel diacritics were used.

So why isn’t this in Arabic script? Perhaps because writing was not all that common then, and folks were frequently willing to use different scripts for any particular language. Today we tend to think of languages as tied to a given script, but that was not always the case. Old tablets have many languages written in cuneiform. Turkish swapped from Arabic to a western styled script at about that time (15th century). Ancient Egyptian was written in hieroglyphics, hieratic, and demotic scripts and IIRC late stage Egyptian could be written in Greek and Arabic scripts too.

Perhaps the assertion that the script looks like Devangari has some merit and the writer was a Turkish speaker who had learned to write Sanskrit, then adapted what writing he had learned to his own language. I’ve not gone down that rabbit hole yet.

But what is attactive to me, is that a Native Speaker (of modern Turkish) is saying this is very familiar to him (once the script issue is out of the way). Then, his two sons are also working on it. Finally, I’m not seeing any ideological or monetary flags waving about.

Finally, the Ottoman Empire was big about then, Turkish would have been a common language throughout a lot of the world, and they would be moving people around their empire. So it is reasonable that a person of letters might want to have learned their language, or that a native Turkish speaker might have gone off to India to learn their way of writing, then returned to Europe.

Here’s their video:

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About E.M.Smith

A technical managerial sort interested in things from Stonehenge to computer science. My present "hot buttons' are the mythology of Climate Change and ancient metrology; but things change...
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4 Responses to Voynich – The Agony And The Possibly

  1. YMMV says:

    Very interesting video. A family project! I would trust this family. Their solution is simple and makes sense and it works.

  2. President Elect H.R. says:

    One also must consider the purpose of the manuscript. The illustrations seem somewhat like a tourist’s account. A while back, I followed a link to the text from here, I believe. The illustrations seemed like things the writer was no familiar with.

    I’d expect the successful translation would read like, “Look at this thing. It is [description to go with illustration] and is used thus-and-so.”

    But that’s also how “How-To” books are written. The writer has learned this or that and wants to record it for posterity so others don’t have to go through a bunch of trial and error.

    I’d be suspicious of any mystical, spiritual, astral results that claim to be a successful translation.

  3. Compu Gator says:

    The shapes (which are properly termed glyphs) of the separately written noncursive letters in the Voynich manuscript need not be treated as “mysterious”:

    Even avocational philologists or linguists can find a great variety of glyphs with which to mystify or confuse their readers, without expanding their cherry-picking beyond historically attested scripts [✍] for Indoeuropean languages.

    ——–
    Note ✍ : In this topic, a “script” means a writing-system for 1 or more languages, e.g., the Latin alphabet, the ancient & classical Greek alphabets, the Aramaic abjad(s) (ancestor, e.g., of modern Hebrew), the Ethiopic syllabary, &c.

  4. V.P. Elect Smith says:

    @CompuGator:

    It also occurred to me that this was written near the time of the shift from Arabic to Western alphabet. It is quite possible there was a period of time when “We are going to change to western” was in the wind, but the final choice had not been settled. A traveling Academic might very well have decided to “try out” some western characters and try to come up with an interesting and acceptable replacer, but just lost out to someone else.

    After the choice was settled, the victor would not talk about the loser and the losers would not advertise their loss, so little would end up in the language history.

    A very common story in Tech after all… Where things like Very Long Instruction Word computers came and went in a flash, and only comparatively recently was word length and how math was represented made more or less standard (modulo the IBM 360 Hexadecimal Float…)

    And, per your point, yeah, there’s a whole load of char used in the Ancient World up to the 1400s to choose from. Whole herds of them are all over the place and many not deciphered. Then you get the issue of font and artistic presentation…

    But in the end, I think they (the family) have it right. Mostly indo-european with a smattering of ancient Hebrew / Arabic / Aramaic char repurposed to Turkish, but with a bit of artistic flare on the Big Capitals at the start of pages and / or paragraphs (as was common in those days in books). I’d be really interested to know if the sporadic Hebrew like char had sounds (like guttural stops) present in Turkish and Hebrew but not middle Europe… Were I setting out to phonetically write my language, I’d pick a set of char out of those that were in other languages but did have my language sounds. (And most languages have sounds not present in others, thus all the European diacritic marks).

    You also see that happen when, like Coptic written in Greek, they added or invented or in some cases repurposed characters for sounds not in Greek but in Coptic. Similarly, the various Slavic languages have slightly different Cyrillic character sets to match their different sound sets.

    People are a creative lot. (Stable over time not so much…)

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