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Hallo conlangers!

On 17/05/19 02:34, And Rosta wrote:

> On Thu, 16 May 2019, 22:49 Jörg Rhiemeier, <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
>
>> Hallo conlangers!
>>
>> [...]
>> I think that successfully creating a conlang in which the Voynich
>> Manuscript constitutes a meaningful text is pretty much equivalent to
>> deciphering it, isn't it? After all, it is extremely unlikely that a
>> text of that length makes sense in two utterly different languages!
>>
> Is that really so, when one of the languages is invented specifically to
> fit the text?

I think it would be an extremely unlikely coincidence if the text made
sense in two completely different languages, so unlikely that it can be
rejected out of hand! It is this very unlikeliness which makes
deciphering extinct written languages possible - otherwise we couldn't
know whether the language found in which the text makes sense is the
right one or not!

> (So if you arrive at a
>> conlang in which the VM constitutes a meaningful text, you probably have
>> guessed both the language and the meaning mostly right.
>>
> Can that really be so? Imagine you were faced with, say, a hundred pages of
> illustrated Wolof text. Could someone sufficiently ingenious come up with a
> grammar and lexicon that generates that orthographic text and has a meaning
> appropriate to the illustrations? I'd guess yes. Is it likely that they
> would have thereby enabled themself to read Wolof, to have understood the
> Wolof text? Surely not. But you must think it would be nigh on impossible
> to come up with a grammar and lexicon that generates that text.

I don't know how you arrive at such a conclusion. Surely, if the text is
long enough, the language found that way will be at least a more or less
precise model of real Wolof, and will allow its builder to comprehend
Wolof texts at least to some degree.

Consider the process of deciphering ancient writings in an extinct
language, such as Sumerian or Hittite. How does that work? It works by
finding a grammar and a lexicon which make the old writings make sense.
Once such a linguistic system is found, the thing is considered
deciphered and the found linguistic system is considered the language in
which the texts are written (or at least a model of it). Of course, some
room for error remains, but this gets quickly smaller and smaller the
more text is successfully deciphered.

> It is indeed more likely that it is written in an unknown language - either
>> a lost natlang or a conlang. And
>> it is perhaps not even encrypted, as the choice of the language alone
>> makes it hard enough to crack!
>>
> But in that case, what sort of writing system is it? It does not look like
> a writing system of any known sort (i.e. alphabet, syllabary, etc.), for
> what possible values could the letters (given their distributional
> characteristics) have that would yield something like a representation of a
> linguistic utterance? Do you not agree that it is in fact very hard to
> identify any linguistic characteristics of Voynichese, whereas any
> nonencrypted text written in nonlogographic script does reveal many clues
> about its linguistic characteristics, such as its morphological structure.

The script is quite obviously alphabetic (it consists of 36 characters,
11 of which seem to be modifications of other ones), and it seems to be
possible to distinguish vowels and consonants, even if the sound values
aren't known (the EVA transcription convention[1] constitutes an
educated guess). The glyphs look similar enough to the letters of the
Latin alphabet to guess that the alphabet is related to the latter in
some way.

[1] A chart of the EVA (European Voynich Alphabet) can be found here:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Voynich_manuscript#Transcription

But I do think that a conlang is more likely than a lost natlang. And I
said that it is *perhaps* not encrypted - it may actually be! However,
15th-century cryptography was pretty simple and naïve by modern
standards, yet cryptoanalysts have found nothing. So it seems unlikely
that we are dealing with an encrypted known natlang, which leaves us
either an unknown natlang or a conlang - encrypted or not.

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