It’s Voynich time again

Which means another round of breathless headlines, as I discussed in 2017: [https://camestrosfelapton.wordpress.com/2017/08/29/speaking-of-fantastical-drawings/ ] That time the theory was that the author was an Italian Jewish doctor. This time the theory is the author was a nun who lived here https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aragonese_Castle

The peer-reviewed paper [https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/02639904.2019.1599566 ] presents a plausible case that the writing is in a “proto-romance” language with its own writing system related to Latin letters.

Unfortunately the response to “the Voynich manuscript has been cracked!” is “oh no it hasn’t!”. Ars Technica has a more sceptical article than most on the news [https://arstechnica.com/science/2019/05/no-someone-hasnt-cracked-the-code-of-the-mysterious-voynich-manuscript/ ] Specifically, it seems “proto-romance language” is more of a means to make matching possible labels to words i.e. find a word that matches from across any one of Europe’s Romance languages from Spanish to Romanian without requiring a consistent mapping. It also allows for borrowings from near-by languages (e.g. Slavic or Persian) — it’s plausible for a language to have such borrowings but it gives a lot of freedom for matching script to words and then “translating” the words.

There’s a longer sceptical analysis here https://voynichportal.com/2019/05/07/cheshire-recast/ [ETA: and a follow up that is even more brutal https://voynichportal.com/2019/05/16/cheshire-reprised/ ]

Way beyond my capacity to judge but the test would be in translating longer un-illustrated passages, which apparently has yet to occur.

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12 thoughts on “It’s Voynich time again

  1. I think that the very best Voynich theory I ever saw was in a Discworld Fanfic which crosses Big Bang Theory with UU And the Assassins’ Guild. (Incidentally, pretty much all of this Author’s fics are well worth a read.)

    IIRC, the Burser is browsing the internet and finds an online copy and asks why someone on Roundworld had a copy of a manuscript describing the Flora of Bhangbhangduc.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I am very certain that the Voynich manuscript is outsider art, untranslatable because there is no deeper meaning to it other than “this is my cool thing:” and that every single attempt at translation will be just like this–invent a bunch of stuff and twist the evidence to fit.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. There’s a name for proto-Romance language – Vulgar Latin. Though the articles suggest something more like a proto-Esperanto.

    Like

  4. “We’ve realised we look really gullible and should read papers before we promote them”

    Liked by 1 person

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