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[Article] What Will It Take to Solve the Voynich Manuscript? - Printable Version

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What Will It Take to Solve the Voynich Manuscript? - Torsten - 25-06-2020

There is a new paper from 2020 about the VMS: You are not allowed to view links. Register or Login to view.

The paper from Lisa Fagin Davis is available You are not allowed to view links. Register or Login to view..

Lisa Davis argues: "The Voynich manuscript is written using an otherwise unknown collection of symbols known as 'Voynichese,' with linguistically identifiable roots, prefixes, and suffixes, as well as repeating orthographic and grammatical patterns (see Figure 1)" (Davis 2020, p. 73). It seems as if Figure 1 is referring to a figure on the following page p. 74. This figure shows the upper part of folio f84r. Based on the idea that the Voynich text represents natural language Lisa Davis comes to the conclusion: "An acceptable proposal must result in a reading that makes sense semantically, chronologically, and logically." (Davis 2020, p. 81).


RE: What Will It Take to Solve the Voynich Manuscript? - -JKP- - 25-06-2020

I don't think the VMS tokens follow a "roots, prefixes, and suffixes" structure. Suffixes maybe, in some instances. Prefixes maybe, but I have some reservations about this. Roots? No, not in the usual linguistic sense.

There are many tokens that show no indication of prefixes or suffixes, but I don't think these can be classified as "roots" either (in the linguistic sense).

..
I very much agree with this statement, however, "The Voynich is a truly interdisciplinary object." That's one of the best things about the VMS. No matter what your skillset, no matter what your background, there are aspects of it you will have to learn, and since I love learning, this is catnip for me.

Also this:

"But a medieval manuscript is much more than text and illustrations recorded on a two-dimensional surface. As readers of Manuscripts know well, a handwritten book or document is a complex three-dimensional object, comprising multiple components that must all be considered in any analysis. The VMS is written with oak gall ink on parchment. The illustrations were painted with mineral pigments. Like most medieval manuscripts, the Voynich is structured in quires of nested bifolia sewn through a series of small holes in the gutter.13 The spine of the text block.”14 The manuscript bears multiple signs of use: at least one earlier binding; wormholes; water-stains, in particular on the upper outer edge of the book block; and an effaced inscription on f. 1r (legible under ultra-violet light).15 Not only can these features not be ignored, they must be accounted for.
An acceptable proposal must also be consistent with the scientific evidence."



RE: What Will It Take to Solve the Voynich Manuscript? - Mark Knowles - 25-06-2020

When it comes to the question "What Will It Take to Solve the Voynich Manuscript?" I have feeling that if we could answer that question it would already have been solved.


RE: What Will It Take to Solve the Voynich Manuscript? - Torsten - 26-06-2020

The article of Lisa Davis is based on the idea that the language hypotheses is state of the art. The article didn't provide sufficient evidence for this hypotheses and didn't refer to any known counter argument (some of the counter arguments can be found in You are not allowed to view links. Register or Login to view.).  

These are my main findings so far:

1) There are "linguistically identifiable roots, prefixes, and suffixes" (p. 73). 
This way the article presents the hypotheses that the Voynich manuscript represents natural language as a fact. There are no examples of roots, prefixes or suffixes given and beside "(see Figure 1)"  as reference to folio 84r no further external reference is given. Since an explanation is missing it is already unclear what Lisa Davis means.

2) There are "repeating orthographic and grammatical patterns" (p. 73). 
Again no example of such a pattern is given. Also in this case it is unclear to what type of patterns Lisa Davis is referring to.

3) "until the text is rendered legible" (p. 75). 
Unfortunately the article didn't present any evidence supporting the idea that it must be possible to read the text.

4) "Enormous computing power has been devoted to linguistic analysis of the text, in efforts to discern patterns that might point towards a particular source language" (p. 75). 
Again a reference to such a study is missing. Moreover it is unclear why a computer should be helpful in detecting unidentified patterns in a script nobody can read.

5) "Recent linguistic analyses suggest that Voynichese may represent a natural - and as yet unidentified - human language" (p. 75). 
In this case Lisa Davis gives a reference to the paper of You are not allowed to view links. Register or Login to view..  But Amancio et al. are only arguing: "We show that it is mostly compatible with natural languages and incompatible with random texts." (Amancio et al. 2012). That the text is compatible in some aspects with natural languages doesn't imply that the text represents natural language (see also You are not allowed to view links. Register or Login to view. and You are not allowed to view links. Register or Login to view.).

6) "it isn’t nonsense, and it isn’t an invented language like Elvish or Klingon." (p. 75). 
Again an opinion is stated as a fact.

7) "Even so, the lack of decryption success has led some to believe it to be gibberish, an elaborate hoax." (p. 75). 
In this case a reference to an article in Scientific America by Rugg from 2004 and to a paper in Cryptologia by Timm and Schinner from 2020 is given (You are not allowed to view links. Register or Login to view.). I must say that I feel our paper is misrepresented with such a statement.

8) "To solve it convincingly will require a combination of skills that are unlikely to have been mastered by a single person. It will need to be a team effort." (p. 77).
The results of most researchers are available in print and most time even online. The idea that today someone is studying the Voynich manuscript without knowing of past efforts is therefore unreasonable.

9) "But for everyone working on the manuscript today, there is no excuse for not reading the vetted, published work, reviewing the chatrooms and blogs, and sifting through social media." (p. 82). 
I doubt that it would be helpful to read all chats, blogs, and tweets about the Voynich manuscript. Instead I would recommend the work of Currier, D'Imperio, Bennett, Landini, Stolfi, Reddy & Knight, Kennedy & Churchill, Montemurro & Zanette, Zandbergen, Schinner, Vogt, Hermes and Timm & Schinner.


RE: What Will It Take to Solve the Voynich Manuscript? - Helmut Winkler - 26-06-2020

This is not the kind of paper you can take serious. It is what I would call in German Reviermarkierung, there seems
to ne no English word. Only what is vetted by Higher Authorities can be printed. It  is obvious that in the case of the VMs peer review does not work, the best example is her own paper about the Voynich hands. Apart from the criticism in Tims post, there is obvious faulty thinking, e.g. the statement, that it cant be RB, it cant be an autograph.   Another point is the palaeography of the ms., there is not an illegible script but a Gothic minuscule and abbreviations. And she has not understood the codicological aspects of the ms.


RE: What Will It Take to Solve the Voynich Manuscript? - bi3mw - 26-06-2020

Slightly OT because not related to the paper, but an important point about what it takes to solve the VMS was not even addressed: Cooperation

By this I mean cooperation at all levels, cooperation in developing ideas (no solution approaches from the "island"), and exchange of materials (for example, exchange of comparative corpora, tables and code snippets). I believe that the solution to the VMS can probably not be found by a single person, but only by a large group of people working together in a coordinated way.


RE: What Will It Take to Solve the Voynich Manuscript? - Torsten - 26-06-2020

(26-06-2020, 10:41 AM)bi3mw Wrote: You are not allowed to view links. Register or Login to view.Slightly OT because not related to the paper, but an important point about what it takes to solve the VMS was not even addressed: Cooperation

Actually this is one of the main ideas given in the article: "The Voynich is a truly interdisciplinary object. ..." (p. 77).


RE: What Will It Take to Solve the Voynich Manuscript? - LisaFaginDavis - 26-06-2020

Thanks for these thoughts, all. My main point wasn't about the linguistics at all - that was simply introductory. The point of the paper is that a workable solution must make sense, whether it results in legible text or not. It must be in accordance with the evidence, it must be repeatable. That all seems inarguable to me. Remember as well that this journal has a broad, populist audience. It is not a journal for specialists. It isn't meant to present new work or to tell you, the Voynich Ninja contributors, anything you don't already know. It is meant to be an introductory piece for an audience who only knows about the VMS from public media and wants to know a little more.

And I made the point about cooperation quite explicitly - no one is an expert in everything. I am not a linguist. But I AM an expert in medieval manuscripts, and I can assure you that I understand the codicological structure of the manuscript better than most, and that the manuscript is definitely not written in Gothic minuscule and abbreviations. 

I'm not going to debate this particular article further, as it wasn't intended to make an argument about the contents of the VMS at all, just to introduce readers to the manuscript and some of the complexities involved in working with it.


RE: What Will It Take to Solve the Voynich Manuscript? - bi3mw - 26-06-2020

I missed that one, but all the better.

Quote:The Voynich is a truly interdisciplinary object. To solve it convincingly will require a combination of skills that are unlikely to have been mastered by a single person.

What one might argue about is that you should only let experts work on the individual areas. In my opinion, a layman who has been working on a topic for years can just as well cooperate. One should not build a front between scholars and laymen ( linguists, historians, cryptologists, etc. against "non-experts" ).


RE: What Will It Take to Solve the Voynich Manuscript? - Torsten - 26-06-2020

(26-06-2020, 11:52 AM)LisaFaginDavis Wrote: You are not allowed to view links. Register or Login to view.Thanks for these thoughts, all. My main point wasn't about the linguistics at all - that was simply introductory. The point of the paper is that a workable solution must make sense, whether it results in legible text or not. It must be in accordance with the evidence, it must be repeatable. That all seems inarguable to me. Remember as well that this journal has a broad, populist audience. It is not a journal for specialists. It isn't meant to present new work or to tell you, the Voynich Ninja contributors, anything you don't already know. It is meant to be an introductory piece for an audience who only knows about the VMS from public media and wants to know a little more.

Thank you for your response. Especially since you reach a broader audience it becomes important if you state something as a fact. For instance now it is possible to read something like this online: "Experts confirm that the writing appears to be an actual language, just not one anyone has ever seen before" (You are not allowed to view links. Register or Login to view.). 

Sorry, but you can't argue that the point of the article is "whether it results in legible text or not" if you wrote in fact "until the text is rendered legible, we will not for sure." (Davis 2020, p. 75). What you write in your article is exactly the opposite of what you say now.


(26-06-2020, 11:52 AM)LisaFaginDavis Wrote: You are not allowed to view links. Register or Login to view.I'm not going to debate this particular article further, as it wasn't intended to make an argument about the contents of the VMS at all, just to introduce readers to the manuscript and some of the complexities involved in working with it.

The complexity involved in deciphering the Voynich manuscript is justified by unexpected and seemingly contradictory results like the two "languages" Currier A and Currier B or the extraordinary low entropy values. The Voynich manuscript is not difficult since researchers didn't cooperate. It is difficult since its writing system behaves differently from any writing system known so far. But this fact isn't even mentioned in your article. Instead you suggest that "repeating grammatical patterns" and "linguistically identifiable roots, prefixes, and suffixes" must be obvious (Davis 2020, p. 73). But in fact researchers are puzzled because of the absence of such patterns.

For instance D'Imperio wrote "The short words, the many sequential repetitions, the rarity of one- or two letter words, the rarity of doublets (doubled letters), all militate against simple substitution. So also does the strange lack for parallel context surrounding different occurrences of the same word as shown by words indexes. In the words of several researchers 'the text just doesn't act like natural language" (You are not allowed to view links. Register or Login to view., p. 30) or Tiltmann "My analysis, I believe shows that the text cannot be the result of substituting single symbols for letters in the natural oder. Languages simply do not behave in this way. ...  And yet I am not aware of any long repetitions of more than 2 or 3 words in succession, as might be expected for instance in the text under the botanical drawings" (You are not allowed to view links. Register or Login to view., p. 9).

You write that it is important to cooperate and to be aware of the results of other researchers. But your article is failing to do so.