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Re: John Chadwick (Linear B) of corpus size. Comments invited.
Well, things are slow on the VMS front so I'll bite for what its worth.
I'm not a statistician but it doesn't seem that an all-encompassing
formula can be applied in all cases of undeciphered text. The Egyptian
hieroglyphic symbols are quite extant as well as the corpus - but they
weren't deciphered until a short text was found with three versions of the
same underlying intelligence.
Secondly, consider a numerical cipher to an undeciphered script and you
produce something like 44 12 89 31 56 10 3 92 1 33 31 56 12 89 31 56 44 1 12
18 44 etc... So really, you only have 0-9 in characters, but the frequency
of use will give way to the discovery of the text without having to have 100
characters. This is assuming the analyst takes a stab at the underlying
language and knows the frequency of character usage. Additionally, if our
script is written with actually word separation as an undeciphered 'natural'
language would be - then we have added information that the all-encompassing
formula hasn't taken into consideration: 441289315610392 133 315612
This may be a poor example, but it seems to me that the Squaring of the
Character Set has nothing to do with the decipherability of any given text.
To experiment, perhaps your friend might try giving a short
simple-substitution foreign language script to a study group and ask them to
discover the text. Using a non-familiar script with another known language.
For example, tell the students that the language is a Romance language
written in the Cyrillic script - can they discover which Romance language
and the meaning of the text. - Try varying the length of the text - some
above the Square, and some below the Square. See if anyone can solve the
shorter ones - offer Bonus marks to the shortest text deciphered!
Just a thought!
----- Original Message -----
From: Jacques Guy <jguy@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
Sent: Friday, May 12, 2000 1:59 AM
Subject: John Chadwick (Linear B) of corpus size. Comments invited.
> I have been corresponding with Andrew Robinson, who is
> literary editor for the (London) Times Higher Education
> Supplement and is working on a book on undeciphered
> In the introduction he writes this about the amount of
> corpus necessary for decipherment, taking the Phaistos
> Disk (45 different signs) against Linear B and Linear
> "[John] Chadwick was not saying that if you had n
> squared characters, a script would definitely be
> decipherable. But he was suggesting that since 45
> squared equals 2025, and this number is almost ten
> times 250, a Phaistos disc decipherment is currently
> impossible. There were several tens of thousands of
> characters of Linear B available to Ventris--which is
> several times bigger than 7569, the square of 87, the
> number of basic Linear B signs. Linear A, with about
> 7500 characters and perhaps 100 signs (n squared equals
> 10,000), is correspondingly less likely to be
> I answered:
> "No, that statististics is meaningless. Imagine a
> writing system with 32 symbols; n=32, and n squared
> 32x32=1024, and call it the minimum amount of text for
> decipherability. Now, encode that same script into a
> binary system (e.g. a => 0000, b => 0001...), and
> translate your corpus into it. The information is
> preserved. You have now 2 symbols. The minimum amount
> of text for decipherability is now... 4 symbols long!
> (Not enough to fit a single one of the 32)"
> And he asked back:
> "I am going to try Chadwick's 'formula' on Elisabeth
> Barber ("Archaeological Decipherment") and Whitfield
> Diffie (cryptographer, whose wife is an Egyptologist).
> But can you just clarify for me--you are saying that
> Chadwick's idea is wrong, not just that my numbers are
> Yes, my point was that Chadwick's formula is dead
> wrong. However, I would like other opinions. I know, I
> know, over the years, we have thrashed this matter to
> the death. Robinson's book will be aimed at the general
> public (he'd previously written "The Story of Writing"
> (Thames and Hudson, 1995), and I would hate to see
> nonsense like "Chadwick's formula" fed to a wide
> readership. IF it is nonsense. I think it is, but I
> prefer not to trust my judgment. Comments, everybody?