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Plan of Attack
I've got a lot of other things going on, so I've no idea when I'll get
to do this. But it seems a good plan.
Jorge once said, "Many of us believe that Voynichese is a monosyllabic
language in a complex script". To that I add, it may be such a
representation of a common European language broken into syllables, ie.
the words are actually syllables of a common European language.
I think medieval French would be a good candidate for this. Consider:
1) In spoken medieval and modern French, words are not distinguished
separately; the stress on each syllable is about the same.
2) French poetry is not the weak-STRONG, weak-STONG, etc. iambic
pentameter of English, nor the LONG-short-short, LONG-short-short, etc.
dactylic hexameter of ancient Greek (and ancient Latin under Greek
influence); no, a French verse is a fixed number of *syllables*! The
alexandrine verse, the rough equivalent of heroic couplets in English,
is a rhymed couplet of two lines of eleven syllables.
3) Louis XIV'x Royal Cipher was never broken in his lifetime, and
records of it were lost afterward. When the late-19th-century crippie
Ètienne Bazeries finally broke the cipher, which was expressed in groups
of three numerals, he found that French *syllables* were enciphered, not
4) I believe that by the time of the VMs' origin (ca. 1480), French had
become the language of communication of Europe's upper classes. In
1290, Marco Polo dictated his story of his travels - in French.
Of course, it could be a dialect of Italian. After all, the
Renaissance was going on there at the time. René noted that the Vat.
1291, showing the nymphs Voynich-style, was in northern Italy at about
the time. Toresella suggests Venice because of the prevalence of the
"alchemical herbals" around there. Certainly Venice was a crossroads
of many cultures then.
Jorge has done admirable work on the structure of all Voynich words.
But let's not forget that Tiltman came up with a paradigm that explains
55-60% of Voynich "words". Even better, Robert Firth came up with a
paradigm that explains 75-80% of Voynich "words":
So. Choose three French texts of ca. 1480 (Rabelais and Montaigne are
later, ~ 1550, so perhaps Marco Polo?), manually break them down into
syllables, and get counts of the syllables. Then compare the top 280
syllables to the 280 Voynichese "words" that fit the Firth paradigm.
Yes, Voynichese may be homophonic, offering several alternatives for a
given number of syllables; thus the top 280 Voynichese words may
represent the top 100 French syllables. Yes, 8000 other Voynichese
words represent the remaining 20%. But, instead of an empty volume,
what I suggest might give us a piece of Swiss cheese whose holes we
could fill later.