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Re: VMs: Q: Theories about "4o" at word beginning?

Hi Elmar,

At 12:40 20/12/2003 +0100, Elmar Vogt wrote:
Just another question from the neophyte:

...who is actually Ld. Agilmar von Sevelingen, Shire of Turmstadt, Regional Deputy Fencing Marshal for the Heartlands (within the SCA, that is): but otherwise a 37-year-old software developer working in Nürnberg with a healthy interest in that mickey-take Lingua Franca "Europanto" - welcome, I'm sure you'll feel right at home here! :-)

Are there theories why the "4o" sequence seemingly appears only at word/group

Basically (in EVA), what does <qo> denote & why does it only really appear at the start of words? As with all things Voynichese, there are *many* possible theories and explanations (probably >= (number_of_listmembers) to the power 1.5). Here are some of my favourites, but try not to inhale them all too deeply:- :-)

(1) It means "the rest of this word is actually a number". Most relevant to theories of the VMs that revolve around the VMs' being based on a cleverly disguised number system (where it would need a special escape token to indicate that a word is a number rather than a code index).

(2) It is always preceded by a space because it makes the code output looks nice (but has actually nothing to do with where the *real* word-endings are in the plaintext). This often arises when people try to explain anomalous word-length statistics (specifically, why they seems to have a non-language-like distribution) in terms of fake spaces. While I don't know of any ciphers from the period which deliberately remove all spaces before systematically inserting new ones, that doesn't mean that none such exists. The statistical distribution might actually be quite typical of abbreviatory shorthands of the period (such as Radcliff's), but as we don't currently have any good examples of these in use, it's hard to tell. :-(

(3) It stands in for "qu", and that's that. Certainly, some medieval renderings of "q" look a lot like "4" (for example, the Llull scans as linked to on-list a few days ago). However, this looks a bit unnecessary for an artificial language (why reinvent Latin?) & a bit too obvious for a cipher... so who knows? :-|

(4) There's some kind of built-in ambiguity to the polyalphabetic cipher system by which we can arrange (by careful choice) for "q" to almost always be followed by "o" (as proposed by Leonell Strong). Well... I don't personally buy this, but some others do... so YMMV. :-)

(5) The pair <qo> is a verbose cipher proxy for a letter in an underlying alphabet. In support of this is the fact that "4o" appears in a couple of ciphers from circa 1450 in the famous Milanese cipher ledger, and in another cipher from Urbino circa 1440 (quoted in Sacco). But why it should only appear at the start of words is another matter entirely.

(6) The pair <qo> might code for some Tironian-notae-style preposition (like "cum-" / "con-", or "pre-"), depending on what the source plaintext happens to be.

(7) <qo> codes for the start of a kind of artificial word, whereby the restricted choice of letters following it (and in the fairly-rigid word structure we often observe, such as in the OKOKO model etc) code for choices traversing down some kind of tree structure. Fine - but it doesn't work for me. :-o

(8) <qo> acts a proxy for some kind of local substitution cipher (ie for a small cipher hidden elsewhere on the same page / folio / bifolio / quire / whatever). For example, it might mean "use the letter hidden at the start / end of the current line".

etc etc :-)

Cheers, .....Nick Pelling.....

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