OK, I’ve just received a comment on a post I once made on a 2006 Jewish Arabic Voynich theory: it was left by systems analyst Joachim Dathe, directing us all to his new theory on the Voynich – basically, he has written a little programme (“eva2arab.exe”) that transforms EVA-style Voynichese (Dathe refers to the “Yamamichi” transcription, but I guess he probably means the Takahashi transcription) into phonetic Arabic, a text that Google Translate (etc) is apparently able to translate.

Here’s a link to the table of letter correspondences that Dathe has put together. As normal, there are some fairly obvious problems:
* Given that Arabic is an abjad [vowel-less] script, it’s a bit odd why there’s an a, two e’s and an o in there.
* Given that Arabic has 28 letters, it’s a bit odd that only 15 or so appear in the table.

All the same, Dathe claims to have answers to all these questions in that the text output by his reverse Romanization is a kind of phoneticized Arabic, and that he thinks “well educated Arabs would not have big problems to cope with that stuff”: more on that here.

The proof of this pudding is, alas, mostly evaporated in the cooking: Dathe’s automated attempt at translation of Voynichese text (from f58r?) remains a long way from what just about any cryptologer would deem at all convincing. But please be your own judge, as frankly I’m a bit bored of receiving affronted emails. I’m sure most of you know exactly what I mean. Oh well! 🙁

28 thoughts on “2012 Arabic Voynich theory…

  1. bdid1dr on March 18, 2012 at 10:39 pm said:

    Affronted….hmmmh. (Not hmph!)

    I think you get a sense of “trails” I scented, and since sent to you in the last week or so. No? Not to mention the history of Greenwich University”s Mansion Campus?

    heh! bdid1dr %^

  2. Diane O'Donovan on March 18, 2012 at 11:25 pm said:

    Sorry to hear about the affronted emails.
    Speaking of emails, though – I’m thinking of writing up a formal-type paper on the elements in the Vms which suggest a connection to Hellenistic and later Rhodes, including an allusion to that vat.lat.grec 1291 image of course. I have no-where on either of my open blogs that it would fit. Would you care to have it?

  3. Diane O'Donovan on March 18, 2012 at 11:38 pm said:

    About the 28 letters of Arabic – I won’t dilate on the topic, but there were a number of established equations between the letters and other systems. Some of these were explained in Burckhardt’s little book on the religious astrology of Ibn Arabi. Another very interesting discussion is in Nasr’s Introduction to Islamic Cosmology, where he refers to the spiritual intrpretation of what was essentially a Pythagorean attitude to number: in this case the fact that 28 is the sum of 1+2+3 etc. This at least conceptually permits development of something like the Chinese, and later European ‘Pascal’ triangle, a very convenient tool, one would think, for encoding a written text.

    Not, of course, that I’m arguing for Arabic as the language of the Vms – not my field – but there are dimensions to the factor of 28 which haven’t been explored, I think.

  4. bdid1dr on March 19, 2012 at 3:46 pm said:

    I had high hopes when I checked out from my local library: “The World of Words”, An Illustrated History of Western Languages, by Victor Stevenson.

    Mr. Stevenson did just fine with full-color for his sections on Greek and Roman developments. When he got to Martin Luther and Gutenberg, it was still large print, but in black lettering.

    By the time his discussion came around to Cyrillic, he focused on the “Three Russians” (still large-type, but gray on yellow background). I’ll give him credit for devoting eight pages of discussion (including a color photo of Moscow’s St. Basil cathedral). But, from there on, no more letter plates, period.

    Now, there’s a word for you: “period”. Several languages don’t use punctuation marks such as the dot. How many of your cryptography fans remember that fact? Can you just imagine the utter confusion that would abound with trying to cipher/decipher languages that use dots for diacritical marks?

    So, I give the person you’ve been discussing some credit for trying! (Shades of N’astalic?)

  5. Diane O'Donovan on March 19, 2012 at 3:55 pm said:

    bd1dr and Nick
    I’m not sure how or why but it may be easier for those in the northern hemisphere –
    somehow a second address has been generated for each of my open blogs. Whether this is referral spam or something more benign I’ve no idea, but the addresses now also appear as

    I tried both links and got no ads or anything of that sort, but let me know if you do.

  6. bdid1dr on March 19, 2012 at 4:08 pm said:

    Another section of Mr. Stevenson’s book deals with the development of Polish nationality over the centuries. So, I’ll give him (and you, Nick) a toast: “Nastrovnya”!

    BTW: Has anyone tried to encipher Yiddish?

  7. bdid1dr on March 19, 2012 at 4:10 pm said:

    Oy veh! Oy vey?

  8. has anyone considered mandinko or takalog?

  9. bdid1dr on March 19, 2012 at 10:32 pm said:

    Oh dang, Diane!

    That might have been caused by my uncertain attempts to post to your blog today re (at this point I’ll just say wooden shoes). I probably misunderstood how I was supposed to post to your blog.

    Just a few minutes ago, I begged Nick’s pardon for using his other most active post to let you know that I’m apparently even “goofier” than usual! Please forgive me, both of you. I’m going to go stand in the corner for a while and “meditate on my misdemeanors”.

  10. bdid1dr on March 19, 2012 at 10:39 pm said:

    Oh my, one last, short, response to “me”. I think/recall that Nick has pretty much covered just about all of African/Mandingo? He very kindly responded to my very lengthy posts re Leo Africanus, Timbuktu. He’ll probably be answering your query/post as soon as I quit monopolizing this blog!

  11. Diane O'Donovan on March 20, 2012 at 7:59 am said:

    If the content of Beinecke 408 originates in works as old as I’m coming to believe they were, then it is possible that the text of this manuscript is in a language now extinct. 🙁

  12. Diane O'Donovan on March 20, 2012 at 8:06 am said:

    PS I’m also beginning to wonder if we shouldn’t establish a ‘twitter-net’ site for the manuscript. But then again, perhaps that’s already been done.

  13. Diane O'Donovan on March 20, 2012 at 8:27 am said:

    ok – well, I’ve started a twits account for Voynichero408 so if you, Bobby or bdid1dr, would like, let’s chat there sometime.

  14. Diane O'Donovan on March 20, 2012 at 12:52 pm said:

    Spoke to someone – not under that name – on the Vms list. It’s a pity the responses of the long-timers can be so affecting. I feel for him.

  15. bdid1dr on March 20, 2012 at 6:17 pm said:

    in re “me”:

    Good question! (Nick, has anyone mentioned Tagalog before now?) Phillipines. I don’t know a lot of their history, but I understand Roman Catholic (Latin) influence is still strong: i.e. Gold bracelets for the girls when they reach their 15th/16th birthdays.


  16. bdid1dr on March 20, 2012 at 6:30 pm said:

    OK, Diane. Not having done any twittering B4, you may have to guide me through the first bird cheeps.

    Should I go to your blog page for further instruction?

    Thanks, Nick! (BTW, see my latest comment on your Blitz page. Nag, nag!)

  17. For the person looking for Cyrilic manuscripts:
    The Tale of Igor’s Campaign

    Life of Alexander Nevsky

    Note that I think Voynich script does not resemble Cyrilic [as a person that learned to read and write Russian, so I can’t say it for 100%] For me it reminds of script shown here
    or writing in Codex Mendoza.

  18. bdid1dr on March 30, 2012 at 12:42 am said:

    Diane, “M” :

    I’ll be checking your ref re Codex Mendoza” link when I’m done posting here — many thanks!

    Diane, I may not be posting any more. I think I’ve upset Nick’s applecart. So, I’ll be wandering, via Internet, through the VMs landscape that I discovered on the “Rosettes” portions. Fascinating!

    I’ll be visiting your blog once in a while. I tried the “twitter” option but was not able to complete the “protocol”.

    I’ll be keeping an eye on the various posts.


  19. Diane O'Donovan on April 10, 2012 at 3:47 pm said:

    First use of an Arabic font in an English work.

    John Selden’s “Mare Clausum”


  20. bdid1dr on April 11, 2012 at 1:32 am said:

    T’shuk’ran, for bearing with me Nick, Diane, and M!

    I have recently refocused my search for scripts. I’ll keep you posted when you return from your May symposium.

  21. As the developer of this “theory” (for me it is the solution) i would like to make some remarks:

    1. This development is in progress, the 4th version as of now, some more characters were identified etc.
    For latest eva2arab.exe always see: http://goo.gl/jKU7u

    2. Most problems arise from source data:
    a) VOYNICH graphems:
    difficult readability, words concatenation, uncertain word boundaries, missing punctuation.
    b) EVA transcriptions:
    inaccurate identification of VM chars,
    f.e. “ee” for “u”, confusion between “m” and “g” etc.
    let aside that much parts marked as questionable.

    A lot of such flaws i recognized when trying to translate them.
    So i could fix these things accordingly showing even more the plausibility of my solution.

    3. Everone can check the functionality easily (without any special transliteration):
    Look for a valid word in EVA consisting completely of letters from charset “soulcaye”, no diphthongs please,
    switch on Google-Translate, Arab -> English, phonetic typing,
    and it will be translated into a valid arabic word with its * english representation *, means,
    * you have to know nothing about arabic language. *

    4. Contextual translation of sentences is a little more ambitious.
    Currently i only use for it software tools to avoid subjective influences and to avoid considerations about arabic grammar. Now i prefer to translate only short pieces.

    5. Question to all now:
    if really all VM words and sentences would be completely represented by arabic language can there exist even another language to match it equally ?

    6. Sorry to say, there is no cryptography in it, only some linguistics and text processing.

    Joachim Dathe.

    BTW. if someone expects crypto from me see my strenc.exe developed in my former life.

  22. Joachim Dathe on September 20, 2012 at 12:56 pm said:

    For everything about the VM-Arabic relation see here:


  23. Guthrie on January 12, 2013 at 4:21 am said:

    My theory:

    The script is in a weird quasi-arabic language. There are many characters that while rare in western lanauges, are common in arabic. In particular, the “و”, which in arabic is a “u” sound. If read from left to right it ends and starts a lot of words, which makes no sense. However, in arabic, it is very common to start/end with the letter.

    There are many other letters which resemble quoronic arabic, the ه, س، as well as the “c”, which I believe to be a “tail-less” ح. This also explains the “lack” of letters or symbols because arabic uses only a few different “symbols”, but in conjunction with dots these make different letters — example: ح ج خ or ن ب ث ت. So from 28 or so arabic letters, if you go only by the “shape” of the letters, ignoring the dots, you end up with 17 letters (give or take a few, depending on the tails, etc). The reason it doesn’t look like arabic is because of course it is not in cursive.

    My guess is it is a weird simplified arabic highbred which merged sounds together for written letters, and then the words were figured out based on context. This is pretty par for the course for arabic, as the vowel sounds are already not written in modern arabic. Example, ح ج خ are the sounds “haa, jaa, kha”, so merging these together nets you one looking letter, etc… Also the “o” is probably the “h” sound, as there are two “h’s” in arabic. If that means anything to anyone.

    This is my guess. When I first started learning arabic I sometimes unconciously wrote the script from left to right, instead of the correct right to left. While it doesn’t work if you use cursive, writting individual letters does allow you to write arabic the “wrong” direction. That, I believe is what you are looking at.

    Arabic also uses letters to signify tenses and punctuation, which would explain the lack of puncuation, and the length and repitition of letters. Example, ت to the beginning of a word can make it transitive, or, if at the end, signify tenses. There appears to be rather consistent opening and closing of letters (the g being one). Arabic letters can be both part of a word, and tense/punctuation/meaning added at the same time.

    Let me know if this sounds right. gu3miles@gmail.com

  24. There are completely new information about VMs:
    1 The Michitonese part in f116d is solved.
    2 The origin and the language of the manuscript is found.
    3 The way to Prague is shown.

    All the details here:


  25. all the links from the original article have been vanished since 2014. Waybackmachine only has 1 URL stored. I was curious about the letter-translation-table. Obviously it doesn’t make sense, but i am still interested in the attempt. If somebody has that old table let me know?

  26. david: Joachim Dathe has probably just moved all his stuff somewhere else on the web, but I’ll have a snoop later and see if I can find out where it’s all gone, hopefully fix the broken links.

    Broken links are, of course, a real PITA for me. 🙁

  27. https instead of http

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