Two of the least commented-on aspects of the Voynich Manuscript’s “Voynichese” alphabet are (a) its symmetry and (b) its partitioning into quite well-known (but distinct) usage groups. For example:

* the four gallows characters, where EVA t and EVA k are almost always interchangeable, while the single-leg shapes for EVA p and EVA f closely mirror the double-leg shapes for EVA t and EVA k. (And let’s leave the strikethrough gallows aside for the moment.)

* the EVA aiin family of letter groups, which all operate in a very specific way: there are no contexts where ain appears that you wouldn’t also see aiin or even aiiin.

* the ar / or / al / ol group, whose members seem to appear within words in much the same way as each other. The air and aiir letter groups might also be related to this set, though this isn’t not 100% clear. Similarly, -am often seems to me (with a hat tip to Emma May Smith, who discussed -m recently) to be something closer to a combination of ar and hyphen, i.e. that -am at the end of a line often resembles the end of the first half of a word broken in half by the line-ending (and where the second half of the word is at the start of the next line, but disguised with an extra letter inserted before it).

* the -dy and -y word endings, which both seem to be cut from almost exactly the same cloth.

* the e / ee / eee / ch / sh / eo group, which seem to me to function slightly differently between A and B pages.

* the qo group, which almost universally seems to operate as a prefix. In those places where we get l- words, we also get qol a lot: and where l- words don’t appear, we get almost no instances of qol.

Cross all the above instances out, and what remains is a very sharply reduced set of usage groups, such as d- words (in particular daiin, which seems to operate in a mysterious world all of its own), o- words (particularly in front of gallows), and y- words.

What about EVA s?

But if you do do this kind of crossing out, you also won’t find a comfortable place for EVA ‘s’ to go. In fact, to my eyes EVA ‘s’ appears to be the single most anomalous character in the Voynichese alphabet: there’s a strong case to be made that it is the most ‘exposed’ single glyph of all of them, and – by that same token – the one we should spend most time on trying to understand. What I’m saying is that EVA s might well be the weakest link in the Voynichese chain.

If you remember to put aside all the completely different ‘sh’ characters (sharing ‘s’ for both of these glyphs was, in my opinion, a foolish mistake in the design of the EVA transcription scheme, *sigh*), you find that ‘s’ occurs about 1.71% of the time in A pages, and about 1.00% of the time in B pages. If you remove any ‘as’ or ‘os’ pairs (as being probably miscopied or mistranscribed ‘ar’ / ‘or’ pairs) from these stats, these figures go down to 1.34% and 0.83% respectively.

And yet some A pages have numerous s characters (e.g f14r, f15r, f24r), while others have one or fewer s characters (e.g. f14v, f18r, f19r): that this single statistic can differ so much between the two sides of the same folio is something that hasn’t really been noted before, as far as I can recall. [Unless any Lorites out there care to show me the precedent I’ve missed: in one of Friedman’s groups, no doubt.]

All of which incidentally reminds me of something that Glen Claston told me he noticed when he was making his transcription (but which I now can’t find in my email archive, *sigh*): that Voynichese had different clusterings of letter usages that would seem to go into and out of fashion (almost as if one kind of ‘mode’ was active now, and then a different mode active later), sometimes by paragraph, sometimes by page. If this is correct, then perhaps ‘s’ is an active part of some ‘modes’ but not others – just an idea.

What about saiin vs daiin?

I find it interesting that sdaiin occurs only once (on f66r), while sdain, sdaiiin, dsain, dsaiin, and dsaiiin don’t occur at all: yet saiin occurs 144 times.

If s- is some kind of prefix token here, then it seems that so too is d-, and in a way that makes the two avoid stepping on each other’s toes.

My suspicion (for what it’s worth) is that while both work as prefix tokens, they in fact code for two quite different classes of mechanisms: and, moreover, that both prefixes are more meta-linguistic than linguistic in any useful sense.

And what about the first column?

EVA s also has a strong tendency to appear as the first letter of a (non-paragraph-starting) line, particularly in Balneo B pages – but this may possibly be because Balneo B tends to have longer paragraphs than elsewhere.

Combine this (a) with the well-known observation that the first word on each line tends to be slightly longer on average than all the other words on a line, and (b) with Philip Neal’s suggestion that the first letters down some Voynich Manuscript pages might well be a vertical ‘key’ or something similar, and you get an interesting possibility to consider: that line-initial ‘s’ may specifically operate as a null that the writing system needs to prepend to certain (typically short) words.

I was thinking about this today, triggered by a Voynich Ninja forum discussion: I wondered if it might be possible to construct a statistical experiment to test my suggestion that line-initial s- might function as a null character that gets prepended to certain short words (such as aiin).

According to the tentative model I have in mind, the (aiin : daiin) ratio for non-line-initial words should be roughly the same as the (saiin : daiin) ratio for line-initial words. And perhaps it would be good to then repeat broadly the same test for non-line-initial (ar : dar) vs line-initial (sar : dar), etc.

However, I don’t have the right counting tools to do this easily: can anyone please run this test? Thanks!

14 thoughts on “The problem with EVA ‘s’…

  1. Emma May Smith on February 12, 2017 at 11:14 am said:

    Nick, you mention that [os] and [as] may well be reading and writing errors for [or] and [ar]. While this may be true for [as], where theoretically the [y] should not transform into [a] but be deleted, I don’t think it should be true for [os].

    Also, if [s] is to be a null, would you say the same for some occurrences of [d] and [y] in the same position? They appear to have been added on to words as well in much the same fashion.

  2. Emma: to my eyes, the prototypical shape for ‘s’ has a rounded base and a scribal loop over the top and off to the left – but as I recall, many of the s shapes transcribed as ‘os’ shapes have a rounded base (like s) but only a half loop on top (like r), leaving them halfway between ‘r’ and ‘s’. It’s far from clear to me how these should be transcribed, so it’s a category that currently seems to me to fall inbetween the two stools.

    Even if s does function as a null in the first column, I should have made it clear that I don’t necessarily think that that would be enough to conclude that s is universally a null. Right now I’m only trying to answer a very constrained question, not a very general question.

    As I mentioned in the post, I think that ‘d’ often operates as a prefix in broadly the same way that ‘s’ does line-initially: there seems, as I said, to be evidence that they are mutually exclusive. As to ‘y-‘, I know exactly what you’re talking about but I don’t yet have enough evidence to form a really good view.

    But at least you seem to be immediately comfortable with the basic framework I’m putting forward here, so perhaps we’re not as far apart as you might think. 😉

  3. Josef Zlatoděj Prof. on February 12, 2017 at 4:07 pm said:

    Ants. and Nick.

    Word. Aiin. ( aiin ).
    It is a very important word.

  4. The (aiin : daiin) ratio for non-line-initial words is not roughly the same as the (saiin : daiin) ratio for line-initial words.

    not-line-initial:
    aiin (469) / daiin (705) = 0.66

    line initial:
    saiin ( 59) / daiin (158) = 0.37

  5. Torsten: thanks – that might even more interesting, because it would imply that we’re missing a second line-initial mechanism that occurs roughly 45 times in the whole VMs.

    This would be one of one or more different line-initial characters inserted before aiin. I’ll need to have a look at this…

  6. tl ——- as in: tl o m a tl o : tomato and tomatillo

    tl a co mjz tl i : ocelot : small wild cat

    Also they name it in Castilian : youan quijtocaiotia, tlacomjztli .

    Here are some herbs you might find in B-408 : Peiotl Tlapatl Nanacatl

    There are several other herbs which can induce psychosis and/or death. They may not appear in the so-called Voynich.

    I just thinking this may be my last opportunity to make the “Voynich” manuscript intelligible and translatable.
    bd

  7. One last deadly but beautiful flower that you CAN find in the Voynich is the Monks-hood. As far as I can determine, the Monkshood is not edible. It is deadly because it has cactus-like spines on its stems and leaves. Other names for the Monkshood plant is Wolfsbane and or Foxbane. It also is known for its invasive root system.
    bd

  8. EVA y also has a strong tendency to appear as the first letter of a (non-paragraph-starting) line. See for instance the usage of ycheey and cheey:

    line-initial:
    cheey ( 2) , ycheey (22)
    chey ( 5) , ychey (10)

    not-line-initial:
    cheey (173), ycheey ( 2)
    chey (339), ychey ( 5)

    Note: y can occur in front of daiin and saiin.
    ydaiin (21), ysaiin (4)

  9. bdid1dr on February 14, 2017 at 4:50 pm said:

    EVA = Jabberwocky

  10. Josef Zlatoděj Prof. on February 14, 2017 at 6:25 pm said:

    Who first discovers what the word means ” aiin “. So I praise the ants. So try. It’s very simple.

  11. beer
    cool
    deed
    deem

    feed
    feel
    food
    fool
    foot

    good

    heed
    hood
    hook

    look
    loom

    mood
    moon

    need
    nook

    seed
    seem
    seer
    soon
    soot

    teem
    tool

    weed
    week
    wood
    wool

    zoom

  12. The problem with the EVA is that it is a more recent-century invented code which can NOT be consistently ‘decoded’ — because of various persons (or group of ‘codiologists) argued translation versus code. I’ve translated some thirty folios of B-408 (previously referred to as the “Voynich Manuscript” ).
    I’m having a lot of fun translating B-408 — including the pharmaceutical folios. There is tiny writing on every jar (some on top, some on the circumference). Every jar is accompanied by Nahuatl discussion of the various roots (tiny illustrations of previously presented botanical folios. You will not find discussion in re poisonous plants; but you will find remedial root systems and whether hot water or cold water is used for each prescription.
    Yes, Nick, the last folios are recipes.

  13. bdid1dr on February 17, 2017 at 4:25 pm said:

    ps: and last but not least is the “Good Book”

    bd

  14. bdid1dr on February 17, 2017 at 8:35 pm said:

    I can’t believe I left out “good cook” on that earlier ” aiin ” puzzle !
    bd

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