Speculation on [lkl]

I’ll keep this short because I don’t really like speculation. But this is too good to let pass. And besides, I’ve taken a New Year’s Resolution to share more of the thinking and research I do on the Voynich, even if it’s a bit outlandish.

Okay, the word [lkl] is special. When I’ve sorted out words into syllables there are some which can’t be classified because they have nothing which passes for a syllable nucleus. Most are single characters, the rest are two character combinations (all the common ones either contain [ch, sh] or [l]).

The exception is [lkl]. It is the longest word without vowels with five or more tokens. It occurs nine times, which marks it a perfectly valid word and not a possible error. It also doesn’t look—unlike many ‘unattached’ characters—as though we’ve misread a space. Only 15 tokens even include this sequence of characters, meaning that the word [lkl] accounts for the majority of them, and that it is not normal for the Voynich language.

So, what can it be? My speculation is that it’s a set word, or more likely an abbreviation. It is a string of three characters with a reading which is not wholly linguistic. The reader would be expected to know what the characters stood for rather than to read them. Thus there are no vowels, and our main clue is that it must begin and end with the same consonant.

If I can really go out on a limb and be wild with my guess, I wonder if [lkl] could be a way of rendering the Latin abbreviation SCS: sanctus. This would mean that the other six tokens containing [lkl] would be something like attempts to use the abbreviation with different cases or number.

A few incidences of [lkl] are followed by words which could be saint names. Most interesting is the one at the bottom of f107r. The following three words all contain one–leg gallows which are anomalous away from the first line of a paragraph. The complete phrase is: [lkl lfchal pchdy pal]. If [lkl] is SCS, then the second word also begins and ends with /s/!

I’ll leave the guessing game there. I’m almost certainly wrong, but it’s a curious thought.


9 thoughts on “Speculation on [lkl]

  1. A while back I speculated that l- in Q20 (and perhaps in B in general) was the same as ol- in A, so I suspect that at least part of what’s going on here might be to do with that.

    All the same, the lkl clusters in Q20 are interesting to look at, e.g. “lkl dl lklor” in f105v (though I suspect the “dl” in the middle may just be a miscopied “dy”), and the “lkl lol” in f113v might make some people laugh. Not many, but some. 🙂

    It’s also possible that some of the “lkl” might be miscopied “lky”.


    • I don’t think [l-] in Currier B could be the same as [ol-] in Currier A. Both are more common in B than A, and in B a common character following [l] is [k], which barely occurs in Currier A. I think that the use of [l] is a big difference between the two dialects, but for other reasons.

      Secondly, [ol-] is not a convincing prefix. Most words which begin [ol-] (and have more than a few tokens) also occur with the [o] removed. I would be wary of linking words beginning [ol-] with the word [ol].

      Also, I’m unsure why you think [dl] or [lkl] might be ‘miscopied’.


  2. Emma: for a start, I don’t believe in an all-or-nothing view of A vs B… and my point about l- was particularly about Q20 rather than about B in general.

    Another of my beliefs is that even though t and k are typically interchangeable (I strongly suspect that these are standing in for consonants in some hard-to-pin-down way), it is the mechanism that is going on behind each of them that is different. It seems that k is common in B simply because that k-mechanism got used more as a matter of choice: and so that’s a meta-linguistic decision that was independent of ol- vs l-.

    You may not find ol- a convincing ‘prefix’, but it appears throughout the ms, and often as a freestanding two-letter group. But perhaps that’s because you see ‘ol’ as necessarily a linguistic prefix, whereas I read it as a single two-glyph letter. Plus ca change, etc. 🙂

    dl looks so similar to dy (and lkl so similar to lky) that I would be hugely unsurprised if these were what the respectively were supposed to have been.


      • Actually, I have no specific word in mind. I think the best candidates could be something like *lk*l* (i.e. words containing a second EVA:l). The most frequent word matching this pattern seems to be olkal (11 occurrences).

        Anyway, if lkl is indeed an abbreviation, an interesting implication is that it is apparently formed by just dropping vowels. This is different from typical Latin abbreviations, that made use of special symbols to replace consonants or syllables.


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