I want to give an example of the kind of outcome that I hope my research, particularly the Transformation Theory, will eventually bring. It isn’t always easy to explain my goals in the abstract so I think an example will be better.
Please note that the following is only an example. It is plausible and in line with my research, but is not a proposed reading.
Look at the image of text below, taken from the second line of f66r.
The text is easy to read and even the few ill–formed characters are not ambiguous. I would transcribe the line in EVA as: [qokeedar okal okedy qokeedy qokal okedy]. The First Study Group and Takahashi agree with this transcription (though, curiously, Currier misses out [qokeedy] altogether).
The important thing to note first of all is that only words three and six of this excerpt match: [okedy]. Were we looking for strict repetitions nothing would be found here. A looser matching might say that [qokeedar] and [qokeedy] are similar, as are [okal] and [qokal].
But by ‘similar’ what do we mean? Usually that words differ by one or two characters. Yet without understanding why or how words differ we could propose many near matches that are, in truth, unrelated. Is [okal] related to [okar] or [otal] or [okol] or [ykal]? Or all or none?
I think I can begin to shed some light on how similar words are actually related, and by doing so reveal hidden patterns otherwise obscured.
From [y] to [a]
In my very first post on this blog I explained that [y] and [a] have some kind of equivalence. They have complementary distribution and, when taken together, match the distribution of [o] fairly well. We should consider them, for the purposes of future research, to be variants of the same character (although there may be some difference in their values discoverable later).
When we apply this knowledge of [y] and [a] to the first and fourth words of the excerpt, we can see that [qokeedy] and [qokeedar] differ not by two characters but only one. Because [y] becomes [a] before [r], [qokeedar] is actually [qokeedy–r].
Even though I don’t yet know what a final [r] might mean, we can propose that some process has added [r] to the end of [qokeedy] to make [qokeedar]. (There’s other evidence, such as word structure and trigram distribution, also showing the two words are likely related).
From Nothing to [q]
We can now move on to the second and fifth words of the excerpt: [okal] and [qokal]. The kind of knowledge we’re gaining through research into Last–First Combinations suggests that the first character of a word can be dependent on the last character of the preceding word. So the difference between the two words of an initial [q] could result from the alteration from [qokeedar] to [qokeedy].
Is this possibility borne out by the evidence we have? I should first state that I haven’t yet done any specific research on initial [q]. However, the statistics we have at least suggest it is likely.
A word ending [r] has a clear preference for and against certain characters at the start of the following word. It is a strong character and thus prefers a weak one after it, such as [y, a, o, ch, sh], and has a bias against [q]. The next word begins [o], which meets the expectation.
Yet [qokeedy] ends [y], a weak character. It has a preference for a strong character, such as [q] (though, we should note, possibly not a bias against [o]). Thus [qokal] is an acceptable word to follow, even though we don’t understand why the form [qokal] is preferred rather than [kal], which also starts with a strong character.
If we consider the above to be true, or at least plausible, we then have an interesting analysis of our excerpt. The six words are actually two three–word phrases which are very closely related.
The second phrase is [qokeedy qokal okedy], which is how it appears as written in the text. The first phrase is different only by a single original character [r]. By adding that onto the end of the first word we end up with [qokeedar okal okedy] due to the variation of [y] to [a] and the transformation of [q] to nothing.
Three differences are reduced to one and the text becomes more regular and with more obvious patterns. Repeated multiple times on every page, this would lead to a much different text.
I hope this examples clarifies my thinking about where textual analysis needs to go in the future. It’s about identifying as many of these changes as possible, understanding the links between characters and their contexts, and fixing rules which let us roll back the transformed text to reveal the original text below.