New Article: Glyph combinations across word breaks in the Voynich manuscript

I’m happy to announce that Marco Ponzi and I have recently had a paper published in Cryptologia titled “Glyph combinations across word breaks in the Voynich manuscript”.

The abstract:

The text of the Voynich manuscript exhibits relationships between neighboring words that have not formally been explored. The last and first glyphs of adjacent words show some dependency, and certain glyph combinations are more or less likely to occur. The patterns of preferences for glyph combinations demonstrate the existence of higher-level glyph groups. The behavior of the glyph combinations may arise due to changes in a glyph caused by its neighbor.

A preprint of the paper is available to download: Glyph Combinations across Word Breaks in the Voynich Manuscript – Preprint


2 thoughts on “New Article: Glyph combinations across word breaks in the Voynich manuscript

  1. Hi Emma,

    There’s certainly a lot of interesting stuff in this paper to digest. However, I was a little taken aback to see that it didn’t mention (in its literature review) what Prescott Currier had to say about the exact same subject back in October 1976 (Appendix A, Part 3, as quoted below).

    What further jumped out at me is that the five explanations presented in your paper took no account of the suggestions Currier put forward at the end: “If, however, these word-appearing elements are something else, syllables, letters, even digits, restrictions of this sort might well occur.” As far as numbers go, it is certainly a mystery and a challenge that nobody has yet been able to solidly identify any numbering system within Voynichese, yet one or more such must surely be there somewhere. Hence I think that Currier’s (implicit) proposal that a good proportion of the artificiality of the word break combinations might be accounted for by one or more numbering system should very probably have been represented here.

    All in all, I can only hope you were (until now) unaware of Currier’s contribution, or else casting aside what is effectively 100% of what had been previously written on the subject would look quite bad. And we’ve had more than enough issues with peer review this last month. 😦

    Cheers, Nick

    Currier’s paper appears on Rene’s site – (which you link to in your footnote 12) – and says in its Appendix A:

    3. The effect of word-final symbols on the initial symbol of the following ‘word’

    This ‘word-final effect’ first became evident in a study of the Biol. B index wherein it was noted that the final symbol of ‘words’ preceding ‘words’ with an initial ‘qo’ was restricted pretty largely to ‘y’; and that initial ‘ch, Sh’ was preceded much more frequently than expected by finals of the ‘iin’ series and the ‘l’ series. Additionally, ‘words’ with initial ‘ch, Sh’ occur in line-initial position far less frequently than expected, which perhaps might be construed as being preceded by an ‘initial nil.’

    This phenomenon occurs in other sections of the Manuscript, especially in those ‘written’ in Language B, but in no case with quite the same definity as in Biological B. Language A texts are fairly close to expected in this respect.

    I can think of no interpretation of this phenomenon, linguistic or otherwise. Inflexional endings would certainly not have this effect nor would any other grammatical feature that I know of if we assume that we are dealing with words. If, however, these word-appearing elements are something else, syllables, letters, even digits, restrictions of this sort might well occur.


    • Sandhi would have some of this effect, perhaps, but there’s little tradition of writing out sandhi in European languages as is typically done in Sanskrit—and given its apparent origin, it’s hard for me to credit the idea that the VMS is in a non-European language…


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