Line Patterns

Line Patterns are the patterns within the Voynich text which depend on where a word occurs in a line, or on a particular line in a paragraph. They are an important area of study because the line has no obvious link to the content of the text, it is instead an aspect of the physical manuscript.

There are a number of possible explanations for why the line may be important for patterning the text but none are widely accepted. It is an understudied area though a number of key observations come under this heading.

The first person to point to the presence of overarching line–based patterns was Prescott Currier, who dubbed the phenomenon: the line as a functional unit. That name is rather unwieldy for regular use, and it presupposes what the meaning of such patterns might be. Line Patterns is a new and more neutral term to cover the whole area of research.

Below is a list of known patterns in the text which are dependent on the line position of a word. It is by no means exhaustive, and some of those listed below are merely observations without further research or explanation.

Paragraph Start:

Grove Words: the first word of a paragraph often begins with a gallows character [k, t, f, p] which can be removed to result in a valid word.

Gallows Lines: one–leg gallows often occur on the first line of a paragraph, with a much higher concentration than they are found elsewhere.

Line Start:

Transformation of [a]: words beginning [a] have [s] added when at line start. This appears to be an almost universal rule, with only a few exceptions. Around 40% of words beginning [sa] thus occur at the line start.

Transformation of [o] with [s]: some words beginning [o] have [s] added to them when at line start. This applies mostly to words which do not begin [ok, ot].

Transformation of [ch] and [sh]: many words which begin [ch, sh] have either [d] or [y] added to them when at line start. Why some words beginning [ch, sh] have an added character and not others is unknown, as is why some take [y] and others [d]. For some words all three variants occur. The words which are the outcome of this transformation are strongly linked to the line start position: 50% of [dch], 70% of [dsh], 80% of [ych], and 90% of [ysh].

Line Middle:

Second position [ch, sh]: in Quire 20, words beginning [ch, sh] are over-represented in the second position of a line. Some such words are two to three times more common than expected.

Line End:

Final [m]: the character [m] is often found as the final character of the last word in a line. Over two thirds of [m] is found in this position.

Final [g]: three quarters of the occurrences of [g] are found as the last character in a line end word. It should be noted, however, that [g] is an uncommon character.

Neighbour Rules:

Valid Word Combinations: in any pair of adjacent words, the sequence which would be a valid word when the space is removed is the more common sequence.

First-Last Combinations: the character set can be split into ‘strong’ [k, t, r, n, s, q] (and maybe [d]) and ‘weak’ groups [y, o, a, ch, sh] (with [l] in neither group). It is more common for the first and last characters of adjacent words to be from different groups than the same group.