The Voynich manuscript, discovered in the 15th century, contains a language that no one has been able to decipher. The codex is named after Wilfred Voynich, the antiquities dealer who purchased the text in 1912. Linguists and cryptographers alike struggle to make sense of the ancient tome.
Theories abound about the manuscript. Is it written in a dead language? An encrypted one? Or is it just a hoax? Some people have suggested that Voynich himself fabricated the text.
The Voynich manuscript contains 40 unknown symbols that make up “words” and features fantastical drawings of nonexistent plants. Those who have studied the text say that it can be divided into five parts. Four of those parts—recipes, astronomical, herbal, and pharmaceutical—use related vocabulary. Only the fifth part of the Voynich manuscript, biological, stands alone.
Linguistic Analysis of the Voynich Manuscript
One researcher says that the text is no hoax. Marcelo Montemurro, from the University of Manchester, has recently made a breakthrough. He has studied the rules that govern the text within the Voynich manuscript, even though he doesn’t know what it says.
Montemurro analyzed the frequency of each “word” in the manuscript, hoping to find a pattern. For example, generic function words (such as the or and) appear regularly in texts. Specific content words, however, appear less often.
To his delight, Montemurro found such usage irregularities in the Voynich manuscript. Having identified these content “words” and an overall structure to the document, Montemurro rejects the idea that the text is written in a nonsense language.
Read more about the mystery surrounding the Voynich manuscript in this New Yorker article.
“Manuscrit Voynich: Il a bien un sens caché.” Science et Vie. September 2013.
“Voynich manuscript.” Wikipedia.
Did you like this article? Use the buttons below to share it with your network! You can also subscribe to our newsletter to get language articles in your inbox.