Observations on ‘ot’ as /al/

I’m currently working on the star names in the Voynich manuscript, and I aim to set out my findings soon.

In the process I have come to believe that the very common Voynich prefix transcribed in the EVA system as ‘ot’ could probably represent the sound sequence /al/. Here are some informal observations about this possible prefix:

 

1. The main basis for this idea is the occurrence of ‘ot’ in the star names, for reasons I will set out more formally in the coming weeks. However, this prefix is also used very widely elsewhere in the manuscript. (See here for an overview on voynichese.com.)

It seems to occur as a prefix more than 2400 times (tokens), with a  total of around 450 unique words (types). It is noticeably frequent in some of the Zodiac rings (e.g. this one)

 

2. One possible explanation which strikes me as plausible is that this prefix  is part of words borrowed into Voynichese distantly from Arabic, and perhaps distorted. (‘Al’ is the definite article ‘the’  in Arabic; for example al-beit means ‘the house’)

To appreciate this as a possibility we need to recall that very many languages have large lexical borrowings from Arabic, sometimes via another language like Persian. See a general discussion of Arabic borrowings into other languages here.

Here are some specific examples:

a) Spanish has thousands of such borrowings:  the list in Wikipedia of words in Spanish of Arabic origin, which is by no means exhaustive, offers over 1200 examples. Many of these are hugely distorted from their Arabic originals, as is to be expected.

b) Coptic has over 5oo words borrowed from Arabic.

c) The Ethiopian language Ge’ez has hundreds of borrowings from Arabic.

d) Persian has “approximately 8,000 Arabic loanwords in current use (RaÌzıÌ) or about forty percent of an everyday
literary vocabulary of 20,000 words”. (Perry: see discussion here)

e) Turkish has hundreds of borrowings from Arabic.

f) Armenian also has hundreds of loanwords from Arabic and Persian.

So it is quite possible that the 450 unique types in Voynichese which begin with ‘ot’ are borrowings ultimately from Arabic, signifying ‘al- + noun’. However, we need to remember that these will not necessarily be easily matched with their Arabic originals. The reason is that when a language borrows from another, many distortions can occur. A good example is the English word ‘admiral’ which comes ultimately from Arabic via a very interesting route. This is its etymology according to http://www.etymonline.com:

admiral (n.) c.1200, “Saracen commander or chieftain,” from Old French amirail (12c.) “Saracen military commander; any military commander,” ultimately from medieval Arabic amir “military commander,” probably via Medieval Latin use of the word for “Muslim military leader.” Meaning “highest-ranking naval officer” in English is from early 15c. The extension of the word’s meaning from “commander on land” to “commander at sea” likely began in 12c. Sicily with Medieval Latin amiratus and then spread to the continent, but the word also continued to mean “Muslim military commander” in Europe in the Middle Ages.

The intrusive -d- probably is from influence of Latin ad-mirabilis (see admire). Italian form almiraglio, Spanish almirante are from confusion with Arabic words in al-. As a type of butterfly, from 1720, possibly a corruption of admirable.”

Anyone trying to match the original Arabic word ‘amir’ with the English word ‘admiral’ would therefore face a host of difficulties.

This warns us that if these 450 or so Voynich words do in fact derive from Arabic we should still not expect to find easy matches!

 

3. Another interesting feature of Voynich words beginning with ‘ot’ is that, although they are very frequent, they almost never appear as the first word on a page.  The only two exceptions I can find are oddities: the first is here (56r) in a decorative form, so it might not be an ‘ot’ at all, and the second (on 70r2) follows a diagram and might not represent a proper page starter.

It is also relatively rare at the start of paragraphs. It does occur sometimes, but in relation to its frequency in the manuscript as a whole it is surprisingly rare at the start of paragraphs. Look at this page, for example, which has many examples of words beginning with ‘ot’ but none at the start of a paragraph.

How can we explain this lack of words beginning with ‘ot’ at the start of pages, and their relative rarity at the start of paragraphs?

One explanation might be that the initial vowel /a/ might simply be dropped or assimilated at the start of pages and paragraphs. In other words, the language might prefer NOT to start with a vowel symbol, so it assimilates the sound into the following consonant sign. This would also then explain why there are so many initial ‘t’ signs at the start of many pages – we might be expected to read them as /al/.

 

4. This in turn might help us to understand other patterns. In my February paper I suggested that the word  ‘oror’ might be read as ‘Arar’, meaning Juniper, and that the plant on page 16r might represent Juniperus oxycedrus.

If we look again at page 16r , the sequence ‘oror’ occurs at the start of a paragraph with a ‘t’ before it. On the previous page (15r) it also seems to start the page with a preceding ‘t’ sign, though in a more decorative form.

In the light of the above analysis, could we perhaps read both of these as  ‘al arar’, with the initial /a/ assimilated into the /l/?

 

 

 

 

31 Comments

  1. D.N. O'Donovan

    I have just read this post, after posting my own series on the figures set in tiers in folio 70r.

    Some time ago I published the image of an early manuscript entitled ‘Introduction to Kabbala’ and pointed out the similarity between that diagram of angels in their tiers, and the informing rhumb-grid on cartes maritime and maps related to it. I was thinking, of course, of Mallorca and Cresques’ world-map.

    However, that led to discussions of ideas about correspondences between angels and days, and so my own research route brought me to a point co-inciding (as I now see) with that discussed here. I am also glad to see how often Harran is being mentioned these days. That also makes sense, given their known expertise in maths and astronomy and the Greco-Egyptians’ role in early Baghdad.

    I apologise for not having seen all this material earlier. I found it today when looking for any other images of parantellonta which might be online.

    Because so much of the evidence I’ve considered points to the southern part of Europe, and there is a direct connection beween the Spanish court and a library which had been in Mallorca, I intended to use the same illustration which, I see, Marco presents here.
    (May 8, 2015 – 10:15 am)

    I’ve an upcoming post about the ‘Liturgi’ and I’ll see that it carries due credits as first mention of that image in Voynich studies. (It was the first, I assume?)

  2. Stephen Bax

    Thanks Hilary. You have set out an idea which I myself have considered, as it would seem to be a good explanation of why we have so many ‘ok-‘ and ‘ot-‘ prefixes.

    It could be that the occurrences in the star names (and maybe in some other words in the manuscript) are mere borrowings, but that the majority of them through the rest of the manuscript are gender markers as you suggest.

    I have looked for languages which might have an initial gender prefixing marker /al/ and /ak/ for male/female, but no joy yet. Does anyone have any suggestions?

  3. Derek Vogt

    The fact that 50% of Arabic star names start with /al/ and only 25% of Voynichese star names start with EVA-ot doesn’t go against the idea that Voynichese names came from Arabic ones and EVA-ot came from Arabic /al/. It could just mean /al/ got dropped in some cases.

    It does, however, create room for the alternative that other Voynichese words starting with EVA-o also came from Arabic names starting with /al/, with /al/ correlating to EVA-o alone, regardless of what the second letter is. So, what fraction of Voynichese star names start with EVA-o followed by some other second letter?

    • Stephen Bax

      That is a good point, because many Arabic words assimilate the first consonant of the word with the /l/ of the definite article, meaning the /l/ sound is lost altogether. A famous example is Ad-debaran, where the /d/ assimilates, so the /l/ is lost.

      IN terms of star names, one example which I think is plausible is this:

      odaiin, which can be read by my provisional analysis as A T A U R, which could represent At-tair.

      We call this star Altair, but in Arabic the /l/ is assimilated, giving At-tair, a plausible reading of the Voynich star in question.

      To answer your last question, by my count, 70% of star names begin with EVA:o. I hope to put up a full analysis of the statistics in the next two days, with explanations.

      • Darren Worley

        This seems like a sensible, reasoned attribution. However, the meaning of EVA:o and EVA:d was never really in question, so this doesn’t address the bigger question about the high occurrence of words in the VM starting with EVA:ot.

        I have an idea about this which I intend to expand upon more fully, but there is a startlingly close match between the number of deities/angels in Sabian Mandaean cosmology (444) and the unique word types starting with EVA:ot (450). If we assume that most Sabian deities are named in the VM with the EVA:ot/Ab prefix (lost pages may account for a small shortfall), then only a small number of unique word types in normal text would explain the near-perfect match with the number of unique word types actually found.

        This hypothesis predicted the number of unique word types, starting with Ab, to within 1% of that actually found. (I just need to some further work to understand the distribution of these words in the VM.)

        Anyway – back to the star attribution….the language of the Sabians is said to be a mix of Arabic and Aramaic, so to find a tentative match with an Arabic star name is positive (from my perspective…)

        I am however aware of the Egyptian origins of the Sabian Mandaeans. This is attested in their own written histories and in the similarities in the names of some of their Deities with Egyptian ones. For example the Mandaean God “Ptah’ill” is close to the Egyptian God Ptah. I’m therefore aware that there may be linguistic matches from this Egyptian influence.

        It may therefore be relevant that EVA:odaiin which may be read as ATAUR, is also close to the Egyptian term for the Pleiades, Athur-ia, meaning the “Stars of Athyr (Hathor)”, which is a name also used by the Chaldeans
        [Mesopotamians] and the Hebrews. The Arabs are also said to use “Atauria” for the Pleiades meaning “the little ones”. [ref: Star Lore of All Ages By William Tyler Olcott].

        The Arabic derivation may be more satisfying, but I feel further evidence is required to be certain, due to these other alternative explanations.

        One aspect which is interesting, is the close similarity of EVA:odaiin with other star names in the VM

        On f68r1 EVA:ordaiin -> ARTUUR or ATHUUR
        On f68r2 EVA:odair chol -> ATHUR ZA? or ATOIR ZA?

        There are very few VM star names with two-part names, as in the latter case.

        This latter example is quite intriguing as this possibly suggests a link with the Arabic star name “zand al-thurayyā (the forearm of al-thurayyā). EVA:chol may therefore be pronounced as ZAND.

        The fact that these terms are also reversed in order is interesting (cf. the left-right writing in the VM, rather than the right-left to be expected from Arabic.)

  4. Darren Worley

    This is a bold claim given that there is minimal evidence to support it. I accept that the VM star names don’t follow Chinese naming and are similar to Arabic, or another Semitic language, but to suggest that EVA:ot is “Al” on that basis that “Al” is found at the start of many Arabic star names is not credible.

    To date, only 2 stars in the VM have been identified with any level of certainty.

    The first is EVA:dcholdal (f68r3) and this is presumed to be DEBERAN. which I accept is fairly close to Aldeberan. However, this doesn’t have the “Al” prefix that one would expect from this hypothesis.

    The other is EVA:daoro (f68r3) for TAURN or TAURA, and Prof. Bax in his paper, has suggested this is close to Al-Thurayya – the Arabic for the Pleiades. Again, this word (EVA:daoro) doesn’t have the “Al” prefix as would be expected from this hypothesis. In this case, there is a closer similarity with the Mandaic “Taura” for the constellation Taurus, which I believe to be more likely. The Pleiades are in the constellation of Taurus, so this could be an explanation for the appearance of this word.

    Given this, the assertion that EVA:ot must be “Al” based on its appearance at the start of Arabic star names is false, because “Al” seemingly does not appear at the start of VM star names!

    This evidence not only suggests that VM star names do not begin with “Al” but also questions the idea that the VM star names are derived from Arabic. I would only go so far to state that they are “similar” to Arabic star names.

    I think this confusion is possibly arising from a mis-interpretation of what are stars in the VM. I believe that stars are depicted in f68r3 and nearby pages (like f68r1, f68r2), but the nymph-figures shown on the zodiacal pages, e.g. f70v-f73v, are more probably the personifications of light-spirits, or angels, rather than stars.

    Below I have documented two further arguments demonstrating why EVA:ot is “ab” – in addition to the evidence that I (and others) have already proposed.

    However, before covering that, I wanted to mention that it came as a surprise to learn that several of the acclaimed Arab astronomers, who compiled the first Arabic star lists, were actually Sabians or of Sabian decent. Several encyclopedia entries suggest they these Sabians were recent converts to Islam, however, I have found one reference that “Thabit ibn Qurra”, one of the leading Sabian astronomers/astrologers, wrote a codex on Sabian religious practices suggesting that his religious affiliation was elsewhere.

    A clue to their Sabian origin is in their full names.

    eg.

    1) Thabit ibn Qurra [Thabit ben Kurra] < => Al-Sabi Thabit ibn Qurra al-Harrani

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thabit_ibn_Qurra

    His full name indicates he came from Harran and the the Al-Sabi indicating he was a Sabian.

    2) al-Battani < => Abu Abd Allah Muhammad ibn Jabir ibn Sinan al-Raqqi al-Harrani al-Sabi al-Battani

    Similarly for this individual.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mu%E1%B8%A5ammad_ibn_J%C4%81bir_al-%E1%B8%A4arr%C4%81n%C4%AB_al-Batt%C4%81n%C4%AB

    I can’t be sure to what extent the Sabians influenced the Arabic star names that we know today, as there is very, very little known Sabian literature in existence and what does remain is preserved in Arabic or Latin translation. However, what can be stated is that Sabians participated in the codifying of Arabic star names.

    Despite this limitation, I think there that there is possibly some evidence of Sabian influence in an Arabic star name.

    I’ve noted that one of the major Sabian astronomers was “Thabit ibn Qurra”. It should perhaps not come as a surprise to learn that there are 2 stars called Thabit, both in the constellation of Orion. Both are visble to the naked eye, so would have been known to early astronomers.

    1) Pi3 Orionis http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pi3_Orionis known as Thabit
    2) Upsilon Orionis http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Upsilon_Orionis also known as Thabit

    In his Star-Names and Their Meanings (1899), American amateur naturalist Richard Hinckley Allen noted that the name appeared on the star atlas “Geography of the Heavens”, […] but its ultimate origin was unknown. I propose that one, or more, of these stars are named after the famous Sabian astronomer.

    It’d be good if anyone can find further Sabian influence in Arabic star names. Any suggestions?

    I believe that the star-names in the VM either share a common origin with the the Arabic star names, or represent an Arabic-related dialect used around the same time-period when the Arabic names were codified, rather than being derived directly from Arabic at a later date.

    In any case, this does not really affect my further points:

    Proposed Identification of other words beginning with “ab”

    To further my case that EVA:ot is “ab”, I have tentatively identified other words beginning with “ab”.

    The basis for my original attribution that EVA:ot is “ab” was based on its frequent appearance near depictions of nymphs/angels, and also on some translated words on f57v (the cosmology page) [see my other posting]. I believe the prefix “ab” is derived from an abbreviation of “abr’ill” – the Mandaic word for spirit or genie and it has close parallels with the Mandaic words for gate [Baba] (used when referring to star) and the word for father [Aba] (as in a male deity). This prefix accounts for nearly 2500 words in the VM (nearly 8%) so its quite significant. It also appears at the start of others words in regular passages of text.

    The similarity between these words is found in other Semitic languages too, but to a lesser extent. e.g.

    In Mandaic [ref: A Mandaic Dictionary – Drower & Macuch]

    gate/door : baba
    father/deity : aba
    spirit : abr’ill

    In Arabic [ref: Dictionary of Persian, Arabic and English by Johnson]

    gate/door : bab (singular)
    father : ab, or plural “aba”
    spirit : djini or jinn

    In Persian [ref: Dictionary of Persian, Arabic and English by Johnson]

    gate/door : bab [ref: online dictionary]
    father : ab

    Interestingly, the words ab/bab/baba have important religious meaning not just to Mandaeans but also to associated groups like the Nusayris (Alawites).

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alawites#Beliefs

    I thought it would be a good idea to look for other Arabic/Mandaic words starting with “ab”, and looking through the “ab” section in a dictionary of modern Mandaic I came across the word “absar” meaning “seed”. This seems like an excellent candidate word, as I could reasonably expect to find this word repeated frequently in the VM plant section.

    Looking for the word for “seed” in related Semitic languages (preferably archaic versions) , I came up with:

    Modern Arabic: abzar (sing) abazir (pl.) [ref: Dictionary of Persian, Arabic and English by Johnson]
    Aramaic: abzra / bzar, bazra [ref : http://cal1.cn.huc.edu]
    Modern Mandaic: absar [ref: A Mandaic Dictionary – Drower & Macuch]

    The patterns “ab*r” and “ab*r*” seems like an ideal candidates to look for (where the asterisk stands for one-or-more wild-card characters). Transliterating using the Bax mappings back into EVA yields EVA:ot*r and ot*r*, and querying using the excellent http://www.voynichese.com website provides a good match with:

    EVA:otchor (on f2v, f3r, f5v, f7r, f11v, f13r, f15r, f15v, f16v, f23v, 2*f28r, 2*f35r, f56r, f72r1, f99r, f104r)

    18 occurances. All but two of these references are on pages depicting plants. [f72r1 is a zodiacal page, and f104r is a purely written page]. An excellent match with the earlier prediction!

    I propose that EVA:otchor is “abzar” or “absar”, meaning seed, indicating that the VM shares close similarities with both Arabic and Mandaic.

    EVA:ch therefore is probably pronounced as “z” or “s”.

    A likely match for the plural “seeds” is EVA:otochor (f2r)

    I realize this isn’t definitive proof, but it is compelling evidence that EVA:ot is “ab”.

    Identification of the word “ab” in-context from a 10th Century source

    My identification of EVA:ot as “ab” was initially based on its frequent proximity with nymphs/angels. I proposed this term as an abbreviation of the Mandaic word abr’ill for spirit/genie.

    I have found a 10th century [i.e. near-contemporary] Muslim source that uses the term “Ab” when describing the angels that are worshipped by a Sabian sect!

    The source is Kitab Al-Milal Wa ‘L-Nihal (“Book of Sects and Creeds” section 2) by the 10th century Muslim heresiographer Al-Shahrastani (d. A.H. 548 / C.E. 1153)

    http://www.iep.utm.edu/shahras/

    The distinction between Sabians and Mandaeans is still debated, however, “Sabian” is the term used by medieval Muslim commentators when referring to various geographically dispersed Mandaean, and closely-related, sects. It is believed that Sabian derived from Sabi, meaning “one who immerses” (i.e. baptising) and Mandaean is derived from “Madai” their geographical origin in their own religious writings . [ref: Drower, The Mandaeans of Iraq and Iran, p.14 – the whole first chapter covers this topic in more detail.]

    Here is a translated passage from section 2, excerpted from “The Face Of Mandaean Sabian In Islamic Texts” by Masood Foroozandeh. The last paragraph contains the reference.
    —–

    Shahrestani judges by himself. As a Moslem theologian and probably documented to the eastern Iran libraries and without confronting with the rest of Harranians, he proceeds to the theological – philosophic inspection of the Harranian’s known thought named “followers of priests (angels)”. The value of his work is to appear some Harranian’s views in which the ancient astronomical thoughts are combined with the Greek philosophy.

    Shahrestani divides Sabians into 3 parts:

    1. Followers of priest (angels)
    2. Followers of figures and persons
    3. Harnanieh (Harranians)

    Shahrestani explains and condemns the three Sabians sects.

    The first sect believes in the intermediation of the priests between God and human. Shahrestani writes about them:

    They (the believers in the followers of priests) say;

    “… The priests (angels) are the causes and intermediaries of creation and conducting affairs from a period to the next period. They notify the creatures to obey the basis to the perfection and seek help from God almighty and they help to the lower creatures.

    Among the priests some are managers: “they are the seven planets” which are the known 7 stars in the heavens and those heavens are the “figures” of these “seven planets”. Each priest has a figure and each figure, a heaven, which is the attribution of soul to the body, and that priest is its lord and manager.

    The figures are called Rab (lord) and sometimes Ab. The elements are called Ommahat. And the priests move each heaven so as to make changes. Changes make elements therefore the power of world is created in that combinations and the souls of priest are combined with combinations such as different kinds of plants and animals.

    —–

    The text then goes on to describe other religious and cultural aspects of this particular Sabian sect.

    I think there is now fairly indisputable evidence that EVA:ot is “ab” and this further supports the idea that the VM is of a Sabian origin.

    I can’t be sure that the VM glyphs are the same as its underlying language (i.e. the VM could be Arabic written in an unusual cursive Mandaic, or something similar – I don’t discount this), but I haven’t got any evidence to suggest this to be the case. It therefore seems reasonable to conclude that the VM may be written in Sabian, which would appear to be comprised of various elements including Mandaic and Arabic.

    Why the known Mandaic or Arabic script is not used is an open-question. Drower reports that as a result of Arab persecution the entire Mandaean priestly class was wiped out in the 14th century [ref: The Mandaeans of Iraq and Iran, p.14]. It could be this event or another similar event, or perhaps population migration to another geographical reason prompted scribes to switch to another script. Another possibility is that the VM script derives from a related Sabian/Mandaean sect that was completely exterminated as a result of persecutions, or perhaps the VM glyphs represent an archaic version of Mandaic or Arabic. I intend to investigate this possibility further, but I favour the latter.

    Finally, no other Sabian literature is believed to exist in its original form. If the VM is proven to be of a Sabian origin, this would explain the uniqueness of the manuscript.

    Ref: A Short History Of Syriac Literature (by William Wright)

    “The writings of the Syrian heathens, such as the so-called Sabians of Harran, which were extant, at least in part, even in the 13th century seem to have now wholly dis-appeared. The beginnings of this literature are lost in the darkness of the earliest ages of Christianity. It was at its best from the 4th to the 8th century, and then gradually died away, though it kept up a flickering existence till the 14th century or even later.”

    • Derek Vogt

      You said “Below I have documented two further arguments demonstrating why EVA:ot is “ab” – in addition to the evidence that I (and others) have already proposed.“. I’m not aware of other people who have also said anything about EVA-T being phonetic /b/. I think you might be referring to me, but that would appear to be a misunderstanding. My interpretation based on the words on the plant pages has been that EVA-T is /g/, and the one I’m calling /b/ is EVA-P. Also, EVA-CH, the letter you’ve identified as a sibilant, is the one I’ve identified as /h/. If your reading is accurate, then it breaks all of my phonetications that involve any one of those three letters, which is so much of the total that it essentially means the rest must be broken too. And it also breaks some non-phonetic observations of mine with phonetic implications that are consistent with my claims but not with yours, such as the resemblance between EVA-CH and Syriac [he], a pattern among the gallows letters in which two-looped letters would have been the voiced counterparts to otherwise similar one-looped unvoiced ones, gallows ligatures using the letter for /h/ as an indicator of a “soft” sound for letters whose Syriac counterparts already have separate “hard” and “soft” sounds (which the letter for /s/ or /z/ really couldn’t do), and probably even the similarities between EVA-F and Syriac [pe].

      I still have my original list of Voynich words and inferred sound values that I posted in the plant section here, to which I’ve since added my later suggestions about “oo” & “oa” (EVA “ee” & “eo”) correlated with medial /r/, “a” (EVA-O) sometimes correlated with /al/ or /ar/, and “h” (EVA-CH) in gallows ligatures, in three additional sections using the same simple list format. Each section’s heading does specify which EVA letter that section is about, but maybe I should also add a line for the EVA transcription of each word (or even its original appearance as in the manuscript, using images instead of plain text) right before my own phonetic rendering of the same word, and/or a picture of the Voynich letter at the beginning of each section heading, to avoid this kind of misinterpretation in the future if I ever send someone else that document or post its contents elsewhere.

      Although my whole case would be wiped out by EVA-T as /b/, it can accommodate a prefix /ab/ having evolved into /ag/, particularly if the language is not Semitic but imported some names from an Aramaic source, and/or if the subsequent sounds in those words have anything in common (because phonetic shifts like that often depend on other nearby phonetic context, especially if the language retains the original sound, in this case /b/, in other words).

    • Stephen Bax

      Just to clarify – I am not sure that EVA:dcholdal (f68r3) can be read as DEBERAN. I haven’t suggested that. I did suggest it might be read as T Y A SH T U N perhaps representing ‘Tishtya’, an Iranian version of Al-Deberan. I also read the cluster nearby as T A U R N to mean Taurus (and not Al-Thurayya, which is the Arabic for Pleiades)

      My suggestion that EVA:ot might represent AL is based largely on the statistics when analysing star names, as I mean to show with a fuller paper soon. I agree with you that when stars are attached by strings in Voynich pictures, these are probably not meant to be stars. I feel they could mean ‘days’.

      • Darren Worley

        You’ve only commented on the introductory paragraphs – what about rest of the evidence that was given?

        When making bold claims such as EVA:ot is “al”, its reasonable to expect some accompanying evidence derived from the VM.

        All hypotheses must be testable, and if they are credible then predictions should possible. For example: I’ve suggested EVA:ot is “ab” given that it is frequently used as a prefix when accompanying depictions of nymphs/angels and I’ve provided linguistic evidence that this is close to the Mandaic word for genie/spirit, and historical evidence that this term was used by Sabian/Mandaeans in the 10th century. Furthermore I’ve been able to demonstrate the tentative identification of a related word (seed) in the plant section.

        Where is the supporting evidence for these other ideas?

        However, I welcome the clarification that the star name labelled EVA:dcholdal is derived from Iranian (Persian) and that EVA:daoro represents a constellation and not a star.

        This means that one star (of Persian origin) and one constellation (that has similarities with both Arabic, Mandaic and Greek names) have so far been identified in the VM.

        Your first point, [“The main basis for this idea is the occurrence of ‘ot’ in the star names”] assumes a link between the VM star names and Arabic star names (that often star with “al”). However, this appears to be a very tenuous assumption.

        I think the premise that because Arabic star names are prevalent nowadays then the VM star names must be derived from Arabic is flawed. The fact is that some Arabic star naming is based on translations of Greek star names, from the Greek writing of Ptolomy. The perceived link with Arabic could instead be from the underlying Greek influence.

        Here is the evidence – taken from p.44 in “The History and Practice of Ancient Astronomy” By James Evans.

        One of the most important Arabic works on the stars was that of […] al-Sufi. Around A.D. 964 al-Sufi composed his book “On the Constellation of Fixed Stars” The core of al-Sufi’s book is Ptolomy’s star catalogue from the Almagest. Al-Sufi translated the Greek descriptive nomenclature into Arabic and updated the positions […]

        and goes on to add :

        …but al-Sufi also added a paragraph of notes for each constellation, in which he discussed […] old Arabic star names that pre-dated Arab contact with Greek astronomy.

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abd_al-Rahman_al-Sufi

        There are several explanations for the VM star names consistent with the current evidence:

        1) the VM star names could represent some mix of Greek and Persian influences. Perhaps, EVA:doaro “Taurn” (the only identified celestial feature with any similarity to Arabic) could instead be from the Greek [“tavros” (ταύρος)]. It just happens that this constellation has the same name in both Greek and Arabic, as both are derived from the word Thura (“Bull”).

        2) they are based on another non-Arabic cosmology found in the Mesopotamian/Arabian region.

        3) they could derive from a time prior to first Arabic star-catalogues [the Arabic folk star names are based on animals and people] i.e. they could be in Arabic, but not in the form we are familiar with.

        4) Some mix of the above.

        All of these are consistent with EVA:ot as “ab” and the evidence already provided.

        Its unnecessary to postulate some of these other ideas:

        Point 3. You’ve mentioned the puzzling usage that EVA:ot does not appear at the start of paragraphs, as might be expected if it were used as the definitive article. The obvious explanation is that EVA:ot is not the definitive article.

        Even if we set aside the lack of evidence, and imagine that the VM star names are based on Arabic, rather than suggesting that EVA:o represents /a/ assimilated into the /l/ – a simpler explanation is that the “al” prefix has been omitted. After all, it is fairly redundant, as it adds a lot of unnecessary duplication. I can imagine that a scribe would omit these leading characters, to save space and time without any loss of meaning. In this scenario the VM star names would therefore be similar to the Arabic names without the leading “Al”.

        • Stephen Bax

          Thanks Darren. I can understand your frustration, because I haven’t yet had time to publish the full case for EVA:ot as /al/.

          One main reason for my claim, in brief, is to do with the large body of research into star names and their transmission, in particular work by Paul Kunitsch (see: http://www.amazon.com/Paul-Kunitzsch/e/B001JOQP5K.

          Basically, his conclusion is that the star names we know today in Europe were in very many cases derived from Greek and (more strongly) Arabic, but more importantly that there were no other independently developed traditions of star names (i.e. not derived from or hugely influenced by Arabic) in use in Europe and the region after around 1200 (if I recall).

          This means that because of the VM’s occidental elements, it is highly unlikely that star names within it could derive from any other (non-Greek/Arabic/Persian) tradition, simply because there were no others.

          Now, if we could find other star naming systems which were in use in the occident after around 1200, which were NOT heavily influenced by Arabic, then that would be fascinating and a new finding. For example if we could find a Mandaean star list which was operating independently after, say, 1200, which was not heavily influenced by Arabic, that would be important. But until that time we must assume that the VM star names derive from the very strong mainstream naming tradition, hugely influenced by Arabic names.

          This is one main reason why I feel the star names must derive ultimately from Arabic names, and that as a result many of them will begin with /al/. My count so far suggests that of the names I have analysed, 25% begin with EVA:ot (and I will present an explanation of this soon). To my mind this is too high a figure to be coincidence, and the most likely explanation is that this represents the sound /al/ derived ultimately from Arabic.

          As for star names dropping the Arabic definite article ‘al’, yes sometimes they do, but on very many star names they retain the article in modified form even to this day – see here for a list , in which we see many of the most common star names still have the ‘AL’ or an assimilated form such as ‘AD’ within them.

          • Darren Worley

            I understand where you are going with your analysis, however, I question the usefulness of statistical analysis to solve the VM.

            Before getting too bogged down in analysis, can you identify some VM stars based on your hypothesis? On f68r1, f68r2 and f68r3 there are about 60 stars shown, so it should be possible for you to identify a few at least, if your hypothesis is valid.

            I am surprised that you’re now advocating a statistical approach. I thought you preferred a bottom-up approach – based on identifying words in context? (as I have done). The trouble with statistics is in interpreting the results.

            For example, you believe that it is significant that that 25% of VM star names start with EVA:ot. I agree with this figure. However, this does not align with Arabic star names, where just over 50% start with the same two-letters “Al”. There appears to be much greater variation in leading characters of VM star names then there are in Arabic star names. (I used the same wikipedia source that you referred to.)

            This re-iterates the finding that there is only a weak similarity between VM and Arabic star names.

            I think the assumption that “there were no other independently developed traditions of star names (i.e. not derived from or hugely influenced by Arabic) in use in Europe and the region after around 1200” is flawed, or possibly irrelevant in the case of the VM.

            You have to acknowledge the possibility that the culture that produced the VM, may not be the same as the individuals who copied or transcribed it in the 15th century (possibly without knowing what it meant). They could be separated both in geographical distance and time. The perceived Italian influence could represent the hand of a later copyist and not the original scribes. The subject matter could well be much, much older than the 12th or 14th century.

            [I’m also sure that much of Northern Europe would have retained their own cosmology and star names and wouldn’t have observed Arabic Star names until much later.]

            If the VM is the text of a religious community, then it is quite typical for texts to be passed down and copied through many generations. The earliest Mandaean texts date from the 2nd-3rd centuries, and are still in use over 1600 years later. It a similar story with other ancient religious texts.

            There is a similarity between the VM plant section and Italian herbals, but nothing more. There could be a closer similarity with medieval herbals originating from Constantinople, Baghdad, Harran, Edessa and other centres of medieval learning, but I haven’t seen enough examples to say either-way.

            I have several ideas on the possible transmission of the VM to Western Europe, but I don’t have any evidence to favour one hypothesis over another. However, its worth noting when the first recorded European contact between Europeans and Mandaeans occurred.

            Around 1290, a learned Dominican Catholic from Tuscany, Ricoldo da Montecroce, or Ricoldo Pennini, was in Mesopotamia where he met the Mandaeans. He described them as follows:

            “A very strange and singular people, in terms of their rituals, lives in the desert near Baghdad; they are called Sabaeans. Many of them came to me and begged me insistently to go and visit them. They are a very simple people and they claim to possess a secret law of God, which they preserve in beautiful books. Their writing is a sort of middle way between Syriac and Arabic. They detest Abraham because of circumcision and they venerate John the Baptist above all. They live only near a few rivers in the desert. They wash day and night so as not to be condemned by God…”

            There are numerous plausible explanations for the transmission of the VM from the Near East to Western Europe. I haven’t seen any evidence to suggest that any of the concepts/ideas within the VM are contemporary with its 15th century origin, which suggest to me that it could be a medieval copy of an older work.

    • Darren Worley

      The idea that stars (and their correspondence with angels) “rule” over earthly matters is also found in early Jewish scripture and though.

      The Jews understood the stars as “rulers” on the ground on the basis of Genesis 1; 14-16, which seems to teach that God set the lights of heaven to rule the Earth.
      [Ref: How Greek Science passed to the Arabs by De Lacy Leary p4.]

      This idea forms the basis of astrology – that the macroscopic (stars/angels) have an effect on the microscopic (human lives, bodily organs etc.)

      Since the Sabians believed that they were ruled by stars/angels this suggests that they may have been influenced by Jewish thought, or that both Sabians and Jews were influence by earlier Babylonian traditions. (I favour the latter.)

      Many Jewish traditions seem to have their origins in earlier Assyrian/Babylonian customs – for example the practice of Gematria; no-doubt this is as a result of Jewish populations living in former Assyrian/Babylonian lands.

      Whatever the final origin of the VM is shown to be, there seems to be a Babylonian/Jewish element in the depiction of stars/angels in the VM. In the zodiacal section star/angels are shown, and in the bathing section, stars/angels are shown against the body organs they govern.

      • They’re chubby blonde middle-aged women with no halo, no wings, and none of Ruth’s or the Virgin Mary’s modesty. Three hold up torcs, two a ceremonial spoon, one a distaff, one a drop spindle (I promise that’s not a dreidel), one a branch of birch, one a CROSS, as in Christian crucifix, and another a seidr staff, for heaven’s sake. Give it to a rabbi, Darren, and say it’s Jewish. I’d love to hear that answer.

        • Darren Worley

          Claudette – I think you’re reading too much into uncoloured sketches of female figures. I don’t think you can tell the colour of their hair, or that its blonde.

          I wouldn’t reject the possibility of a Jewish influence in the VM simply because you think these are chubby, blonde women. Not all depiction of angels have to have halos and wings either.

          There is much greater variety and complexity in Jewish (and related) beliefs, over its long history, than is generally recognised. Jews also used spoons, spindles etc. too!

          These angels/nymphs are depicted alongside the symbols of the zodiac. The zodiac signs represent groupings of stars.
          These angels/nymphs are also depicted next to body organs in the bathing section. In medical astrology, stars govern parts of the body.
          The correspondance between angels and stars is well-recognised in Jewish and Judeo-Christian theology.

          • *Claudette – I think you’re reading too much into uncoloured sketches of female figures.*
            Uncolored? They’re all blushing. What I see are female figures. You’re the one calling them Jewish angels.

            *I don’t think you can tell the colour of their hair, or that its blonde.*
            See graphic below. Also, at least one is a flaming redhead sporting a very Russian hat. Many in fact wear extremely distinctive head coverings: sorokk, lakkipaikka, cäpci, twarda mycka, rogatywka, wianek, brudekrone… (Hint – these are not Jewish, but they ARE strange choices for halos.)

            *I wouldn’t reject the possibility of a Jewish influence in the VM simply because you think these are chubby, blonde women. Not all depiction of angels have to have halos and wings either.*
            Tell you what. If you can find me in any Jewish scripture or scholarship unhaloed, unwinged chubby-blonde-woman-looking angels, I’ll rethink my dismissal. Who knows? Maybe Spinoza was up to something like this. But I just really, really doubt it.

            *There is much greater variety and complexity in Jewish (and related) beliefs, over its long history, than is generally recognised.*
            Did you notice my last name?

            *Jews also used spoons, spindles etc. too!*
            Jews did not get naked with spoons, spindles, etc, in a watery cave to which they were luring men, a habit which angels aren’t known for, either, and yet that’s precisely what one Voynich woman is doing. Not even in their prehistory did Jews dance around in water as if enjoying a sauna. Nor were Jewish angels known for shaking a seidr staff and rattling torcs. Besides all this, what the heck would one be doing holding up a cross?

            *These angels/nymphs are depicted alongside the symbols of the zodiac. The zodiac signs represent groupings of stars.*
            The zodiac signs, back then and now, represent intervals during the year when certain groupings of stars are visible. In this respect, they’re as astronomic as a simple clock or calendar. They represent delineations of time that help to demarcate the seasons of the year. Just because you may check your watch does not mean you’re planning to make a tour of the Royal Observatory in Greenwich, London.

            *These angels/nymphs are also depicted next to body organs in the bathing section.* Who says those are body organs? Where’s the support for this? They’re in caves, individual pools or water pockets, and in passages. Again, you’re reading what you want to see into the pages.

            *In medical astrology, stars govern parts of the body.*
            If this were what the Voynich was trying to depict why wouldn’t it make the constellations even a wee clearer? People are having to squint to say they see just the Pleiades. You are reading astronomy and anatomy into a manuscript that does not support either.

            *The correspondance between angels and stars is well-recognised in Jewish and Judeo-Christian theology.* This is what you are bringing to the manuscript even while rejecting wholesale what is there in plain view. No wings, no halos, no body parts, no recognizable constellations to be made out of the stars themselves, no Hebrew script anywhere in sight, no prophets, no menorah, no Brit Milah kit, not one Chai or even a Shalom. You are shoehorning the work into a Judeo-Christian framework which obscures far more than it informs the manuscript. That’s all I’m trying to get you to see. You’re not at all alone, Darren, and sorry if it seems I’ve picked on you. Just try not to so quickly reach for the familiar. If the Voynich were from a familiar cultural framework, do you really think the mystery would have survived 600 years of scrutiny?

      • MarcoP

        Hello Darren, I am sure I have mentioned this before: the comparison with the Lapidary of Alfonso X (XIII Century) seems to me to support your theory. According to this page, the text is written in Castilian, but the prologue of the manuscript says that it is a translation from an Arabic text whose original source was Chaldean.
        In the attached diagram (Virgo) each degree of the sign (or day of the month) is associated with a star or asterism and an angel (in the outer circle). In the Castilian manuscript, angels have been represented in the conventional Christian style (with wings and halo). It would be interesting to know how they looked in the Chaldean original and in the Arabic translation from which the Lapidario derives. Virgo is represented as a winged angel as well (but without a halo, since this ancient and very common iconography is derived from pre-Christian sources).

        • Darren Worley

          Thanks Marco, thats really helpful. I wasn’t previously aware of the Lapidary of Alfonso X. The fact that its contents are reported to come from a Chaldean source, is also interesting. I’d be keen to know precisely what the Castilian manuscript author understood to this location to be – my understanding is that it refers to Babylonia, or present-day Iraq.

          If the VM originates from a non-Christian or non-mainstream Judeo-Christian source then this might explain why the angels/nymphs lack the halos and wings.

          I’ve recently learnt that magic circles also have a Babylonian origin, and this tradition seems to have been transmitted to the Jews (and the Kabbalah) and to other religious groups from that region. More on that soon.

          • MarcoP

            Hello Darren, Chaldea was known to have been part of Mesopotamia. For instance, Isidore (VI Century) wrote:

            “Mesopotamia Graecam etymologiam possidet, quod duobus fluviis ambiatur; nam ab oriente Tigrim habet, ab occiduo Euphraten. Incipit autem a septentrione inter montem Taurum et Caucasum; cuius a meridie sequitur Babylonia, deinde Chaldaea, novissime Arabia εὐδαίμων.” Mesopotamia has a Greek etymology, because it is between two rivers; it has the Tigris at the East and the Euphrates at the West. It begins in the North between the Taurus and Caucasus mountains; going South, Babylon follows, than Chaldea, and lastly Happy Arabia.

            This 1448 map has Chaldea just North of Babel, marked by the tower (North is at the bottom). But, according to Isidore, I understand that Chaldea should be South of Babylon.

        • Darren Worley

          Given the similarity between the VM Zodiac section and the Lapidary of Alfonso X (XIII Century) I thought that it would be interesting to look at other medieval Lapidary texts (i.e. books about gemstones) to see if there are any parallels to be found with the VM. During the medieval period lapidaries are often found in conjunction with herbals, and as part of larger encyclopedic works, so this seemed a reasonable place to look.

          I found several woodcut images of gemstones that look very like the objects that the nymphs/ladies are holding in the VM Zodiac section. Perhaps these figures are holding gemstones, rather than stars, or perhaps these objects symbolise both? (since there was a close connection between gemstones, astrology and medicine).

          Perhaps these different coloured objects represent different coloured gems (rather than stars?)

          All the images below come from the Lapidary section in early editions (some handcoloured) of the Hortus Sanitatis. This is an early natural history encyclopedia that was first published in 1485 and underwent several reprinting in subsequent decades.

          Here are some links to various printed editions of the Hortus Sanitatis.

          Ortus sanitatis (Inc.3.A.1.8[37])>Cambridge University Library. 1491 edition.
          Ortus sanitatis / translaté de latin en françois. French edition. 1501?
          Ortus sanitatis / Strasburg 1499 edition.

          I haven’t translated much of the accompanying text however, identifiable words include astrion – the Roman/Latin word for moonstone or star-stone(?); asterite – quartz(?) or a precious stone.

          I think this might give a clue to the VM Zodiac labels – perhaps they describe the stone that the figure is holding? It seems a stretch to expect that 360 different stones might be described, but perhaps the label describes the birthstone for that day, or possibly indicates the particular day when a type of stone has its greatest astrological potency?

          • Very interesting, Darren!
            Thanks first of all for providing a link to a complete copy of the ‘Lapidario’. I had wanted to see it since a long time, and recently, Prof. Dieter Blume specifically named it as a source for comparison with the Voynich MS.
            It’s certainly early to say what exactly it means, but there are human figures for each degree, and the display of gems as star-like objects is intriguing.

            Most of all, it’s another source for the paranatellonta I have been interested in since the 1990’s and a comparison with Vat.Reg.Lat 1283 and other MSs is likely to be of great interest. I wonder when I will find the time to do that…..

            • MarcoP

              Thank you, Darren! I agree with Rene: this idea is extremely interesting.

              It is also suggestive that the ~300 philosophers examining stones in the Lapidario are almost as repetitive in their pose as the ~300 “nymphs” with “stars” in the Voynich zodiac.

              • Darren Worley

                Yes Marco, I agree – the ~300 philosophers examining stones in the Lapidario are a convincing parallel for the VM ladies.

                I think it is also worth mentioning another manuscript that’s been referenced several times in connection with the VMS which is the Breviari d’Amor by Matfre Ermengau – this text also contains a Lapidary.

                This manuscript is discussed in the thread 14th century Occitan Provencal manuscript and a Catalan version contains what I consider to have close similarities with the VM Zodiac figures since they are positional radially around a central point and are holding stars (or possibly stones?). I’ve discussed this image before here.

                • Stephen Bax

                  Really interesting research and suggestions, thanks very much Darren. Intriguing that these might be stones or gems or minerals instead of stars.

  5. RedCap

    Hi Stephen,

    Great post. I only learnt of the VM last week, and watched your lecture describing your preliminary suggested translations. Since my background is in astronomy, I immediately turned to the zodiac pages and attempted a similar method. I didn’t get far, although interestingly I did come to a similar conclusion to you – which I did so before having read this post!

    Admittedly, I wasn’t sure whether it was ‘o’, ‘ot’, or ‘ok’ which corresponded to Arabic ‘al’, but none the less I think it’s interesting to have two people come to a similar conclusion, totally independently.

  6. Derek Vogt

    Well, given that I recently posted a contradictory theory, I suppose sooner or later I need to address both in the same post. As has already been suggested, something like what I propose below is still required for other letters after initial “a” like EVA-K and EVA-L, whether it also applies to EVA-T or not. So applying it to EVA-T as well would just be consistent with the others.

    While others recently turned their attention to the astrological pages, I have been carrying on with the plants, using identifications that have been suggested over the years but not previously been checked for cognates in this phonetic scheme. I do think a tendency for astrological words to start with “a” is a pretty good indicator that the origin is Arabic “al”, but what I’ve seen with plant names also makes too much of a case for EVA-T as “g” for me to drop so easily. My recent post in the plant names section here ( http://stephenbax.net/?page_id=419 ) includes a subsection on that, so I won’t rehash it all here. However, I will collect some scattered plants whose Voynich names seem to equate to names containing an “al” or lone “L” in known languages:

    1. One that I can describe using only the letter-sound associations we all started with, and none of the more recent ones I would add, is 66v, identified as an aloe. In Arabic, it’s “al’loah” or “al’loat” depending on grammatical context. That interruption of sound between the “L”s is an Arabic consonant which speakers of other languages tend to hear as either abrupt silence or something like a “k”, and our Voynich phonetic system yields “akoata_” for the page’s first word. I have an idea for what that last letter is, but we don’t even need it, to see that that word looks like the plant’s Arabic name with the third component swallowing the “L”s adjacent to it.

    2. Another already-identified plant with a name that turns out to begin with “al” is 28r, identified as a member of the genus Rumex. Its names in Spanish (remember the Moorish influence there, not just Latin) are slight variations on “alabas”. There is a potential Voynich name for it starting with EVA-O “a”, but the next letter is EVA-P, not EVA-T. If we indulge in the use of some new Voynich letter-sound associations that I’ve listed other examples of in that other post, we get “abhaš/abhas”, which has the same basic parts as the Spanish names, minus the “L” or “al”.

    3. One where the expected “L” would be in the middle of a word instead of in an “al” prefix, and an EVA-T is present elsewhere in the same word, is 39r, identified as a member of the genus Colchicum. Its Latin, Greek, and Hebrew names all have that “L” after something like “ko” and before something like “xik” (followed by unrelated suffixes). That page’s first word is EVA “tedochshd” (although when I wrote that other post I was reading it as “tedachshd” because EVA-O can resemble EVA-A to me when it’s drawn in two separate strokes). The phonetic form, using “L” to start, would yield “Lota_xt” (“Lotahxt” if you indulge in EVA-CH as “h”), which resembles nothing recognizable from anywhere else and doesn’t give us a Voynich counterpart for the Latin/Greek/Hebrew name with an “L” in the middle. But with EVA-T as “g”, it starts with “go”, and matching that with “ko” plus “hx” as a softened “xik” gives us a recognizable Voynichese version of the Latin/Greek/Hebrew name: gotahxt… with “ta” stuck in the middle where “L” belongs.

    So we have two Voynich words with recognizable cognates whose “L”s seem to have simply vanished, and one where its position is occupied by EVA “do” (otherwise phonetic “ta”). There’s also a fourth word that fits its apparent cognates a bit better if EVA “d” or “da” in that word (otherwise phonetic “t/tw”) is taken as an “L”, although what the cognates have there is an “r” so it wouldn’t have been a starting point in looking for a Voynichese “L”.

    We already have another sound to associate with EVA-D, so that letter would seem to be doing double duty unless the sound “L” in other languages equates to a different sound in Voynichese. This not only gives no clear sign of any particular letter consistently being the “L” letter, but even is exactly what it would look like if Voynichese didn’t have that sound at all: when importing words with it from other languages, it would need to drop or replace the sound, or at least, if keeping the pronunciation, spell it with something that otherwise represents another sound (like English adopting Scottish “loch”).

    But there’s another possibility: the “L”-sound could, at least sometimes, be built in to the letter we’re reading as “a”. This doesn’t necessarily need to be as a fully formed separate consonant-sound after the vowel-sound; it could be a more subtle variation in the vowel sound, called a “coloring”. Coloring is an effect one sound can have on another as if one sound were shifting toward the other, and usually applies to two consecutive sounds but is also commonly found as a remnant of an otherwise lost sound. Vowel sounds at the ends of French words with “silent” final consonants, still colored as if the consonant were coming next, are one familiar modern example. In German, “ch”, which often gets the phonetic transcription “x”, gets colored as the more back-articulated form “X/χ” after an “a/o/u” and the more forward-articulated form “ç” after an “e/i”. In more ancient times, coloring by the vowels “e” and “i” of preceding “k” sounds are also how the letter “c”, originally pronounced “k”, came to participate in more forward-articulated sounds in various Latin-influenced languages, including “sh”, “tch”, “s”, and “ts”, even in words like “ice” where the following vowel sound is lost. And the same thing happening with the voiced counterpart is how our “g” ended up sometimes acting like “j”. In English, it’s even common to color some vowels before “L”, such as turning “eel” into something like “eeyul”, as if pronouncing “L” immediately afterward without coloring the vowel first were impossible. (It’s possible, but it would instead color the “L” into a version of it that we don’t use in English, making it a mark of a foreign accent.)

    So, we could think of EVA-O, phonetic “a”, as at least sometimes being an L-colored “a”, with the tongue lifted a bit at the end. The effect would be generally the same thing as an R-colored “a”, which is one of the reasons why “L” and “r” can sometimes get switched with each other in language evolution. The “a” vowel might not always be lifted like that in all of its occurrences in Voynichese words, so I need to distinguish it from the plain original “a”, by using something like “â/ã/à/λ” for the version that’s close to “al” or “ar”. But if this is a real phenomenon in Voynichese phonetics, then it should also show up in at least some other words. So I started checking whether the lifted version I’m calling “ã” would fit in other cases. In some cases, it actually improves the fit of some phonetic matches we already had with other languages’ cognates, and in others, it gives me new matches I hadn’t thought of…

    6v Ricinus communis, 3v Helleborus foetidus/niger, and 29v Nigella sativa: in all three cases, the Voynich word in the spotlight is “ka” followed by something that also ends lots of other words, either “wr” or “wιιr”, so they could be suffixes here, which would leave only “ka” as the root word in one or both cases. The cognates’ root words are all variations on “kar”, with an “r” built in, not just added in a suffix. “Kã” with a lifted vowel, in either word, would give us something else comparable to an “L/r” before the apparent suffix begins, definitely within the root word.

    41v Coriandrum sativum, Voynichese phonetics (using EVA-L as “š”) “kooratwš”: some of the cognates go straight from the “a” to a “t” or “d”, and some have something else between, typically an “n”. “Koorãtwš” with a lifted “a” works either way.

    38v Cynara, read by me (using EVA-T as “g”) as “akhab haš xagaš agoaš”: I already considered this a pretty good match on the third & fourth words for Greek “agria/agries” before this stuff about “L” made me look at it again. Using the colored “a” twice in the first word, “ãkhãb”, makes it similar to another known name for the same plant, which I had not considered before: Arabic “al-kharshuf”.

    55v Allium ursinum, read by me as “khoothtn aotwιr”: I had already connected the first word to various languages’ words for plants in this genus, including Arabic “kurat”, which can usually be considered precise enough on its own with non-scientific names, but a match for the second word with a modifier to narrow it down to this species would have also been good. Similarity to Arabic “al-dubb” depended on a possibly diphthongized “ao” being comparable to “al”. Lifting the “a” to “ã” seems to make it a bit closer.

    21r Portulaca oleracea, read by me as “apnhon” for the third word of the first paragraph and “bhapnhn” to start the second: the Persian name is “perpehen”. The Arabic cognate turns “p” into “f”, and I already had another example of an Arabic initial “f” apparently being dropped in Voynichese (8r Cucumis sativus “faghoos”/”agxwš”), so losing the initial “p/f” here would be no shock. Still, Persian puts an “r” between the first vowel and the following “p”, so the hypothetical “ãpnhon” and “bhãpnhn” fit better than they do with plain normal “a”.

    95v1 Fumaria officinalis: the common names for this plant, like “fumewort” and “earthsmoke” and “f&umacr;mus terrae“, compare it with a smoke/fume/fog, because its leaves are so tiny and numerous that they look like a little green cloud on the ground and its flowers are translucent. I haven’t been able to look up other names for the plant, but the Arabic word for smoke, a decent candidate for part of the plant’s name, is “altdxyn/aldxan”, and the third Voynich word here is “aokxn”, so reading it as “ãokxn” might help here too.

    • Derek Vogt

      Grrr, that Unicode mess in the last paragraph was supposed to be “fumus” with a bar over the “u”…

      …anyway, a funny thing I didn’t notice about the “ão” I mentioned for 55v and 95v1, until after posting it, is that both of those Arabic words have the same consonant sound after the part I was talking about: “d”.

  7. Hello to all !
    I suggested read the letter t EVA as v Latin or beta Greek, in this case “ov” (EVA) can be read as 72. Has the nombre 72 a special meaning in astrology ?
    Best regards
    Ruby

  8. MarcoP

    Hello Stephen,
    thank you very much for the new post!

    I think that the assumption that EVA prefix “ot-” stands for “al-” is very reasonable: a look at the Wikipedia list of star names
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_proper_names_of_stars
    makes clear how many of the modern common star names are (or are derived from) Arabic names starting with “al-”.
    Since there are so many star names, this line of investigation seems very promising! Of course, with the kind of distortion that you mention (the “admiral” example is enlightening!), the analysis of star names is linguistically very complex.

    About the “paranatellonta” in the Zodiac pages, apparently, a list of 360 names in an Arabic source can be found in “Nabatean Agriculture” by Ibn Wahshiyya:
    http://goo.gl/7d9xPQ
    The list is attributed to an author named Tankalusha (possibly the same as Teukros). It should hopefully give the Arabic names of the 360 “paranatellonta”, possibly split by sign. According to an essay by C. A. Nallino (p. 357) a Persian translation and three Arabic manuscripts have survived:
    * Leiden cat III 81 n.1047
    * Petersburg Arabic 191 – 2
    * Laurentiana Assemani n. 312
    http://www.hellenisticastrology.com/images/Nallino-Tracce-Di-Opere-Greche-Giunte-Agli-Arabi-Per-Trafila-Pehlevica.pdf
    Nallino mentions a German essay (by D. Chwolson) that provides a lengthy discussion on the subject:
    http://dbooks.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/books/PDFs/590561831.pdf
    I cannot read German, so I could make nothing of it. From all these references, I am rather sure that Arabic and Persian lists of the 360 images of the degrees exist, by I have not been able to see any one of them yet… well, I could not read them anyway 🙂

    Finally, I would be curious to know your opinion about the other prefix EVA “ok-”, which also occurs more than 2400 times in the whole manuscript:
    http://www.voynichese.com/#/exa:ok-:chartreuse/f70v1/exa:ot-/584
    Could it be equivalent or related to “ot-” (and Arabic borrowings)?
    As I already mentioned, I find this post by Rich SantaColoma interesting:
    http://proto57.wordpress.com/2010/04/20/to-map-label-implications/
    Of course, Rich fails to take into account the O-T globe as elements idea, but I think that his hypothesis that EVA “otodal” and “okor” are related is reasonable on the basis of the limited evidence he discusses (the two O-T diagrams).

    Thank you again for sharing the progress of your research!

    • Stephen Bax

      Thanks Marco for some stimulating points. Let me discuss them in turn:

      1. The discussion of the 360 Arabic names for the “paranatellonta” is intriguing. Where do you feel is the best source to get our hands on the 360 original Arabic names?

      2. re. the posting by Rich SantaColoma. I had seen that before, but it starts from the assumption that the two Voynich diagrams he discusses (on the Rosettes page and on f68) are both T/O maps showing the same thing but using different words.

      I don’t believe they are both T/O maps in the way he assumes.

      For one thing, the T is upside down on the f68 diagram but not on the Rosettes diagram (Rich has rotated the Rosettes one in his blog); secondly, the T on the Rosettes diagram is in blue, and would seem to represent water, as is often the case in classical T/O maps which show the oceans dividing up the continents, whereas the inverted T on the f68 diagram is drawn in black, even though there the artist uses blue ink on the same diagram – so to my mind it is definitely not intended to represent water.
      In short, I do not feel the two diagrams can be compared in the way he suggests. So I don’t consider it useful to try to compare the two labels within the diagrams on the assumption that they might represent the same name.

      It is still possible of course that the Rosettes diagram is a T/O map, but with regard to the f68 diagram I feel that your own earlier suggestion, that the diagram may represent the four elements, air (surrounding it) then fire (top left, perhaps to be read as al-atash related to the old Persian word for fire), then earth (top right), then water below, is more likely.

      3. re. the prefix EVA “ok-” (and also others such as “ol”). These are a puzzle, I admit. One idea I had is that they too might represent distant borrowings from Arabic, but with assimilation.

      Take the example of the star which we know today as Acamar. The name comes originally from the Arabic:

      “Achernar, from Arabic Al Ahir Al Nahr [I believe this should be ‘Akhir al-nahr’ SB], “the end of the river”, was the early name for this star at the then recognized end of the Stream (the south end of Eridanus is now marked by the star Achernar, alpha α Eridanus). Various forms of its title are given under alpha (α, Achernar), but the name Acamar, from the Alfonsine Tables, is peculiar to this star theta (θ) Eridanus.”
      http://www.constellationsofwords.com/stars/Acamar.html

      In summary, the word changed from ‘akhir al-nahr’ to ‘Acamar’ over several centuries, which you will appreciate involves a lot of assimilations and transposed sounds, both vowels and consonants.

      So in my view, the many Voynich words starting with ‘ok-‘ and ‘ol-‘ could also represent similar borrowings from Arabic, followed by a host of alterations and assimilations over many years.

      I am sure that this is NOT the whole answer – there are undoubtedly more complications in there as well – but this may be one useful direction for research.

      • MarcoP

        Hello Stephen,
        thank you very much for the additional details and explanations!
        About the specific subjects:

        1. I think the best source for the Arabic names of the images of the 360 degrees could be the critical edition of “Nabatean Agriculture” (Tawfīq Fahd ed., 1993, Al-Filāḥah al-Nabaṭīyah Dimashq):
        http://filaha.org/author_Ibn_wahshiyah.html#PublishedEditionsTranslations
        From what I understand, no English source is available.
        According to Nallino’s essay, the 360 images described by Tankalusha are bizarre and detailed. So I guess we can expect something similar, in style if not in content, to the Paranatellonta in the “Liber Hermetis” of Alfonso X (Vatican ms Reg Lat 1283a) or to Albumasar’s images of the Decans.

        2. I agree that the two diagrams are not T-O maps as assumed by Rich SantaColoma and that the link with the elements seems a more promising hypothesis. I have the impression that the labels in the two top segments of the two diagrams bear a similarity that might be significant (in particular the two at the right EVA “opocaldg”? / “opoca”?). But the labels are not well readable, so it is likely that the my impression is unfounded.

        3. Thank you for your comments about the other prefixes! The question is certainly very complex. The interpretation of “ot-” as the Arabic “al-” seems an excellent starting point to begin to shed more light on the Arabic influences.

      • Hilary

        Thank you, Stephen, for creating such a thorough record of your research on the Voynich Manuscript. I have been following progress with the deciphering over the years, but am very much impressed by recent developments, most particularly with the aid of the Internet.

        I am by no means an expert in this field, but have some knowledge of Arabic and am therefore particularly drawn to your insights. I too had noticed the EVA ot- and ok- prefixes and had pondered the idea of these being an equivalent to al-. In response to why there would be two forms, I wanted to ask the question of whether this could possibly indicate the gender of the word? I know that in Arabic, there is no difference in the article al- based upon the gender of the word (but rather based upon the letter to follow, and even that does not really change the spelling), but that grammatical gender still exists. I am not aware whether this is a uniform trait of all Semitic languages. Certainly in many Romance and Germanic languages, we can see gender reflected in the article itself.

        So, in light of the near comparable number of ot- and ok- prefixes throughout the manuscript, perhaps this could reflect the gender of the noun (or adjective, if it is similar to Arabic) described. Though near impossible to prove, the visual similarity between the two letters could incline me to believe that they could represent no phonetic difference, but merely an indicator to the reader of gender (particularly in light of the discussions about certain characters and letter forms creating a sort of punctuation).

        I cannot come with any substantial evidence at this point to back up my idea, but felt that I could share it nonetheless, as perhaps it would be useful. My course of action would be to look for any differences in the words prefixed by ok- and by ot-. Something akin to a taa marbuta or structural difference perhaps.

        My profound appreciation to all those who are involved in this research and who make the comment areas of these posts so thought-provoking.

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