The Voynich: lost language theory

One possible explanation of the Voynich manuscript’s mysterious script and underlying language – a view which I find plausible – is that the script was devised for a particular community, possibly to write down an already existing language, and then that script was lost to us, with the exception of the Voynich manuscript.

Just such an example has just been uncovered, as can be seen in this report from the Smithsonian magazine:

http://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/long-lost-languages-found-manuscripts-egyptian-monastery-180964698/

In essence, researchers have been examining old manuscripts housed at St Catherine’s monastery in Egypt which were palimpsests – pages from which older writing had been erased and newer writing added in order to reuse the scarce parchment. They then used various techniques to view the older text which had been partially erased and hidden.

As the article says: “perhaps the most intriguing finds are the manuscripts written in obscure languages that fell out of use many centuries ago. Two of the erased texts, for instance, were inked in Caucasian Albanian, a language spoken by Christians in what is now Azerbaijan. According to Sarah Laskow of Atlas Obscura, Caucasian Albanian only exists today in a few stone inscriptions. …….

Other hidden texts were written in a defunct dialect known as Christian Palestinian Aramaic, a mix of Syriac and Greek, which was discontinued in the 13th century only to be rediscovered by scholars in the 18th century. “This was an entire community of people who had a literature, art, and spirituality,” Phelps tells Gray. “Almost all of that has been lost, yet their cultural DNA exists in our culture today. These palimpsest texts are giving them a voice again and letting us learn about how they contributed to who we are today.”

This precisely fits one of my suggestions about the Voymich – that the text was writen in a particular script which then fell into disuse and was lost to us, except in this one document.

Of course this example in Egypt doesn’t prove anything at all, except that such things can happen!

3 Comments

  1. Emery Fletcher

    I just caught up with Derek Vogt’s videos, and would like to comment on the most recent one (Feb 21, 2017). There he pointed out that in his interpretation an apparent “alveolar-palatal collapse” had occurred in the phonetics of the version of Romani used in the Voynich, relative to the Romani that carried on in subsequent locations and centuries.

    As the Voynich itself is clearly a work regarding specialized knowledge, I think it would not be surprising to find that the pronunciation of words used in such a context could be traditional among the practitioners, intentionally voiced in a subtly different way from common public usage and encoded in a variant alphabet.

  2. Stephen Bax

    Charles, you could look at the videos produced by Derek Vogt which set out his ideas on the Voynich language as Romani:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4cRlqE3D3RQ

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8nHbImkFKE4

  3. Charles Polák

    I think that the language *may* be Romani; the script, a similar ‘folk Brahmic’ script to the many completely informal merchants’ and moneylenders’ scripts historically found widely in northern and central India – a unique case of a ‘Romani script’, otherwise now lost from Romani (and Sinti etc.; ‘Gypsy’) tradition, but still preserved in the 16th century. and possibly transcribed by a scribe used to a good Italian hand.

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