A Temptation to be Unfulfilled?

The four most frequent Voynichese words (as opposed to the letter sequences discussed in the last post), are “ol”, “ar”, “or”, and “al”, in that order, in Currier B.*) (Followed by “dy” and “om”).

In view of the Stroke theory, there is a tempting assumption (not yet a conclusion…) to be drawn from that: If “o” and “a” represent crescents open to the right and the left, respectively (like the shapes “c” and “)”), and “r” and “l” represent vertical strokes which end at the base line, or descend below it, respectively, these two EVA letters/stroke pairs could be combined to build four lower-case plaintext letters, namely “b”, “d”, “p” and “q”.

But which is which? Which are the crescents, which are the dashes? — Take a look at the total number of the VM word occurences, and the frequencies of the suggested letters in Latin language, in promille:

ol 416     "p" 30
ar 244     "d" 27
or 242     "b" 16
al 183     "q" 15

Like so often, it is a fit, but not a watertight one.

The pair of plaintext letters “p” and “d” has no strokes in common, likewise “b” and “q” are disjunct. The same relationship holds for “ol/ar”, “or/al”. So, identifying “p” with “ol” and “q” with “al” would fit the bill, and also the statistics, with “ol” being about twice as frequent as “al”. Consequently, we’d assume that “ar” is really “d” and “or” is equivalent to “b”.

Alas, the latter assumption is not really born out through the statistics, which show that “ar” and “or” share roughly the same frequency, halfway between “ol” and “al”, whereas in “reality” (whatever that word means in this context), “d” should be as frequent as “p”, and “b” as rare as “q”.

So, while it’s a tempting thought, I can’t really corroborate it yet. It’s a chance, but not a perfect match, and the number of occurences is too large to blame it on the usual fluctuations. Of course, it’s possible to presume some advanced linguistic features at work here — for example “q” might stand preferrably word-initial in the plaintext, which might lead to its uppercase character being preferred in the enciphering, which distorts the frequencies in turn.**)

But that’s all moot speculation for the minute. I’ll keep this tentative identification on the back burner and see if can be supported by any other finds as well.

*) Unfortunately, WordPress will interpret angled brackets as HTML code, thus I can’t reproduce EVA characters the usual way. For the time being, I’ll represent EVA with italics, and plaintext in straight letters. Bear with me, please.

**) As you can tell, I don’t have a firm concept for how the author might have gone on about the camelcasing of the characters.

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