Numero Uno

(This is more of a working note than an actual find. It’s all very much in flux…)

In Currier “B”, the most frequent single-letter words are (along with their number of occurences):

y    63
s    50
r    40
l    34
o    30
d    7
m    4...

Thus, there appear to be five frequent one-letter words, namely “y”, “s”, “r”, “l” and “o”; after that, the frequency drops sharply, and it’s probably more sensible to consider the counts from “d” on mostly transcription errors, since the word boundaries aren’t always well defined.

Since under the dogma of the Stroke theory each ciphertext word represents one or more plaintext letters, we may safely assume that a ciphertext word boundary is equivalent ot a plaintext letter boundary. Which means that single-letter ciphertext words must correspond to plaintext letters which consist of a single stroke.

Which letters can readily be drawn in a single stroke? — These are “c”, “i”, “l”, “o”, “C”, “I”, and “O”, in alphabetical order, with the possible addiition of “s”/”S”, and “u”/”U”. Here are their respective frequencies, in promille:

i/I    114
o/O     54
c/C     40
l       32

Note that “l” is a special case, since here only the lower-case letter can be written with a single stroke, while the uppercase “L” requires two strokes to be reasonably drawn. “I” could also be split in three strokes, if you draw top and bottom horizontal bars, so we remain with six candidates. Under duress, we could drop “O” and/or “C”, saying they require two strokes (“O” could be drawn as “()”, “C” could be rendered as “c'” to distinguish it from the lower-case “c”.

As usual, the statistics don’t quite pan out. “i” should be twice as frequent as “o”, but “y” is only slightly more prominent than the runner up “s”. OTOH the plaintext ratio of “i”/”l” should be 3.5:1, which isn’t that far out from the “y”/”o” ratio of 2.something:1.

There remains a tangled skein…

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One thought on “Numero Uno

  1. Elmar
    I’ve no idea if it’s relevant, but I had reason to look up the incidence of upper and lower case in European scripts up until the mid-fifteenth century. Rather to my surprise, the sources suggest that use of upper case was rare until printed books became common. It’s counter-intuitive because of illuminated sentence or page- initials, but it seems fair to assume that in a handwritten manuscript dated to before 1430, larger than average letters won’t be common.

    Would this change any of the stats? I mean generally – you’re ignoring upper case anyway, aren’t you?

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