Things, concepts and words

By Gordon Rugg

There’s a useful three way distinction in linguistics between things, concepts and words.

This article is a gentle examination of the distinction, with some thoughts about implications for human error.

Unicorns and non-unicornsbannerSources for images are given at the end of this article

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Hoaxing the Voynich Manuscript, part 3: The hurdle of expert linguist scrutiny

By Gordon Rugg

In this series of articles, we’re imagining that you’ve gone back in time, and that you want to produce the Voynich Manuscript as a hoax to make money.

The first article looked at why a mysterious manuscript would be a good choice of item to hoax. The second article looked at some of the problems involved in hoaxing a text that looked like an unknown language, from the linguistic viewpoint.

We’ll now look at a second set of linguistic problems that you’d face. These problems involve the standard ways that a linguist can try to make sense of an unknown language where there aren’t any related languages that can give any clues.

This is where the text of the Voynich Manuscript starts to look very much unlike any real human language.

voynich repetitive text

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Hoaxing the Voynich Manuscript, part 2: The attractions of a mysterious language

By Gordon Rugg

Imagine that you’ve gone back in time, and that you want to produce the Voynich Manuscript as a hoax. How could you do that, and what problems would you need to solve?

The previous article looked at possible motivations, and at the issues involved if you’re doing it primarily for the money. One major issue was making the hoax convincing enough to pass expert scrutiny. If someone is going to spend a lot of money on a mysterious manuscript, they’re going to have it checked by some relevant experts before they part with any hard cash, so you’ll need to fool those experts somehow.

This article looks at the problems you’d face with one particular set of experts, namely the experts on languages.

voynich repetitive text

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