HistoCrypt 2020

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HistoCrypt 2020     
June 15–17, Budapest, Hungary             


The conference is CANCELED

The language of the Rohonc Codex

Organizers: Levente Zoltán KIRÁLY, Gábor TOKAI

In 2018 Király and Tokai published an article in Cryptologia[1] in which they announced a cracking of the code of the Rohonc Codex, or more precisely, the intrigung success of translating most of it in a word-by-word manner. They ignored the inner characteristics of the words (tokens) of the writing, and even the language of the text, using mostly the drawings in the manuscript, text boundaries and alleged numbers in the text for narrowing the semantic range of textual units down to the words’ (tokens’) level.

Their publication, although methodically relatable to the translation of ancient texts (say, Aramaic or Coptic), was duly mistrusted for multiple reasons.

First, the proposed solution, the “key”, which in our case is a dictionary of the codex’s translated words (tokens), has not been published, only a few samples of interlinear translations. This made the verification of their claim impossible.

Second, there is a justifiable general mistrust towards any translation which does not identify the language underlying the code beforehand.

The authors’ answer to the first objection is making the dictionary publicly available online. The link is going to be distributed in January 2020.

The second problem is of different nature. Even learning a foreign language without linguistic or cryptographic guidance is possible, if the context provides with enough support. For example, researchers of ancient languages have to rely on such a competence when interpreting monolingual ancient texts (i. e. untranslated to a better known language). Then it is the task of the linguists to discover and describe the rules that govern that language.

Király and Tokai claim to have learned the language of the Rohonc Codex to considerable extent. They have also outlined the basic phenomena of its grammar and syntax, which is being prepared for publishing. For those interested in this workshop a handout is to be circulated with all the significant grammatical observations that can be clearly observed throughout the whole writing.

The workshop will consist of the following parts:

  1. Optional discussion on the possibilities of understanding an unknown language without strictly linguistic or cryptographic methods. Only held if any contributions are accepted for this part. Contributors who wish to speak in this part should explicitly indicate it in their application.
  2. Király–Tokai: The grammar and syntax of the Rohonc Codex. Description of the grammatical features of the written language of the Codex.
  3. Contributions from other authors.
  4. Discussion lead by Király and Tokai: The language of the author of the Rohonc Codex. Although the written language of the Codex is presumably a most extraordinary invention, its tenets definitely resemble those of the language(s) spoken by its author. Király and Tokai have not come near any conclusion in the identification of such language(s). Most of the features they describe are either too general (e. g. the presence of prepositions) or too exotic (e. g. a totally unique way of verb and pronoun “conjugation”), while some need deeper linguistic insight to draw conclusions from (e. g. word order). They invite linguists and all adventurers with linguistic ambitions to get closer to the language of the author, thus hopefully revealing something of the author’s mysterious identity.

More information about the workshop will be given in the end of January 2020.

   Király, Levente Zoltán; Tokai, Gábor (2018). “Cracking the Code of the Rohonc Codex". Cryptologia. 42 (4): 285–315. doi:10.1080/01611194.2018.1449147




Last update 2020-03-17