Abbreviated texts

There are different senses in which texts may be abbreviated.

One is by employing ‘Tironian’ style signs to mark abbreviations in an otherwise plain text.

Mark Perakh defines two more:

There are two methods of abbreviation, abbreviation by truncation, and abbreviation by contraction. If word Professor is replaced with Prof, it is abbreviation by truncation.

If word Mister is replaced by Mr it is abbreviation by contraction.

In the former, vowels and consonants are sacrificed roughly equally. In the latter, vowels are sacrificed much more often than consonants are.

But for the sort of extreme reduction that Hoffman Hoffmann (sorry, Don) posits, and I see as a characteristic of technical writing, and which we see in chemical notation, I’ve not found a definition.  Perhaps I can call it ‘Acronymic text’ till I find what it should be called.

Since I’ve been drawn into having an opinion.. a leaning.. an inclination where the text is concerned, I’ve been looking for earlier suggestions of the same. I mean earlier than Don’s.

A diagram which was posted on ciphermysteries has Mark Perakh in the ‘abbreviations’ space, and elsewhere Nick refers to a paper by Perakh, dating to 1999.

The links which Nick included no longer work (we lost Mark Perakh in May).

It can presently be read here:’s sites/Mark’s perakm site/

Now, it looks to me as if Prof. Perakh assumed, as most people have, that Voynichese will be plain text, or poetry – but that it will have the same proportions of consonants, vowels and numbers as a slab of plain text would.

If we compare two lists, one based on the extreme assumption that all characters in VMS are letters, and the other based on the opposite extreme assumption that 10 least frequent characters are numerals, we see that there are a number of characters which in both lists are equally among either consonants or vowels.

Since this link to Perakh’s paper may also vanish from the web, I’d like to quote  his observation on the subject of Voynichese as ‘fake’.

Furthermore, it seems hard to imagine that, however clever and skillful the creators of VMS could be, they would go to such lengths in their alleged imitation of a meaningful text, as to ensure the relative distributions of both vowels and consonants to be typical of natural languages, and also to imitate an abbreviated text. There would be no need whatsoever to effect the latter imitation. Therefore, based on the totality of the factual evidence, it seems more reasonable to conclude that 1) VMS is a meaningful text; 2) VMS-A and VMS-B are written in the same language, VMS-A constituting a version highly abbreviated by contraction. 3) The language of VMS has a very non-uniform letter frequency distribution (its entropy being though within the normal range for meaningful texts in 12 natural languages).

Just for somewhere to put it (I’ll never find it again on ciphermysteries) Elias said in 2009

The travelling Jesuits were known for producing and selling small pocket bibles made of fake uterine vellum, and these were written using stiles, not quills. Such small print using a split stile, print much smaller than that used in the VMS. There are examples of these Jesuit bibles out there in the ether, very good examples actually.

I do wish he’d linked to some!


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