Decipherment


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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Decipherment

 

of a writing system, the restoration of comprehension of an unknown writing system or language (or both). Thus, when texts from ancient Cyprus were being deciphered, the writing system was unknown. In the case of Hittite, Elamite, and Etruscan texts, the language was unknown. For Egyptian and Luwian hieroglyphics, Akkadian and Ugaritic cuneiform writing, and the “seals” of the Indus valley, neither the writing system nor the language was known. The degree to which the writing or language is known can, however, vary greatly—from complete knowledge to the recognition that the given writing system belongs to a known group of writing systems (or the given language belongs to a known family of languages).

In the deciphering process, the nature of the writing system (whether phonetic, consonantal, syllabic, or word-syllabic; whether or not there are explanatory marks that do not have phonetic values) is ascertained. A calculation of the number of different signs in the writing system in question is sufficient for this purpose. In identifying the individual written signs by simple methods, the decipherer is able to separate in an as yet unread phonetic text the vowels from the consonants and in a syllabic text, the signs for vowels from signs of the type “consonant + vowel.”

The grammar and semantics of a text can be studied independent of the analysis of the writing system. By comparing the repeating segments of a text, it is possible to separate roots from affixes and endings and nouns from verbs and to distinguish individual case and verb forms, prepositions, proper names, and so forth. Such an analysis “from within” is based on the knowledge of the regularities inherent in all languages (or writing systems) or in related groups. However, as a result of the limitation of texts, such an analysis rarely results in the identification of specific forms. To obtain a complete decipherment, use is made of different, strictly “external,” data, primarily bilingual texts—that is, parallel texts in a known and unknown language. If kinship between the language (writing system) in question and known languages (writing systems) is established, then the latter are used for determining or explaining the meaning of the words (written signs) of the text being deciphered. Such analysis is called etymological. Confirmation by new findings can serve as a criterion for the correctness of the decipherment.

V. V. SHEVOROSHKIN

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
Taking into account the fact that most decipherment techniques focused on searching for the meaning of the voynichese characters and words by correlating them with other languages, we considered that a totally different approach was needed.
hesitates, a corpse pushed back by the arm from the secret, rather than taking sides" may also suggest Foucault's point that the modern poem, which in the singularity of its unnameable event is itself a dice-throw, contains the key or "secret" to its own decipherment within itself, within the maze or chaotic "sea" of its own language.
Fox, who trained as a linguist and clearly would have made a wonderful teacher if she hadn't become a journalist, does a masterful job of introducing the nonlinguistically trained reader to the categories and concepts essential to decipherment. She walks us through Kober's analysis step by step until we grasp just how crucial her contribution was.
Opacity surrounds both elements in the interpretation of the signs, whether the initial recognition and acknowledgment of the 'meaning-bearing' quality of the phenomenon, or the subsequent decipherment of its message.
This quantification of Un Coup de des's unique metric serves as the key to its thematic "decipherment," as Meillassoux terms it, with all the aforementioned consequences.
Dr Sarah Glynn, manager of the Great North Museum, said: "Champollion's decipherment of the Rosetta Stone has become a symbol of the universal quest for knowledge and the potential for human communication across the ages.
(11) More recently, a certain Quintin Oropilla produced a complete Pangasinan language decipherment of the CPI using a combination of palaeography and a wide stretch of the imagination.
by assimilation, or perhaps by simulation, all of social life becomes the mere decipherment of messages by the eyes, the mere reading of texts.
They wanted to find out if there was a way to combine the processing power of a computer with the human intuition that has gone into translation and decipherment work.
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The discovery of the Rosetta Stone in 1799 was revolutionary not only because of the antiquity of the artifact, but also because it culminated in the decipherment and understanding of ancient Egypt's hieroglyphic texts that previously had been unintelligible.
There, he and his party sailed the Nile from Alexandria to Abu Simbel and found his decipherment triumphantly confirmed by inscriptions on the temples, tombs and statues of the pharaohs.