The Voynich manuscript: the decipherment of ms. 408


Last year I was contacted by someone who claimed to have deciphered the Voynich manuscript. This manuscript is one of the big enigmas of medieval history and, for that matter, linguistics. No one has yet been able to decipher it, and many have tried. It is written in a totally unknown script in an unidentified language.

The manuscript is more than 500 years old. It has been publicly available for a century, and now it is also available online. Nobody has been able to translate the manuscript; there have been many proposals, but all have been rejected. People have claimed it could be written in a form of Hebrew, in a Romance language, in an earlier form of Romani, an …

Book review: An extinct creole language of the Danish West Indies

Rossem forside the virgin islands dutch creole textual heritage philological perspectives on authenticity and audie 328

Cefas van Rossem defended his thesis on the now extinct Dutch Creole language of the former Danish Antilles, or Dansk Vestindien ‘the Danish West Indies’, or the Virgin Islands, on December 20 2017, at the Radboud University of Nijmegen. I had the privilege of judging the manuscript and being one of the eight (!) opponents.

It is in fact the second dissertation on the language within a year – accidentally one hundred years after the three islands St John, St. Croix and St. Thomas were sold by Denmark to the USA. Robbert van Sluijs defended his thesis of the development of tense, mood and aspect in the language in May 2017.

Why would a Danish colony foster …

Eli Fischer-Jørgensen (1911-2010)


Lingoblog continues to provide you with suggestions for your summer readings on various linguistic topics. This week we have found a biography of language researcher Eli Fischer-Jørgensen (1911-2010).

In January 1999, a few years after I had moved to Denmark, I was astounded to come across an interview in the Danish weekly Weekendavisen with the renowned Danish phonetician Eli Fischer- Jørgensen (henceforth EFJ) and marveled: She is still alive! Having made her name in publications as early as the first half of the past century, in the interview EFJ still appeared intellectually unabated, and full of new writing plans yet. She even remarked that she hoped soon to finish a major work on a special liturgic form of Danish!

In …

Culture and language of the Kalasha


Denmark has a special connection with the Kalasha people in northern Pakistan. The Danish scholar of religious sciences Halfdan Siiger visited the Kalasha people in 1948, and he wrote a book – not yet published – about their religion. Later, the anthropologists Mytte Fentz and Svend Castenfeldt undertook field work in the Kalasha valleys. They wrote several articles and books about their observations, in particular Myth Fentz’s wonderful book The Kalasha: Mountain People of the Hindu Kush, published in Denmark at Forlag Rhodes.

The Moesgaard Museum in Aarhus possesses a lot of objects from the people, including some gand’aw, or wooden sculptures of ancestors. In addition, Copenhagen linguist Ida Mørch and Jan Heegård visited the area and studied …

The language of The Julekalender

Nisser the Julekalender

This year, Danish television is broadcasting the daily Christmas program The Julekalender for the 10th time. It was originally produced in 1991.

In Scandinavia, there is a long tradition of television series in 24 episodes of a story that relates to Christmas, all through the month of December. This is called a Julekalender, a Christmas Calendar. The Julekalender is said to be the one that has been most often repeated.

A special type of little people, locally called Nisse, plural Nisser, usually play a prominent role in these series. They interact in different ways with the human world, and they are mostly invisible to humans. They play a role in Danish folk beliefs – especially for …

Around Europe in Sixty Languages by Gaston Dorren. Book review.

Dorren cover lingo

This post is a book review of Gaston Dorren’s Lingo: A Language Spotter’s Guide to Europe AND Lingo. Around Europe in Sixty Languages. First edition 2014. New York: Grove Press. Accompanying website:

A friend of mine went all the way to the United States and all she bought for me was this book, “Lingo”. The similarity between the name of this blog, and the book is purely coincidental. The author of Lingo is the Dutch language journalist Gaston Dorren.

Lingo is an English adapted version of his Dutch book Taaltoerisme, or “language tourism”, which Dorren wrote a few years ago. A respected friend and colleague had read the book in its Dutch version, and his judgment …

A creole book and a dedication to a creolist: Philip Baker

Philip Baker March 2017 Giessentafel

Not long before Christmas, I received a parcel from Germany, presumably a book, and when I opened the parcel and it was indeed a book. Attached to the book was a small card with the following text:

Philip Baker, 26 July 1940 – 19 August 2017

This volume was published in February 2017, Philip Baker received it in March and had the satisfaction to see that all the data he compiled in London in the 1980ies – the famous “dossier bleu” – are now available in print (see p. VIII).

We mourn for our dear friend Philip and present this book to you to honour his memory.

Annegret and Willem Bollée

It was inserted in this book: