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Kondrak and Hauer hypothesized the manuscript was created using alphagrams, defining one phrase with another, exemplary of the ambiguities in human language. Assuming that, they tried to come up with an algorithm to decipher that type of scrambled text.
“It turned out that over 80 per cent of the words were in a Hebrew dictionary, but we didn’t know if they made sense together,” said Kondrak.
After unsuccessfully seeking Hebrew scholars to validate their findings, the scientists turned to Google Translate.
“It came up with a sentence that is grammatical, and you can interpret it,” said Kondrak. “‘She made recommendations to the priest, man of the house and me and people.’ It’s a kind of strange sentence to start a manuscript but it definitely makes sense.”
Without historians of ancient Hebrew, Kondrak explained, the full meaning of the Voynich manuscript will remain a mystery. He said he is looking forward to applying the algorithms he and Hauer developed to other ancient manuscripts.