posted on Dec, 14 2004 @ 08:14 PM
this is one of those 99%-sure hoaxes i can't figure out precisely because it's not clear who's making money off of the hoax...but to make sure our
debunking's solid, here goes:
a) there is a dialect of chinese that tsum um nui could be from: Taiwanese. Many of my profs. from taiwan have the "-um" sound in there names, which
to my knowledge is nonexistant in mandarin and -- i think -- cantonese also. i can try to find this out, b/c i know a few students of taiwanese, but
if the name's legitimate it's at this point probably taiwanese.
b) it in fact could be a taiwanese "translation" of a japanese name. phonetically this wouldn't work -- i know enough japanese to assure you of
that -- but if the "translation" is coming from the name's kanji (and if this is actually in taiwanese) then this isn't out of the question.
what'd be rare is that this appears to be a 3-character name (as is standard in most dialects of chinese) (unless the nui is nu + i) but 3-character
names are rare in japanese; although they're not unheard of -- my roommate, for example, had a 3-character (2 for the family name, one for the given)
name, they're still pretty uncommon -- the usual pattern is 4 (2 for the family name, two for the given).
So, for the moment, unfortunately, it looks like Taiwanese can't be ruled out -- the name sounds very taiwanese, but still not quite "right" to my
ear, for what that's worth -- nor can the "japanese name translated into taiwanese" be ruled out, either, if the "translating" is by character,
not sound. since taiwan was basically a colony of japan until the end of WWII, there's still a lot of cultural ties between modern day Taiwan and
Japan -- much less of the anti-Japan attitude prevalent on the Chinese mainland -- and so the japan-taiwan connection isn't that outlandish.
fortunately, though, the story starts to look inconsistent here: given the tensions between taiwan and china, it's difficult to believe that they'd
call in some taiwanese or japanese expert to handle something like this, especially within the timeframe this is supposed to have taken place --
china/japan/taiwan relations are "better" now, but I doubt on matters of major importance that any of those three trusts the other two. i think that
historical implausibility is the best evidence against this story, at least until we get a verdict from a taiwanese speaker on the name.
some other things:
a) it's not "impossible" to decode an unknown language without a partial translation into a known language, but it's 99.5% impossible...if this
Nui fellow pulled it off, he should be getting a nobel at the least. what you can do with a big corpus in an unknown language is something like
i) split it into a "working" and a "checking" text (probably 50/50)
ii) make guesses and try to get a consistent translation of your working text (it's easier if there are regular patterns)
iii) if you get a theory, check it against the "checking" text and see if it holds up -- if your translations of the checking text make no sense,
you're probably wrong and need to start over
iv) repeat until you get a self-consistent translation of the whole text, or most of it
this approach is phenomenally difficult, and so far as I know no one's successfully decoded an unknown language this way, but it's a valid method
for large texts, primarily because the odds of getting a self-consistent translation of a very large text that's also totally incorrect is pretty
slim...the problem is getting there, and being honest about getting there. (as an example, there've been a few proposed "decodings" of the voynich
manuscript, but none of them passed this test -- using the translations in other parts of the book produced gibberish). like i said, if this Nui
fellow translated the books this way, he deserves a nobel or better.
b) it's not clear, though, that Nui had nothing to go with if the story is as described; there's a lot of ethnic minorities speaking weird languages
out in China's boonies, and it wouldn't be out of the question that whatever was on those tablets would be in a similar language to one of those,
especially if the translated "story" says the "aliens" bred into the surrounding population.
my summary, then, is that i'm pretty convinced this is a hoax, but it's harder to discredit than it appears at first:
a) we'd need to rule out taiwanese as a name
b) until we do a), we can't rule out the name's being brought into the taiwanese from japanese
c) it's not entirely impossiible (just mostly impossible) to translate something from scratch
d) it's not clear that the translator wouldn't have found the disks written in a language similar to one of the local languages near where the disks
and the only really convincing argument against them at this point is that taiwanese (maybe also Fukienese and some of the other minor chinese
dialects, too, but the name sounds quite taiwanese) seems the best bet for this name to be legitimate, but then the odds of a taiwanese getting to
work on such a project in china at the time period this was supposed to happen are so low as to be practically negative; it'd be not that different
from Berlin-wall era western Germany inviting in some east germans to work on a top secret weapons program.