The Machine Assisted Translation team at Bible Society are working on methods of analysing natural languages by computer. In attempting this we are drawing on well established linguistic and mathematical principles, several of which are in essence formalised common sense. Here are some puzzles which do not need any specialist knowledge to solve, but reflect the major tasks which linguistic analysis needs to perform.
If you think you have a solution to these, or if you enjoy this sort of puzzle why not contact us? We might be able to give you one or two others to chew on!
CIPHER PUZZLESDECODING AND TEXT CHECKING
Machine assisted translation and computerised text checking are very largely based on a combination of mathematics and linguistics. In many ways both are similar to the process of decoding or deciphering a text.
One of the oldest ways of encrypting a text is the Substitution Cipher. In general substitution ciphers work like this: first you choose a keyword - let's say Nebuchadnezzar - and write it down omitting any repeated letters: NEBUCHADZR. Then you write after it the rest of the alphabet, starting with the letter which follows the last one of the keyword. When you get to Z you start again at A until all 26 letters have been used. Under this you write the alphabet in normal sequence
Now to encrypt the word CIPHER you find each letter on the bottom line and replace it by the corresponding one from the top line, so it becomes BZYDCG.
Here is a passage from the Bible (selected randomly by computer from the King James Version) for you to decrypt.
Another common means of encryption is the Transposition Cipher, which works by scrambling the order of letters rather than replacing them. The message to be encrypted is written in a grid the width of which has been agreed by the sender and the receiver. Let us suppose that the grid width is 11 characters and the message to be encrypted is the beginning of Genesis. The sender writes it as:
IN THE BEGI
NNING GOD C
THE EARTH A
ND THE EART
H WAS WITHO
UT FORM AND
The bottom line is padded with spaces to make it 11 characters long, and the message is encrypted by reading down the columns instead of across. The resulting cipher is:
... To unscramble the message the recipient has only to reverse the process. Here is a passage, again selected at random from the King James Version, written in such a cipher:
INRHTNHUVNNEEHD TO IAAE W ITNTV TAFDHGEEEHSO
WD A YT WHSEHEH N E WIA THOEENDOAB MA A
FLESBE TAOEFNWETTH ARIB AWTTU DEWOOIFECH
YEKRERBHSOE NLC HMRE A ITDTTUENRSSEFNA
D UTUTARW K DEUROHDK R HOAND NATLHRHS
C OA NNIAYEOL IU EUIED TASETAII OMTTEH H
USRGEE R TS IHNSHGIIB TT UE EGHUAGE N
ENTGBHDOOIEATPYB RRR FOSNSAEIS AHMORHT
GTNFE HFETER ROGHATBHEWLEY IRNSUA TR
RPDOENTAMTDBEH YEE YS RHL ABTS UK NAG
L O SEE TE HEA NWE MHYNASWTVFOENHUE ADS
ACEGRINUAH SR DATHV H UZEOL ADE AREEIBUH
TOSIB M MDTDHF KISTIEWT MT E O U ENAEHA
DAD I TSEEYGHA ALDPFAF OT VO EIEOCZ FOCN
EDHNI NYTE F NATECAEO O ER OF E TEHTRC
FASRDSY ENT V ALHH D EO TOED TTAHVHOE H
N FHAK NH S ODEPATL Y TGBH YDC TUG
LOGIC PUZZLEWHERE ARE THEY FROM?
Down in the South of Provence there are two little communities of very interesting people. Trouville is a little inland from the Mediterranean in a countryside bedecked with vineyards producing that wonderful, vibrant local Vin de Pays which so often leaves the casual tourist gasping (with admiration of course!). Just offshore there lies the island of Porquerôlles. A veritable paradise of seafood restaurants and olive groves and home of the meanest pétanque équipe in all of France.
What more fascinating things can we derive from a casual acquaintance with these two communities? Well, to be honest, it's a bit tricky. You see one of the most interesting things about them is that every man who lives in Trouville always tells the truth, whereas everyone who lives in Porquerôlles always tells lies. The snag is, unless you happen to be in one town or the other you don't know who comes from where!
Take the other weekend for instance when Bear bumped into a group of folk some of whom came from Trouville, others from Porquerôlles. How was he to know who came from where? Fortunately the café they were all patronising used paper napkins and he was able to record their conversation which went:
Albert: "Either Charles tells lies or Danielle does (or both do)."
Bernard: "If Charles tells the truth, so does Albert!"
Charles: "If Bernard tells lies then so does Albert!"
Danielle: "Either Albert tells the truth or Etienne does (or both)."
Etienne: "But Danielle and I come from the same town."
So there you have it! What do you think? Where did each come from?
PATTERN-MATCHING PUZZLEA PATCHWORD QUILT?
Every language is an elaborate pattern. We are surrounded by patterns, many of which we fail to spot. Sometimes we are confused because a little bit of an obvious pattern is missing. Here is a simple substitution cipher which is very easy to break when you see how the code is patterned - but until you see that it might appear impossibly difficult:
Tk, npwan jq, xzlutk _ _ ????
The cipher needs no key word. Once you know that the open text of the message reads... So, munch on, crunch on, it is possible to write a quite small computer program to encode and decode messages encrypted in this way. Can you work out how the two final letters "on", missing from the coded version, would be encrypted? And just out of interest, how is the message a clue to finding the pattern?
STRUCTURE PUZZLESPOT THE MORPHEME
We need to break information about language down into its component parts in order to be able to build structures with it:
The Balsamic language is spoken by a small group of speakers in the area between the Wadi el-Jawohnt and the Wadi el-Yadouin around the ancient capital Q'oddantjipzi. The country's geographical location on the trade-route between Djambuti and Aman Ku'qumba means that over many centuries its tongue has absorbed features from several language groups, but the fierce national pride of its speakers and the draconian influence of their celebrated mathematical linguist Plaisinbata have ensured that the language is completely regular in its structure.
Here is a short Balsamic passage in transliteration and its English translation:
Q'oddantjipzide tomarilina, langubideku mariliga fulapibita masupibi jusubiwi twaliga. Fulaku kalu bapulina jusudeta marizuna twazunata.
I didn't go to Q'oddantjipzi, but he went to the city and bought the yellow pumpkins in the market. I wanted a striped one so I shall go to a market and buy one.
Unfortunately, I do not speak Balsamic and I need a translation. Can anyone help me to write this please?
He will not go to the market in Q'oddantjipzi but he will buy a striped pumpkin and a yellow one in the city.