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The following text-message exchange took place yesterday between me and my friend Michel:

M: Çorâ ârb fyk! Çî bwæ rœt nœ mæ þœśol? Ap kôx so śêm am śêmipat ø jûp? Aś wæ śadwol ap îp lakrœ am tœmb!
D: Is this one of your conlangs? Cuz if so you've got to send me the dictionary if you expect me to try to read it
M: Haha, no, the only dictionary you might need is an English one ;)
D: ...okay, can you send me a longer example please?

An hour or so later, he sent me the following by email:

Am o çâr am so dlîmb sil rañb o çegap. Mep o myþpu, bilpu, jip çâr, śarb jah su imbað oñ jilnað ymb om æðu þnir, mûl wip o blœ, gøl, þymbu çâr jah mêhaß am ap po þap bîm ûm ûl pæ up: ap jêð o çegap-çâr, ymb syp numð tênśolp.

Ap çyb o kilśatop lîmb bûl rœt o kûlpçâr, kømpab dlum, jah o vœmu wirâ glyþ meg am su adðytop nabor. So bûl âkomb ûm pæ o pæg-vøkab çer rœt o pêmor: o ñølu tênśilpogor pêmor jahîp þnât, jah kymorb jerð, omb śrûlð pœrb imb telkapab, kloñœbab jah keravab følð, ymb rex im rex oñ kidð śol çyx im tâx—so çegap jêð śemb oñ ñaðapolð. So pêmor jîmb ûm im ûm, dâaß śølru gop mep tjœp iþpløp ampo so þœb oñ so çar—su çar, yð er so kukor śol nimu nœrð lîmb terb ap—ymb nimu rapor lîmb bûlð âkomb îp oñ ap, śilþp ûm jêm þœb imb sim ûm omêsol. Mâ dâaß êkþpølð śol so çegap: giblænð, gyhlænð, þirolð, kympluð (rex oñ suð), jûlblâgð (çu çyb çâr lænð bañâpab po trâsað), tafomð, bœmaß-lænð, er jol ûm so þøn śrûl, ymb ambub ûm so þøn kyþaz. So giþp lænð jol er ûm so riśp-çymb þœb (dâaß am), śol suð jol su âmru jêmð po çyñ jambâð, buk-þip lîmb jambâð rôtaß âñol çaþ delbom, im nibâð guwemb, þrâkaß bîm po so lañol.

I'm thinking it's got to be some sort of encryption, but not a straightforward one: there seem to be 38 distinct characters, for one thing. Can you help me decrypt it?

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  • $\begingroup$ Does Michel speak another language or have a specific accent? $\endgroup$ – feelinferrety Apr 26 '16 at 23:25
  • $\begingroup$ @feelinferrety He speaks Standard American English. $\endgroup$ – DLosc Apr 27 '16 at 4:38
  • $\begingroup$ Are there many people called Michel on the US? $\endgroup$ – fffred Apr 27 '16 at 17:27
  • $\begingroup$ I know at least two, personally. :) @fffred $\endgroup$ – Khale_Kitha Apr 27 '16 at 18:11
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It's a phonemic substitution cipher, with these pairings (cipher character followed by phoneme):

k: p
g: b
p: t
b: d
t: k
d: g
ś: f
ñ: v
h: θ
s: ð
þ: s
ð: z
v: ʃ
x: ts
f: tʃ
z: dʒ
ç: h
n: m
m: n
ß: ŋ
r: l
l: r
j: w
w: j
o: ə
u: i
a: ɪ
i: ɛ
y: æ
e: ɑ
ê: ʌ
û: ɔ
ô: ʊ
æ: u
ø: eɪ
œ: aɪ
â: oʊ
î: aʊ

The longer sample of text is from "The Hobbit", by Tolkien:

Am o çâ_r am so dlî_mb sil rañb o çegap
ɪn ə hoʊl ɪn ðə graʊnd ðɛr lɪvd ə hɑbɪt
In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit. (...)

The original message is approximately:

Hello old chap! How d'you like my new cipher? It puts the fun in phonetic eh wot? If you figure it out reply in kind!

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  • $\begingroup$ Ah, excellent! I think I'll tell him, "Tær, sâ o gap anklytpator śûl iñlubø wæþ." $\endgroup$ – DLosc Apr 27 '16 at 21:23
  • $\begingroup$ @DLosc Cannae be bovvered - can haz translation? $\endgroup$ – feelinferrety Apr 27 '16 at 22:37
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    $\begingroup$ @feelinferrety Cool, though a bit impractical for everyday use. $\endgroup$ – Jonathan Allan Apr 27 '16 at 23:10
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I don't know it but you could try the phonetic language. I think I "recognize" a lot of (quite "friendly") english stuff in the first line ("fyk" = fuck, "kôx"= cox, "sêm" = same, "As wae" = as we)

This clearly uses symbols from all extended latin alphabets (some are used only in french, others only in german, others only in spanish, ...). It could be a weird word font, but I would exclude it, since I don't see all of them (why would you use û but not ù, it doesn't really make sense).

If this is not phonetic, apply the classic method of calculating the probability for each coded symbol in the text you have. Then find a surjective matching (for instance é, ê, è, oe $\rightarrow $ e) which matches the best the probabilities for each letter in the english language.

Good luck

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  • $\begingroup$ That's how I usually start a text message. $\endgroup$ – SendersReagent Apr 26 '16 at 22:47
  • $\begingroup$ FYI, Michel would never use profanity--certainly not when talking to me, his good friend. $\endgroup$ – DLosc Apr 27 '16 at 4:42
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    $\begingroup$ Because he's a good friend he would use profanity. Otherwise he's just a "meh" friend. $\endgroup$ – Marius Apr 27 '16 at 7:38

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