Antedating of "yeah" and EEBO

Joel S. Berson Berson at ATT.NET
Fri Jun 9 22:46:44 UTC 2006

I have been very impressed with EEBO, looking at
18th century texts.  (Goes beyond 1700, not just
up to as Charles Doyle wrote.) The interface to
its browse and search facilities is pleasing, and
also effective, including useful multiple
criteria for "advanced" searches.   The search
facility (returning a page that is in the hit
list) is fast--much faster than Early American
Imprints or Early American Newspapers.

I was able to identify the work (X) from which
Bampfylde-Moore Carew "borrowed" several
multi-page passages, as well as another work that
borrowed from X and the passages in Defoe that X borrowed.

I've noticed a few false hits of the type Charles
reported.  However, can I really believe that
EEBO books were keyboarded, rather than
scanned?  Perhaps postprocessing of a scanned
text turned "yea" into "yeah" because its
software (or a human examining the results of the
scan) thought "yeah" was the more probable
word.  (Maybe the software needs to use date of
publication to adjust the probabilities!)


At 6/9/2006 03:11 PM, you wrote:
>A caution (or, for most, a reminder)--
>I don’t know how many of y'all use EEBO ("Early English
>Books Online"), which has been available only a few
>months.   It's really wonderful--a complete searchable
>typescript of all books printed in England or in English
>from Caxton to 1700, together with photographs of all the
>actual pages.  It's produced by Chadwyk-Healey.
>Anyhow, I was all excited yesterday:  I entered "yeah" as
>the search-term, and I got a HIT in a text from 1602!
>Pretty clearly, though, the form did not correspond with the
>present-day colloquial affirmative.  Rather it stood
>for "yea" (paralleling the word "yea" in the preceding
>sentence, in a rather formal, elevated register of prose).
>Well, I said to myself, the OED doesn't give "yeah" as a
>historical spelling for "yea"; so this finding might be a
>little bit interesting (especially in light of the possible
>derivation of colloquial "yeah" from "yea").  Then:  I
>checked the photo of the appropriate page, and the 1602 text
>actually says "yea."
>The caution is, Never assume (if you can help it) that a
>transcript of a text is accurate!
>Just for fun, then, I entered "yeah" as a search-term for
>the older Chadwyk-Healey LION ("Literature on line") data
>base.  I got a hit in a poem from 1612--which, if it had
>been "valid," should have showed up in my EEBO search.
>There, also, "yeah" is simply a typo for "yea."
>We could surmise that the keyboarder, in each case, knew the
>word "yeah" better than "yea" and so unconsciously made
>the "correction" (sort of the way MSWord if forever trying
>to correct our quoted old spellings!).  Legend has it,
>though, that the LION keyboarders were Filipino women
>(working in an electronic sweatshop) who did not speak
>English; can that be TRUE?
>The American Dialect Society -

The American Dialect Society -

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