Antedating of "yeah" and EEBO

Joel S. Berson Berson at ATT.NET
Sat Jun 10 21:56:30 UTC 2006

Whoops!  My comments below apply to ECCO,
Eighteenth Century Collections Online, not
EEBO.  EEBO has been less productive for me, as I
haven't found 18th c. works I was interested
in.  Which may be wholly due to Charles Doyle
being right--that it does not go past 1700!!


At 6/9/2006 06:46 PM, you wrote:
>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 -

The American Dialect Society -

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