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Home :: Archive :: 2006 :: April ::
WordHoard
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 17.0338  Friday, 21 April 2006

[1] 	From: 	Martin Mueller <
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	Date: 	Thursday, 20 Apr 2006 12:19:28 -0500
	Subj: 	Re: SHK 17.0330 WordHoard

[2] 	From: 	Frank Whigham <
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	Date: 	Thursday, 20 Apr 2006 15:08:31 -0500
	Subj: 	Re: SHK 17.0330 WordHoard

[3] 	From: 	Stephanie Kydd <
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	Date: 	Friday, 21 Apr 2006 06:19:07 -0700 (PDT)
	Subj: 	Re: SHK 17.0330 WordHoard


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Martin Mueller <
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Date: 		Thursday, 20 Apr 2006 12:19:28 -0500
Subject: 17.0330 WordHoard
Comment: 	Re: SHK 17.0330 WordHoard

May I clarify a point about WordHoard's treatment of Chaucer and 
Shakespeare? There is no 'conflation' of the language of one and the 
other, nor is there any attempt to minimize the distance between the 
two.  WordHoard uses a common morphosyntactic tagging scheme to identify 
crude grammatical facts about words, such as word class, tense, person, 
or number.

Chaucer's language is somewhat richer inflectionally than Shakespeare's 
English, not to speak of modern English. On the other hand, for the very 
simple categorizations that are involved in part- of-speech tagging, you 
don't need a lot more categories for Chaucer than for modern English. 
For Shakespeare and Spenser you need the second person singular. For 
Chaucer, you need tags to express plural past and present. There are 
subtleties of usage in modern and earlier  English that are not caught 
in typical tagging schemes--for instance,  the subjunctive quality of 
phrases like 'if he were'. Nor does the tagging scheme distinguish 
between strong and weak past forms of verbs, such as 'chose' and 
'choosed' or 'came' and 'comed'. And  distinctions between modal, full, 
and quasi-modal uses of verbs like  'may' and 'can' are beyond the power 
of automatic part of speech  tagging, which in WordHoard and in similar 
applications is a pretty blunt instrument. But it is useful, and the 
utility consists less in marking very fine distinction than in capturing 
coarse distinctions in a systematic fashion and across a substantial 
corpus. You can do a surprising amount of quite subtle work if all words 
have been categorized systematically and with tolerable accuracy as 
nouns, verbs, plural, past, etc.

The morphological Chaucer data in WordHoard are derived from Larry 
Benson's Glossarial concordance to the Riverside Chaucer. They have been 
translated into a scheme that uses a somewhat different terminology and 
serves as a common language for describing basic grammatical categories. 
Since Benson's categories are kept in the annotation, users can easily 
compare Benson's terminology with the common scheme and see how little 
difference it makes. The common structure of underlying metadata permits 
users to explore characteristic differences between usage in Chaucer and 
Spenser or Shakespeare. The point of this is not to 'conflate' one thing 
with another. On the contrary, it is to create an instrument for the 
articulation of difference. If you used different tagging schemes 
cross-corpus comparisons would be impossible.  It is easily possible to 
think of languages that are so different that they could not be usefully 
described with a common tagging scheme. But this is conspicuously not 
the case with Chaucer and Shakespeare.

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Frank Whigham <
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Date: 		Thursday, 20 Apr 2006 15:08:31 -0500
Subject: 17.0330 WordHoard
Comment: 	Re: SHK 17.0330 WordHoard

 >On a related matter, where is there a study of reputation and use
 >of Chaucer among the Elizabethans.

For one:

The Renaissance Chaucer. / Miskimin, Alice S. / New Haven / 1975

~Frank Whigham

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Stephanie Kydd <
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Date: 		Friday, 21 Apr 2006 06:19:07 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: 17.0330 WordHoard
Comment: 	Re: SHK 17.0330 WordHoard

 >Langland's +Piers Plowman+ doesn't sound *that* odd when
 >simply transliterated and modernised.

This is an excellent point.  I think it's important to distinguish 
modernity in spelling from both archaicism and dialectal sound. As an 
example, here is an excerpt (lines 919-930) from the Host's interruption 
of 'The Tale of Sir Thopas' in early spelling (text courtesy ME Corpus 
at U Michigan):

Namoore of this, for goddes dignitee,
Quod oure hooste, for thou makest me
So wery of thy verray lewednesse
That, also wisly God my soule blesse,
Myne eres aken of thy drasty speche.
Now swich a rym the devel I biteche!
This may wel be rym dogerel, quod he.
Why so? quod I, why wiltow lette me
Moore of my tale than another man,
Syn that it is the beste rym I kan?
By god, quod he, for pleynly, at a word,
Thy drasty rymyng is nat worth a toord!

And in modern spelling:

"No more of this, for God's dignity,"
Quoth our host, "for thou makest me
So weary of thy very lewdness
That, all so wisely God my soul bless,
Mine ears ache of thy drasty speech.
Now such a rhyme the Devil ay beteach!
This may well be rhyme doggerel," quoth he.
"Why so?" quoth I, "why wilt thou let me
More of my tale than another man,
Since that it is the best rhyme I can?"
"By God," quoth he, "for plainly, at a word,
Thy drasty rhyming is not worth a turd!"

Certainly this language (even with the exigencies of blank verse) is 
very similar to what can be heard nowadays in many a modern alehouse, 
and Falstaff himself would be hard put to do out-do Harry Bailey.  In 
modern spelling, even those with no exposure to ME or EME would have 
little trouble with this passage.

Just to play 'devels advocat' (that's Chaucerian spelling) I have 
extracted some of Chaucer's individual words and placed them alongside 
instances of the same words as spelled in Shakespeare's F1 (with the 
understanding that this is far from comprehensive or conclusive):

CHAUCER      SHAKESPEARE F1
hooste             hoste
goddes            goddes (used in plural, not singular possessive)
soule               soule
blesse             blesse
dignitee           dignitie
wery               wearie
lewednesse     lewdnesse
verray              verrie
aken               ake
eres                eares
speche            spech
devel               divell
rym                 rymme
pleynly            plainely
rymyng            riming
biteche            (used only by S. in the form 'betake')

Shakespeare when viewed in this light arguably looks just as remote as 
Chaucer.  As Hilda Hulme has pointed out ('Explorations in Shakespeare's 
Language', pp. 206-207), those immersed in a standardized spelling 
system often have difficulty with common words spelled uncommonly.  It 
is important not to confuse spelling changes with changes to the 
language itself.  Many so-called 'changes' can be attributed simply to 
spelling variance, not obsolescence or even pronunciation variation 
(which is why reading aloud is always a good idea).

This divide between spelling and pronunciation is noteworthy.  Spelling 
is not in and of itself irrefutable evidence of pronunciation (or vice 
versa); evolution of sound often exists separate and apart from 
evolution of spelling.  For example, Bostonians diligently spell out the 
'r's' in 'park the car' even though they don't say them, and many modern 
Londoners will spell 'home' with the 'h' but not pronounce it (whereas 
Chaucer sometimes just leaves out the initial 'h' in spelling).  And of 
course, there is today (just as in Chaucer's and Shakespeare's time) a 
wide variance in regional pronunciation which is in no way a barrier to 
communication.

As far as Chaucer's 'quod' for Shakespeare's 'quoth', I put forward the 
Greek letter 'delta' (sorry, plain text format prevents insertion of the 
Greek glyph) which is 'thelta' to modern speakers but was 'delta' to the 
ancients.  The glyph itself, however, has not changed.  Similarly, the 
Anglo-Saxon thorn (sorry, again no glyph in plain text) seems alien 
until spoken aloud, and then the words become magically decipherable.

In the above passage I can identify (at a very superficial go) only 
three words not used by Shakespeare ('doggerel','drasty' and 'turd'), 
two of which are borderline coarse ('turd', which may be punned on at 
least once in a brogue pronunciation of 'third' in TN II.iii., and 
'drasty'- i.e., shi**y). Two survive into our own time, and 'drasty' 
survived at least as late as 1530 when it was catalogued in Palsgrave's 
dictionary as 'dresty'.  The word probably survived later, however: the 
lines 'Oh, what pitty is it, that he had not so trim'd / And drest his 
Land, as we this Garden' (R2 III.iv.) perhaps contain an echo of the 
Chaucerian sense of 'drest'.  Here as elsewhere, change in spelling does 
not constitute change in sense.

- Stephie Kydd

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