First quotations

This page is under construction, scheduled to be completed over 2019 and 2020. For now, please see discussion of this topic in our page on Seward and first quotations.

Chronological representation of first quotations in the OED, as in the preliminary charts below, would seem to show the varying rate over time of lexical productivity in the language – how many words came into the language at which periods in its history.

However, as first noted by Schäfer (1980), OED’s identification of new words has always closely tracked the variation in its quotation collections in general. The more quotations gathered for any particular period in the language, the more likely the lexicographers have been to discover first examples of use in that period. This can be seen relatively clearly in the draft charts below.

First quotations in OED1/2 1150-1499

First quotations compared with total quotations in OED1/2 1150-1499
First quotations in OED1/2 1500-1699
First quotations compared with total quotations in OED1/2 1500-1699

OED3

The relationship between first quotations and total quotations has shifted somewhat in OED3, so far as can be made out by comparing OED2 with the undifferentiable mix of OED2 and OED3 entries in OED Online (data collected December 2018), as can be seen in the first two charts below. However, the third chart shows that the OED Online line of first quotations is still closely tracking that of OED2.

First quotations compared with total quotations in OED Online 1500-1699 (as of December 2018)

First quotations compared with total quotations in OED Online 1500-1699 (as of December 2018)

First quotations in OED2 compared with first quotations in OED Online (as of December 2018) 1500 onwards

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