3.21 concording, cont. (169)

Wed, 10 May 89 22:43:23 EDT

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 3, No. 21. Wednesday, 10 May 1989.

(1) Date: Wed, 10 May 89 07:41:44 EDT (16 lines)
From: David <MEGGIN@vm.epas.utoronto.ca>
Subject: Re: 3.15 concordances, cont. (65)

(2) Date: Wednesday, 10 May 1989 0908-EST (23 lines)
Subject: Concording

(3) Date: Wed, 10 May 89 11:32:37 EDT (54 lines)
From: Ken Steele <KSTEELE@vm.epas.utoronto.ca>
Subject: Obsolete Concordances

(4) Date: Wed, 10 May 89 13:47:33 EDT (46 lines)
From: "James H. Coombs" <JAZBO@BROWNVM>
Subject: printed concordance obsolescent

(1) --------------------------------------------------------------------
Date: Wed, 10 May 89 07:41:44 EDT
From: David <MEGGIN@vm.epas.utoronto.ca>
Subject: Re: 3.15 concordances, cont. (65)

I agree with Willard McCarty in his love of printed texts, and like
him, I too extend that love to printed concordances. Many of the
concordances of the past are more useful than modern concording programs
because of the careful research and the degree of lemmatisation which
went into them. Nowadays, however, a printed concordance tends just to
be a long dot-matrix print-out with truncated lines and illegible index
numbers. If a scholar is not willing to put 20 years into making her/
his concordance a work of art, or at least of scholarship, I would far
rather have an electronic copy of the text with a good concording
program. Cruden's, however, will never be kicked off my shelf.

David <MEGGIN@vm.epas.utoronto.ca>
(2) --------------------------------------------------------------26----
Date: Wednesday, 10 May 1989 0908-EST
Subject: Concording

Willard is "thick" on concordances? Probably.
Give me the world electronically and a searching
package flexible enough to deal with it appropriately
(including the things listed in earlier HUMANIST
discussions by Hughes, Cover, etc.; IBYCUS is the
best I have available right now), and he can have
all the hardcopy concordances, indices, etc.
Well, maybe I'd like this all in a multiple
screen/processor environment. And of course, with
excellent convenient print capabilities. And enough
speed. And good screen generation of foreign fonts.
And..., oh yes, the time to use it! But that is
even more of a problem with Willard's thick


[This really was meant for you, Willard; but if
you can't resist -- some people just can't seem to say no!]
(3) --------------------------------------------------------------58----
Date: Wed, 10 May 89 11:32:37 EDT
From: Ken Steele <KSTEELE@vm.epas.utoronto.ca>
Subject: Obsolete Concordances

When David Megginson suggested that programs like
WordCruncher have made printed concordances a thing of the
past, I suspect he had in mind, at least in part, the
Shakespeare archive I have demonstrated for him. (It currently
contains 55 unedited quarto and folio texts of Shakespeare's
plays, and requires about 18 megabytes of storage space with
the WordCruncher indexes.) I feel obliged to defend his
argument against Willard McCarty's objections.

Admittedly the markup process for WordCruncher took several
months of weekends (I doubt that Ovid would take much
longer), but once completed the interactive concordance can do
many things of which printed concordances are simply
incapable. (For those who have not yet had the pleasure of its
acquaintance, WordCruncher allows searches for lists of words
in any combination, for lists of words within a set distance,
for lists of words which do NOT occur together, etc etc.) It
would doubtless take several shelves of prohibitively-expensive
printed concordances to duplicate this resource (and what
University library, much less what humble Shakespearean
scholar, can afford to spend money needlessly these days?).

I recognize the value of "multitasking mediawise" on a wooden
desktop, and I admit that I still use the paper compact edition
of the Oxford English Dictionary (but this is largely because I
cannot afford a CD-ROM drive just now). Yet surely printed
concordances, like the typewriter, have been rendered
obsolescent by computer technology. I love the feeling of a
well-bound book in my hands as much as anyone, and I keep
my old IBM Selectric around for sentimental reasons, but
"trivialization" cannot be ignored.

And although I am one of those unfortunates saddled with a
12-MHz AT, multitasking is not a "distant dream" to me.
Obviously, true multitasking is the province of OS/2, the 80386
chip, and their descendants, but programs such as Microsoft
Windows or Softlogic Solutions' Software Carousel (my personal
favourite) allow me to move between WordPerfect and
WordCruncher with at least as much ease and speed as between
a notepad and a printed concordance. (And neither program
requires true multitasking, simultaneous operation, when
immediate alternation is all that this human operator is capable
of anyway.)

As for the etymology of "OK," the tiny print of my OED's
supplement blames it on the Americans: an abbreviation of a
misspelling, "oll korrect" in the 15 April 1840 Boston
Transcript. Perhaps someone with the CD-ROM edition can
supply the most recent theory.
(4) --------------------------------------------------------------49----
Date: Wed, 10 May 89 13:47:33 EDT
From: "James H. Coombs" <JAZBO@BROWNVM>
Subject: printed concordance obsolescent

Printed concordances might be obsolescent, but they are certainly not
obsolete. Just last weekend I went to the library with a list of about 50
concordances to search---to see how English authors had been using certain
words. I have electronic access to perhaps 1% of the works that are concorded
in those books.

I believe that Willard would argue that printed concordances are not even
obsolescent. Publishers are already losing interest in concrdances, however,
and we can expect scholars to lose interest as they come to expect electronic

Side note. I ran across a set of concordances on diskettes in the library.
The effort required to try them out on a PC was not justified for my extremely
speculative task. I would have used them if they had been printed and, thus,
had directly provided the information that I sought.

All in all. Print medium has its advantages. Such advantages are probably
not sufficient to keep them in production.

Just for the record, I have concorded two versions of Wordsworth's *Prelude*.
This is a comparative concordance, with cross references between the versions.
I can't finish, however, until Cornell publishes the final volume, and that
may be a couple of years from now. I doubt very much that Cornell will be
interested in publishing this work. There is already an 1850 concordance;
they are expensive to produce; the market is small; the comparative
concordance is ideal for some people but does not do what others might like.

Concording was big when computers first became available to support their
development. The excitement was such that we now have multiple concordances
for some authors, with no major advantages of one over the other (e.g.,
Milton). We may have similar activity when we can first make texts available
widely with search capabilities. (Well, we can do it now, but I think we are
still waiting for media prices to drop into scholarly budgets.)


Dr. James H. Coombs
Senior Software Engineer, Research
Institute for Research in Information and Scholarship (IRIS)
Brown University, Box 1946
Providence, RI 02912