How did OED Supplements Supplement?

There has always been an interest in the changing editorial practice within and between various editions of the Oxford English Dictionary. Recently some scholars have complained that changing electronic interfaces are making it impossible to distinguish what edition a particular definition or quotation is coming from. See, e.g., Charlotte Brewer, “OED Online Re-launched: Distinguishing old scholarship from new”, Dictionaries 34 (2014), 101-26.

Well, after a week of untangling quotations and entries, I finally have a workable (though not quite yet perfect) version with the edition of the quotation evidence marked up as belonging either to the 1928 edition of OED1, or the subsequent Supplements (1933, 1972-86). Not counting cross references to other quotes in other entries, OED1 printed about 1.842 million evidence quotations, to which the Supplements added roughly 557,000. Most of the quotations from the Supplements come from Robert Burchfield’s Second Supplement (1972-86).

Now with our enhanced OED2 data, we can begin to qualify our quotation analyses according to edition.

One thing I’ve been very interested in is quotation genre, which is why I’ve been marking up the dictionary with generic metadata for the past five years. Although this work is not yet complete [about 20% of quotations left, on this round] it’s good enough to get a decent sense of large-scale changes between the editions. So here are some graphs for your viewing pleasure (click to embiggen them):

1. Proportion of quotations added, by genre, per edition

genresbyed-32. Raw number of quotations added, by genre, per edition

3. % change from OED1 to Supplements, per genre categorygenresbyed-1

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