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Affirmatives in Early Modern English: Yes, yea and ay

Research output: Contribution to Journal/MagazineJournal articlepeer-review

<mark>Journal publication date</mark>1/02/2019
<mark>Journal</mark>Journal of Historical Pragmatics
Issue number2
Number of pages22
Pages (from-to)243–264
Publication StatusPublished
<mark>Original language</mark>English


This study examines the affirmatives yes, yea and ay in Early Modern English, more specifically in the period 1560 to 1760. Affirmatives have an obvious role as responses to yes/no questions in dialogues, and so this study demanded the kind of dialogical material provided by the Corpus of English Dialogues 1560–1760. I examine the meanings and contexts of usage of each affirmative: their distribution across time and text-types, their collocates and their occurrence after positive and negative questions. The results challenge a number of issues and claims in the literature, including when the “Germanic pattern” (involving yes and yea after positive or negative questions) dissolved, whether yea or ay were dialectal, and the timing of the rise of ay and the fall of yea.