[open-literature] Open Shakespeare API and canting dictionaries

John Levin john at anterotesis.com
Tue Mar 1 11:51:38 UTC 2011


Jonathan Gray suggested I post here concerning a project I'm working on 
concerning early modern English canting dictionaries, for which I would 
like to use Open Shakespeare .

Cant dictionaries were glossaries of what was purportedly the secret 
language of thieves, rogues and vagabonds. The fundamental question is 
whether these words were really used, whether by criminals and the 
common people, or if they were invented or taken from other sources. 
Connected to this is whether the terms, once printed, were taken up, and 
if so, who by.

That's the humanistic question. To answer it, I want to check the 
dictionaries against large corpuses of texts, in particular plays and 
legal testimony (where the criminals' tongue and commoners speech is 
recorded). One body of text I want to do this with is Shakespeare, and 
Open Shakespeare is, well, open!

Is there an API that allows me to automatically search O.S. for a set of 
terms? Is it possible to search by the leme (stem) of a word (for 
example, 'nab' can be conjugated as nabbed, nabbing)?

For an example of the dictionaries, I've recently transcribed a small 
glossary from Shadwell's play 'The Squire of Alsatia':



John Levin
johnlevin at joindiaspora.com

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