It is well-known that Early Modern English, if not earlier forms of English too, had a four-form system for answering yes–no questions. ‘Yea’ and ‘nay’ answered questions phrased positively (analogous to ‘ja’ and ‘nein’ in German, or ‘oui’ and ‘non’ in French), ‘yes’ and ‘no’ answered questions phrased negatively (like ‘doch’ and ‘nein’ in German, or ‘si’ and ‘non’ in French).
Where did this system come from? When did it come into use? Was it merely a prescriptive attempt to add this feature to the language that stuck for a while in careful written, edited prose but was never really used in natural speech (like today’s fretting over ‘less’ vs ‘fewer’ and ‘which’ vs ‘that’)? Or did it become part of everyday natural speech for a while and died only due to a later reversal of the change?