I am reading the book "The Information: A History, A Theory, A Flood" by James Gleick. Every now and then an old/archaic English sentence, from some reference, is quoted in this text.
How should someone, with no background in such archaic literature studies, go about finding the meaning of such sentences? For example, when reading modern books written in English, be it of any genre, I can depend on dictionaries (or their online counterparts). Let me clarify the necessity of a systematic way to address this challenge with an example below.
As a reference, I faced the following phrase (in this case it is the title of a book) -
The First Part of the Elementarie which Entreateth Chefelie of the right writing of our English tung
I asked for an answer here. I did find an answer in the comments. But it opened this larger query to me.
I have been trying the following ways, and am pointing out the possible challenges with each -
- Google search - for some words/phrases/sentences it works. For others, Google thinks them to be typos. Example, entreateth yielded appropriate results, but chefelie did not (and I also did not connect it to the all too popular word "chiefly").
- Dictionary - It does not generally contain such words. In rare cases, probably due to use in some major literary works, an archaic usage might get recorded in modern dictionaries.
- Stackexchange sites - I am not sure if I should be asking such questions here. Afterall, these questions are not of any broad nature and might be suitable for a study-group type environment. If I know a systematic approach, I can do my initial research first.
- Guides - By guides I mean any guide books, online references, courses, online study groups etc., related to this particular book. But this is just a popular science book, and nowhere near as popular as, say, Shakespeare's plays. Hence, I do not expect to find the meaning of any arbitrary sentence from this text, by any of the above means.
PS: I am not sure if this query belongs to English Language & Usage or Language Learning. The former does allow questions regarding archaic usage, but this is not a particular usage-related query. I avoided the later, because I do not want to learn archaic English; just methods to be able to understand a few phrases.