I asked a question recently (Send, sent; end, *ent?), which hasn’t yet received a straight answer. It leads me to wonder if questions about Old and Middle English are actually on-topic for this site; while it’s certainly acceptable for answers to draw on historical English to substantiate speculation or elucidate etymology, should questions about non-Modern English be considered off-topic? After all, Old English is a very different language from English as we now know it—is it different enough to warrant separation?
- questions about Old and Middle English are on-topic (there is past discussion on the topic)
- but that doesn't guarantee that anybody here will have an answer to in OE or ME question
- whether they are on-topic currently or not, I don't think they should be considered and made off-topic.
- as suggested linguistics.SE is an appropriate alternative that might get the answers you seek.
- yes, OE is quite different from Modern English and they are mutually unintelligible.
- but Modern English is closer to OE than any other.
- why bother with concerns of separation? just ask it here and it will be welcome (but consider ling.SE as an alternative).
While I would get worried if most of the questions on EL&U are about Old or Middle English, it is also true that EL&U is described using the following sentence:
The English Language and Usage Stack Exchange is for linguists, etymologists, and (serious) English language enthusiasts.
The description doesn't talk of Old English, Middle English, or Modern English. What limits the questions asked on EL&U is the other sentence reported in the FAQ:
You should only ask practical, answerable questions based on actual problems that you face. Chatty, open-ended questions diminish the usefulness of our site and push other questions off the front page.
This means, for example, that I should not read Beowulf just to be able to ask questions on EL&U.
We should also consider that some Old English (or Middle English) words are still used nowadays in specific contexts, or in some dialects; for example, thou and thee are reported by the NOAD to be dialectal words for you.
Clearly, when it is possible to answer the question simply reading a dictionary, then the question should be probably closed as "general reference" (which was just added only recently, considering that the public beta phase of EL&U started on August 2010).
I don't think questions on Old English are a problem: Looking at the questions asked until now on EL&U, the questions are about the quotidian usage of the language.
I'm posting my position as an answer because I don't agree with the only other one.
Like OP, I'm happy for Old and Middle English to be referenced in answers where the etymology and history of words are relevant. But I don't want questions asking what some expression in Beowulf or the Canterbury Tales means. To me, questions about Old/Middle English are off-topic.
The language of those times isn't exactly dead in the same way as Latin, but it's largely unintelligible to Modern English speakers. EL&U is all about how we speak and write today and tomorrow. If people specifically want to learn about earlier forms, they need their own site (unless linguistics.se wants such stuff, which I doubt).