Is it OK to ask about Early Modern English, like Shakespeare's or Milton's? I ask this because some people seem to think asking about them is off-topic.
Subjects which are on-topic are listed in the Help text.
The English Language and Usage Stack Exchange is for linguists, etymologists, and (serious) English language enthusiasts. Questions on the following topics are welcomed here:
- Word choice and usage
- Etymology (history of words’ development)
- Dialect differences
- Pronunciation (phonetics and phonology, dialectology)
- Spelling and punctuation
There's even an archaic tag:
Archaic or obsolete vocabulary and grammar.
And a shakespeare tag, although that has no description.
What is off-topic when asking about Shakespeare or Milton (or the King James Bible, or Chaucer, or Beowulf) is anything which smacks of analysis of the literature rather than its language, or which is simply translation into present-day English.
But please, don’t ask any questions about the following topics. They are out of scope for this site.
- Translation and non-English languages
- Criticism, discussion, and analysis of English literature
Asking about Prospero's role in the narrative of The Tempest is definitely off-topic because that literary analysis/criticism. But it's fine to ask about how a particular verb conjugates in Early Modern English, or what a petard was and how one might be hoisted by it, or how one of Chaucer's weak nouns declines, or even what an "iambic pentameter" is, although that last one might be General Reference. Asking what a particular phrase means is moving towards off-topic, either as translation or as General Reference if it can be dissected easily.
Although on-topic/off-topic is a binary decision, members of the community might draw the dividing line in different places, which means that there may be questions which some might answer and others might vote to close. The key thing is to keep a question on-topic by asking about the six topics which are welcomed and avoiding anything which could be deemed out of scope.