RE: a vs. an

Subject: RE: a vs. an
From: "Dick Margulis" <margulis -at- mail -dot- fiam -dot- net>
To: <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Wed, 8 Mar 2000 14:25:01 -0500

The {old fuddy-duddy|Purist|pedantic} (choose one) rule is that if the word has more than three syllables, _an_ is the correct choice.

However, modern linguists tend to work with tape recorders and study the language as she is spoke. In this context, the choice between a and an, as well as the choice between thuh and thee (alternate pronunciations of the) is dictated _entirely_ by whether the subsequent syllable is stressed, never by the conventional rules having to do with what sound the syllable begins with. Apparently this is the case no matter what the speaker recollects saying. It would only be violated in the case of self-conscious speech, that is, when the speaker is specifically paying attention to this feature.

>> "an historical moment." I hear this a lot on public radio, etc., and I'm
>> pretty sure it's wrong, but
>> I'm having a debate with a colleague.

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