using articles (exceptions to rules, etc.)

Subject: using articles (exceptions to rules, etc.)
From: "Roberta J. Kirby-Werner" <rjkirby -at- MAILBOX -dot- SYR -dot- EDU>
Date: Wed, 17 Jan 1996 12:13:57 -0500

In the thread concerning the pronunciation of acronyms, some folks
mentioned exceptions to the rules for using articles preceding words
beginning with vowels as well as with the consonant "h". I learned
several years ago (in a graduate linguistics class) that the criterion for
choosing the right article is the _sound_ which begins the word, not
purely whether it's a vowel or consonant. You use "an" if saying the
phrase clearly and easily requires you to add a
consonant stop. So, in the case of URL, if you pronounce the acronym
"you-are-ell," the "y" consonant makes the article "a" rather than
"an" the correct choice. If you pronounce it "earl," then use "an".

The situation becomes a bit trickier with consonants like "h" because
some speakers do not pronounce them. Consequently, we're not likely to
see much consistency in such cases, but the differences aren't so much
exceptions to rules as they are the consequences of different pronunciations.

Sounds reasonable to me. . . .


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