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an + h (was: aquamarine demon (was <no subject>))

From:laokou <laokou@...>
Date:Friday, November 23, 2001, 23:20
From: "Henrik Theiling"

> > To me, both `a historical event' and `an historical event' sound weird.
> I was forced to say `a historical event' at school and now it's become > what I feel is right. But it's L2, so ignore me. :-)
*In my idiolect*, when the "h" is silent (as in "honor" {like the "p" in "bed" :-)}), you use "an". If "h" is consonantal, you use "a" (/@/ or /ej/ depending on environment. So, "a historical event" is either /@hIs"tOrIklIv"Ent/ or /ejhIs"tOrIklIvEnt/ in (possibly) free variation. The "an" universally before an "h" thing sounds like the same ol' Latinate prescriptive grammar people were fed in the 50's (all (old) Latin "h's" were silent (read French), so stick (like English infinitives can't split) an "an" on all words beginning with "h", whether pronounced or not). You got weirdisms like "an hippopotamus". I suspect "an historic event" (where most newscasters pronounce that "h" without any difficulty) has been canonized as the language of true import. As spelling the word "theater" and "center" spelled "theatre" and "centre" connote "hey, we're talking high art here", the insertion of "an" into "an historic event" by the media means "we're talking news of groundbreaking significance" (I haven't heard a local newscaster say, "an hippopotamus"). It's also used in academia to imply that theories from the Ivory Tower are important. I've only heard it in this set context. That Nik uses this as a regular feature of his idiolect throws me for a loop. Kou


Nik Taylor <fortytwo@...>