#1
Old 05-02-2003, 12:49 AM
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A H or an H?

Which is proper?

For example, would one say, "...an historic event...," or "...a historic event...?"
#2
Old 05-02-2003, 01:03 AM
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If you're pronouncing just the letter "aych" then it'd be "an H" but for words starting with H, the sound isn't a vowel sound so it would be "a historic event." At least, that's how I say it.
#3
Old 05-02-2003, 01:05 AM
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Depends how you pronounce it. The rule for "A" vs. "An" has nothin to do with spelling, and everything to do with preventing a collision of vowel sounds, especially two unstressed vowel sounds. So, for example, "an H" or "an L" are correct English. Since the different pronunciations of "historic" are a matter of dialect, the only rule that needs to be followed is that the article should agree with your preferred pronunciation - if you pronounce the initial consonant, it's "a historic", but if you do not, it's "an historic".
#4
Old 05-02-2003, 01:05 AM
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This has been discussed recently.

brianmelendez quoted Bryan A. Garner:

Quote:
a historical.

The indefinite article "a" is used before words beginning with consonant sounds <a website>. "An" is used before words beginning with vowel sounds <an eagle>. The sound rather than the letter controls, so it's not unusual to find "a" before a vowel <a eucalyptus tree> or "an" before a consonant <an hour>.

People fret over the correct article with "historical" and a few other words. Most authorities have supported "a" over "an." The traditional rule is that if the "h" is sounded, then "a" is the proper form. People who aspirate their "h's" and follow that rule would say "a historical."

This is not a new rule. Mark Twain wrote that "correct writers of the American language" do not put "an" before words like "historical." The Stolen White Elephant 220 (1882). Nearly a century later, the linguist Dwight Bolinger harshly condemned those who write "an historical" as being guilty of "a Cockneyed, cockeyed, and half-cocked ignorance and self-importance, that knoweth not where it aspirateth." "Are You a Sincere H-Dropper?," 50 Am. Speech 313, 315 (1975).

The theory behind using "an" is that the "h" is weak when the accent is on the second rather than the first syllable. So while no authority countenances "an history," a few older ones prefer "an historical." But analogous wordings such as "an hereditary title" and "an historic event" are likely to strike readers and listeners as affectations. "An humanitarian" is likely to be judged a pretentious humanitarian.
#5
Old 05-02-2003, 06:10 AM
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Quote:
Originally posted by Some Guy
Depends how you pronounce it.
Pronunciation is the key word. It is interresting to read older text, to see how the pronunciation has changed. For example, if you read Gibbons Decline and fall..., you will notice that he wrote an horse, as well as an usual something. Which leads me to believe that he pronounced those words differently from what we do today. But then he wrote more than 200 years ago, and the language has evolved.
#6
Old 05-02-2003, 06:44 AM
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Quote:
Originally posted by Yumblie
If you're pronouncing just the letter "aych" then it'd be "an H"...
You speak for your own dialect area. In Australia, I heard most people say the letter as "haitch", and therefore with the article it was "a haitch".
#7
Old 05-02-2003, 08:17 AM
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So, for example, “an honor student” is correct while “a honor student” is incorrect?
#8
Old 05-02-2003, 08:30 AM
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Quote:
Originally posted by Crafter_Man
So, for example, “an honor student” is correct while “a honor student” is incorrect?
Yes.
#9
Old 05-02-2003, 09:31 AM
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Quote:
Originally posted by psychonaut
You speak for your own dialect area. In Australia, I heard most people say the letter as "haitch", and therefore with the article it was "a haitch".
The letter H is named AITCH, even in Oz.
#10
Old 05-02-2003, 12:48 PM
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AH, thanks for asking.
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#11
Old 05-02-2003, 02:41 PM
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Quote:
Originally posted by The Great Unwashed
The letter H is named AITCH, even in Oz.
Maybe so, but I know what I heard, and it sure as heck wasn't "aitch".
#12
Old 05-02-2003, 10:00 PM
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As mentioned, it maters not at all how you spell it. If you write aitch, but say haitch, then it is indeed a aitch, But that is for Aussies. What I find especially irritating are the CBC announcers who say, an historical, which is almost impossible if you are English speaking. Someone mention "a usual", which correctly illustrates the fact that it is stricly a pronunciation rule. Also "a university".

This discussion illustrates one of the best arguments against spelling reform for English. Here is one--maybe the only one--phonetic spelling rule and it results in different spelling in different dialects. If phonetic spelling were adopted, practically every word would have its own spelling in each dialect and we would not all be able to read each other's posts.
#13
Old 05-02-2003, 11:27 PM
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Quote:
Originally posted by psychonaut
Maybe so, but I know what I heard, and it sure as heck wasn't "aitch".
What you have heard is Australians who do not know how to pronounce "aitch". I know, my wife is one and it's always bugged me. "Look it up in the dictionary," I say,"the only spelling is A-I-T-C-H". "Yeah whatever," says she.

I know there are a lot of them, but that doesn't make it right. Probably comes from the cockney background of many Australians.
#14
Old 05-03-2003, 03:44 AM
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Quote:
Originally posted by Skogcat
What you have heard is Australians who do not know how to pronounce "aitch".... I know there are a lot of them, but that doesn't make it right.
Yes it does. Just because there is a large group of people who pronounce a word differently than you do does not mean that they are wrong and you are right. As far as any linguist, and the vast majority of dictionary writers, are concerned, you're both right, at least when speaking your respective dialects. Cockney and the Australian dialects it influenced may enjoy less prestige than whatever it is you speak, but rest assured that their speakers do indeed know how to speak their own language.

If you insist on arguing this there are lots of people in the Pit who would be happy to take you on.
#15
Old 05-03-2003, 03:50 AM
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It's usually "haitch" in Ireland, as well.
#16
Old 05-03-2003, 04:20 AM
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Just found this article from the publisher of the Macquarie Dictionary of Australian English. It addresses the "aitch" versus "haitch" issue, and mentions that the aspirated version is thought to come from the Irish, as ruadh's post might suggest. Predictably, the publisher refuses to say whether one or the other version is correct, instead asking that we simply respect the fact that different people simply have different preferred pronunciations of the same word.
#17
Old 05-03-2003, 06:28 AM
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Quote:
Originally posted by psychonaut
Yes it does. Just because there is a large group of people who pronounce a word differently than you do does not mean that they are wrong and you are right. As far as any linguist, and the vast majority of dictionary writers, are concerned, you're both right, at least when speaking your respective dialects. Cockney and the Australian dialects it influenced may enjoy less prestige than whatever it is you speak, but rest assured that their speakers do indeed know how to speak their own language.

If you insist on arguing this there are lots of people in the Pit who would be happy to take you on.
I'm aware of the linguist arguments that seperate the spoken word from the written, and am not particularly interested in debating it.

Interestingly enough it seems to be a significant minority of Australians who do it rather than a majority (speaking from my experience only).

As far as the linked article goes it neglects to distinguish between alterations in pronunciation that require a different interpretation of the letters present, and alterations that require the addition of letters that are not present, in the correct spelling.

Of course your original point is quite correct, if you say haitch, then you should say a haitch rather than an haitch.
#18
Old 05-03-2003, 08:47 AM
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Quote:
Originally posted by Skogcat
I'm aware of the linguist arguments that seperate the spoken word from the written, and am not particularly interested in debating it.
Is "seperate" the correct spelling in Australia?
#19
Old 05-03-2003, 09:23 AM
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No I don't think so.
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