Post by Peter Moylan Post by Lewis Post by Peter Moylan Post by Lewis
It has nothing to do with stress, it has to do if you voide the h or
not. You say "a hospital" or "an 'ospital", depending on your
If the word start with a vowel sound, you use an, otherwise you use a.
That's it. Not at all complicated.
Slightly complicated. I have in the past proposed to this forum that
there are three kinds of 'h': unvoiced, as in "hour"; half-voiced, as in
"historic"; and fully voiced, as in "hospital". The half-voiced case
arises whenever the initial syllable is unstressed.
I'm with you up until the syllable. It's simply the sound of the 'h' If
it is there as in Hard, the word starts with a consonant; if it is
absent (or nearly so), then the word starts with a vowel.
Post by Peter Moylan
Yes, there are dialects that reduce "hospital" and similar words to the
unvoiced or half-voiced cases, but that doesn't invalidate the general
Post by Lewis
People who say "an historic" are simply fools with an ignorant
Affectation? Moi? What kind of fool am I?
Do you say "an'" before a hard h?
Yes, I do. My 'h' is clearly present in words like "hard" and
"hospital". But it's close to inaudible in a small number of words like
I agree, and I am one of those who use "an historic ...", &c.
Now, here's a question which I think is relevant to the "a" vs "an" in
these words. How do people pronounce "the historic ...."?
Before reading further, pause to ask yourself that question (and, yes,
sometimes consciously examining how one pronounces something may
affect the result).
How do you utter the phrase "the historic ..."? (Do the exercise
before proceeding farther...)
OK, time's up.
First of all, *my* answer to that question is: [ðiɪˈstɔrɪk]
The two allomorphs of the English indefinite article are clearly
distinguished in writing by being spelt differently: "a" vs "an".
The two allomorphs of the English definite article share the same
spelling, "the", but are pronounced differently, [ðə] vs [ði], with
the same distribution as the indefinite article.
I naturally find the /h/ in following unaccented syllables is at least
partially quiescent, so my pronunciation "an historic" [æn(h)ɪˈstɔrɪk]
corresponds with "the historic" [ðiɪˈstɔrɪk]. Presumably, those who
say "a historic" ([əhɪˈstɔrɪk]?) also would say [ðəhɪˈstɔrɪk]. So, is
that true for you who have done the exercise above?
One last note for comparison: in words like "vehicle", the <h> is (in
most English dialects) completely silent, [ˈviəkl], according to the
normal pattern for unaccented, uninitial syllables of the pattern
/hV/. In the derived form "vehicular", the H is fully sounded,
[vɪˈhɪkjə(r)] (or similar), since in that form the /hV/ syllable is