drawring, etc.

Beverly Flanigan flanigan at OHIO.EDU
Sun Jan 23 16:56:08 UTC 2005

In first language acquisition (and early second also), children typically
use unmarked 'a' in all contexts, adding liaison /n/ before vowels quite
late (4 or 5, if memory serves away from my books).  In some "subdialects"
(I don't like the word, but OK for now) the lack of liaison may persist
throughout adulthood, esp. in informal contexts (my Baltimorean ex-husband,
a comp. lit scholar, was a good example of this).  Witness 'a apple', 'a
egg', 'a angel', etc.  I have a Peanuts cartoon in which Charlie Brown
tries to instruct Sally in its use, after which she writes in a letter to
someone or other, "Dear Sir, You are an ucklehead."  And of course, there's
'a napron' --> 'an apron' and Shakespeare's 'nuncle' (a reverse
reanalysis), both of which suggest a psycholinguistic awareness of the "a
to an before vowels" rule dating at least to Early Modern English.  Ditto
for 'my to mine', 'thy to thine', etc.--even my American grad students are
amazed when they realize that this is what causes the pronoun variation in
the Lord's Prayer, not to mention Shakespeare.

Beverly Flanigan

At 10:31 PM 1/22/2005 -0500, you wrote:
>What you say is historically true, Mark, but couldn't Bev's reanalysis
>be relevant for the contemporary language? [Bev, don't say I ain't never
>did nothing for you.]
>On Jan 22, 2005, at 10:14 PM, Mark A. Mandel wrote:
>>---------------------- Information from the mail header
>>Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
>>Poster:       "Mark A. Mandel" <mamandel at LDC.UPENN.EDU>
>>Subject:      drawring, etc.
>>beverly writ:
>>(Compare 'oncet/twicet' and
>>'an' < 'a' for other insertions before vowels.)
>>"An" is the older form, a destressed cousin whose fully-stressed form
>>"one". "A" before consonants shows a deletion.
>>mark by hand at arisia, snowbound in boston

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