contrastive stress on "an"

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Tue Nov 13 17:56:04 UTC 2007

At 11:25 AM -0500 11/13/07, Dennis R. Preston wrote:
>Both /ey/ and /aen/ sound good to me; I think the contrastive stress
>does away with the /n/ requirement in the first (and I don't have the
>/n/ in colloquial usage anyhow).

Right, as Ron also pointed out, there's often a shift to /EY/ here
before vowels for speakers who do differentiate the "a" and "an"
allomorphs in unstressed contexts.  I could be wrong about the
aversion to stressed /AEN/; I'm just reporting my own usage and
possibly misprojecting it on others, although the shift to /EY/ would
be consistent with this aversion.

Of course in metalinguistic contexts, e.g. a teacher "correcting" a
student's nonstandard usage--"No, Dennis, it's not A apple, it's AN
apple"--there's no problem with (or alternative to) stressing the
"an".  Although there might be a problem for the teacher.


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