Heard on The Judges: "_an_ harassment"

Wilson Gray hwgray at GMAIL.COM
Wed Dec 31 04:55:44 UTC 2008

No, I missed "an hero'," fortunately. FWIW, "hArassment" seems to be
the preferred pronunciation amongst the colored. But sound-change is
rarely predictable. There are, undoubtedly, some number of BE speakers
who prefer "haRASSment. By coincidence, I happen not to be acquainted
with them. Usually, it's possible to come up with a how, but the why
is usually mysterious.

For, example, for some speakers, the claim that _an_ before a syllable
with unstressed /hV/ is trivially explained by a rule of h-Drop under
just those circumstances is less than convincing, since it's not an
easy thing to persuade all informants that the presence of the /h/ is
a mere illusion.

In the present instance, for example, I say "_an_ historian" simply
because I consciously choose to and not because of any unconscious
dropping of the /h/, just as I choose to pronounce "your" as [jor] and
"you're" as [jur], instead of the other way around, as is common among
Northern-white speakers.

All say, "How hard it is that we have to die"---a strange complaint to
come from the mouths of people who have had to live.
-Mark Twain

On Tue, Dec 30, 2008 at 2:27 PM, Laurence Horn <laurence.horn at yale.edu> wrote:
> ---------------------- Information from the mail header -----------------------
> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       Laurence Horn <laurence.horn at YALE.EDU>
> Subject:      Re: Heard on The Judges: "_an_ harassment"
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> At 1:18 PM -0500 12/30/08, Wilson Gray wrote:
>>Forty-ish, Northern, working-class, white female speaker:
>>"She's just haRASSing me, your honor! This *small-claims* case is _an_
> Not so weird with that stress on the ass, which allows the /h/ to
> drop, as in "an historical accident", "an hysterical reaction", as
> opposed to *"a history".  What would be really strange is "an
> HARassment".  (Wilson is alluding here, I take it, to our recent
> thread on "an hero" & friends.)
> LH
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