[Ads-l] Articles and letters of the alphabet

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Mon Feb 15 20:12:59 EST 2021


Although some can also be mass, e.g. T and P.  

> On Feb 15, 2021, at 8:10 PM, Mark Mandel <markamandel at GMAIL.COM> wrote:
> 
> But the letters in a word are countable.
> 
> MAM
> 
> On Sat, Feb 13, 2021, 12:22 PM Dennis During <dcduring at gmail.com> wrote:
> 
>> In my reading of your example, I wanted "B" to be uncountable.
>> 
>> "X has Y in it" typically has "Y" uncountable and therefore has the null
>> determiner. Eg, "That bread has gluten in it."
>> 
>> On Sat, Feb 13, 2021 at 11:40 AM Barretts Mail <mail.barretts at gmail.com>
>> wrote:
>> 
>>> The letter “U” starts with a /j/ sound, so “a” is preferred.
>>> 
>>> The ambiguity for a/an before some letters is, what seems to me, the
>>> rising acceptability of “a” before vowel sounds.
>>> 
>>> As for “an B”, sorry, that should have been “a B”. I changed the letter
>> at
>>> the last minute for consistency and failed to catch that. The
>> inconsistency
>>> I’m wondering about is why “It starts with B” is fine but “It has B” is
>> not
>>> or at least less acceptable.
>>> 
>>> BB
>>> 
>>>> On 13 Feb 2021, at 05:54, Andy Bach <afbach at GMAIL.COM> wrote:
>>>> 
>>>> 3. It starts/ends with a “B.”
>>>> 4. It starts/ends with “B.”
>>>>> For me, at least, the article is obligatory when describing letters in
>>>> other word positions:
>>>> 5. “Build” has an “B” in it.
>>>> ??6. “Build” has “B” in it.
>>>>> 4 and 6 seem inconsistent.
>>>> 
>>>> Not sure this is of any use; for me, born and raised in the midwest,
>>>> they're a lot less jarring.  Maybe a generic vs specific sense, e.g.
>>>> The words on this list start with "B", for instance, "Bird" which
>> starts
>>>> with a "B"
>>>> Now find words with "U" in them, for instance, "Build" has a "U" in it.
>>>> 
>>>> One that was jarring was #5 "... an B"  sounded wrong. "An A" and going
>>>> through the alphabet, I, and H took "an" naturally. I got to LMN and
>>> found
>>>> I could go either way, as could "X" - "an" or "a". Funny was "an U" was
>>> the
>>>> one vowel that sounded wrong.
>>>> 
>>>> On Fri, Feb 12, 2021 at 11:37 AM Barretts Mail <
>> mail.barretts at gmail.com>
>>>> wrote:
>>>> 
>>>>> Generally, it seems that articles are optional for single letters of
>> the
>>>>> alphabet:
>>>>> 
>>>>> 1. This is a “B.”
>>>>> 2. This is “B.”
>>>>> 
>>>>> Number 1 seems to be talking about the letter, and number 2 seems to
>> be
>>>>> pedagogical. For number 2, then, perhaps the article is skipped
>> because
>>> “B”
>>>>> is treated as a proper noun.
>>>>> 
>>>>> As for spelling:
>>>>> 
>>>>> 3. It starts/ends with a “B.”
>>>>> 4. It starts/ends with “B.”
>>>>> 
>>>>> These seem nearly equivalent, but 3 feels more prescriptively correct.
>>>>> 
>>>>> For me, at least, the article is obligatory when describing letters in
>>>>> other word positions:
>>>>> 
>>>>> 5. “Build” has an “B” in it.
>>>>> ??6. “Build” has “B” in it.
>>>>> 
>>>>> 4 and 6 seem inconsistent. Is there a way to explain this?
>>>>> 
>>>>> Benjamin Barrett (he/his/him)
>>>>> Formerly of Seattle, WA
>> 
>> 
> 
> ------------------------------------------------------------
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