A History of A*

According to the ONLINE ETYMOLOGY DICTIONARY**, the etymological “definition” of the indefinite article “a” is:

a form of an used before consonants, mid-12c., a weakened form of Old English an “one” (see an). The disappearance of the -n- before consonants was mostly complete by mid-14c. After c. 1600 the -n- also began to vanish before words beginning with a sounded -h-; it still is retained by many writers before unaccented syllables in h- or (e)u- but is now no longer normally spoken as such. The -n- also lingered (especially in southern England dialect) before -w- and -y- through 15c.

It also is used before nouns of singular number and a few plural nouns when few or great many is interposed.

For reasons unclear, I wondered all of a sudden how that much overworked and under-appreciated word “a” came about…
Continue reading “A History of A*”

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