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Tom:

Look for Royal Skousen's book _Analogical Modeling of Language_ (1989).
He proposes an explicit computationally tractable model of analogy
which can account for rule-governed (regular) behavior as well as
gradient and exceptional behavior. He discusses the a/an variation; his
model actually predicts "leakage" from 'an' to 'a' (i.e., occurrences
of 'a' where 'an' would otherwise be expected), but not from 'a' to
'an'.

There is a later book, _Analogical Modeling: An Exemplar-Based Approach
to Language_, co-edited by Royal Skousen, Deryle Lonsdale, and Dilworth
B. Parkinson (2002), which contains a summary of the model and several
studies using AM in languages like Spanish, German, Dutch, and Turkish.

Dirk

On Mar 16, 2004, at 12:46 AM, Thomas R. Wier wrote:

> Idle question while I'm supposed to be writing a paper:
>
> Does anyone know of any articles or research that's been done
> on the distribution of the English indefinite article 'a' vs.
> 'an' when before vowel-initial words?  You'd think it's obvious
> that "an" is always used in that environment, and indeed that's
> the prescriptive distribution. But I've heard others using
> "a" sometimes prevocalically (and without pausing), and have
> noticed myself using it.  And now I just found while reading
> about the newly discovered planetoid Sedna an example of the same:
>
> "A alternative definition promoted by astronomers is that..."
>
> (The context is such that it's unlikely that the "A" is being
> used as some kind of bullet or organizational device:
> <http://www.gps.caltech.edu/~mbrown/sedna/>)
>
> So, it seems to be something more than my crazy "language
> module" acting up again.  Maybe a sound change in progress?
>
> =======================================================================
> ===
> Thomas Wier	       "I find it useful to meet my subjects personally,
> Dept. of Linguistics    because our secret police don't get it right
> University of Chicago   half the time." -- octogenarian Sheikh Zayed of
> 1010 E. 59th Street     Abu Dhabi, to a French reporter.
> Chicago, IL 60637
>
>
--
Dirk Elzinga
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"I believe that phonology is superior to music. It is more variable and
its pecuniary possibilities are far greater." - Erik Satie