is there any speical meaning in this usage? this paragraph is from Austin's "Pride and Prejudice", i don't understand why "an union" ,not "a union?" It was an union that must have been to the advantage of both; by her ease and liveliness, his mind might have been softened, his manners improved, and from his judgment, information, and knowledge of the world, she must have received benefit of greater importance. But no such happy marriage could now teach the admiring multitude what connubial felicity really was. An union of a different tendency, and precluding the possibility of the other, was soon to be formed in their family.
Jul 28, 2014 1:16 PM
Answers · 13
you use "an" instead of "a" because the word "union" begins with a vowel (a,e,i,o,u). For this reason, you also say an orange, an elephant, an apple, an idiomatic expression.
July 28, 2014
That's a really interesting question. I've been looking for an explanation, but can't find one. As you know, in standard modern English it should be 'a union', because the pronunciation of 'union' begins with a consonant sound /y/. The only reason I can think of is that the pronunciation of the word may have changed over time. It is not impossible that in Austen's time the word 'union' was pronounced more like it is in French - something like 'oo-nion' ie with an initial vowel sound. That would account for the 'an' article. This is only a suggestion. I wonder if there are any Austen scholars out there who might have another explanation.
July 28, 2014
"A" and "an" mean the same thing. The choice is determined by the sound of the word that follows. Caution: "Pride and Prejudice" was written in 1813. Language evolves. I personally would not say or write "an union" because in modern English, a) the choice of "a" versus "an" depends on the sound of the word, not the spelling, and b) I hear a consonant "sound" in the word "union." It is pronounced "yoonian," not "oonian." The American Heritage Dictionary confirms that "in modern written English the form 'a' is used before a consonant sound, however it may be pronounced." It also notes that "At one time, 'an' was an acceptable alternative before words beginning with a consonant sound but spelled with a vowel ('an one,' 'an university') but this usage is now entirely obsolete." By the way, I think it is _possible_ that Jane Austen might have pronounced "union" in a way that was closer to "oonian" than "yoonian." Also by the way--I personally happen to say and write "an historic" but that same dictionary tells me that Fowler's 1926 "Modern English Usage" calls it "pedantic," and the AHD editors say that using it is "a harmless adornment in formal writing." In other words, I ought to stop doing it. English moves on!
July 28, 2014
Usage of "an" has changed over the years. In modern English we typically do not use "an" in front of words like "union" which are pronounced with a long "u" sound. For words beginning with a short "u", we do use "an". Long U: union, university, unicorn Short U: umbrella, understand
July 28, 2014
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