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The Wikipedia article for Drum Machine contains the phrase

an earliest fully transistorized rhythm machine

Is this grammatically correct? Is it any different from the phrase

an early, fully transistorized rhythm machine

I always assumed that superlatives may only be used with "the" but never "a" or "an".

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    It's just a first impression, but my feeling is your "rule" is a bit OTT. May 29, 2015 at 22:31

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It does not seem grammatically correct to me. Either it's "THE earliest" or "AN early" drum machine but not "an earliest" drum machine.

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    The superlative is often used for emphasis, and in this context earliest means from the earliest times. May 29, 2015 at 19:40
  • @JohnLawler good point, now that you mention it I can think of other examples of this type of usage. This particular one still sounds clumsy to me. The construct may be logically incorrect, but not necessarily gramatically incorrect.
    – John D
    May 29, 2015 at 20:15
  • Oh, yeah, it's plenty clumsy, all right. But so are the vast majority of questions and examples we get here; par for the course, I fear. May 29, 2015 at 20:21
  • ... but not parest. May 29, 2015 at 22:28

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