There are quite some dialects that use vowel-beginning diphthongs like [ɪu] for what is /juː/ in the Received Pronunciation and General American dialects.

Do speakers of these dialects (tend to/want to) use an, not a, before words beginning with this diphthong, e.g., do they say:

an university

Do they use an nearly all the time, sometimes, or about never? If they do use a, is there an explanation? Is there a pattern of distribution of the two forms of the singular indefinite article?

  • Please define RP&GA. It is very bad practice to use such specialized abbreviations without definition in a question.
    – David
    Commented Dec 27, 2016 at 16:12
  • I have never heard anyone pronounce initial /ju/ as [ɪu] in English. The sequence [ɪu], in fact, does not exist at all in any type of English that I'm familiar with, certainly neither RP nor GA. You'll have to provide some evidence that this variation exists at all; otherwise this is entirely hypothetical and unanswerable. Commented Dec 27, 2016 at 16:44
  • @JanusBahsJacquet: It's well-documented that some accents such as Welsh have [ɪu] for "ue", "eu", "ew", "u_e", including in some places where RP has [u] such as "blue" and "rue". I don't know if this occurs word-initially, but if you know it doesn't, that would constitute an answer to this question. books.google.com/…
    – herisson
    Commented Dec 27, 2016 at 21:11
  • 1
    @sumelic Initially? I've seen descriptions of certain Welsh dialects as distinguishing [uː] and [ɪʉ̯ ~ ʏʉ̯] postconsonantally, but I've never seen [ɪu] (with two full vowels), and I've seen no mention of this occurring initially. Searching around a bit, though, I do find it mentioned here, with even a mention of an union, so I guess it does occur initially as well. (And that source does also seemingly simplify the falling diphthong to [ɪu].) Commented Dec 27, 2016 at 21:25
  • 1
    @JanusBahsJacquet: As I wrote, "I don't know if this occurs word-initially". It looks like you've found the answer; you should make a post out of that. I don't understand why you see [ɪu] in the OP as indicating two full vowels; it seemed clear to me that it represents something like [ɪu̯], just as /aɪ/ is [aɪ̯] not [a.ɪ]. It is described as a "vowel-beginning diphthong".
    – herisson
    Commented Dec 27, 2016 at 21:32

1 Answer 1


In some American dialects, people only use [ɪu] for /juː/ when it doesn't start a word.

In my speech, I always use [ɪu]1 after some consonants like /n/ and /l/. And I use [ɪu], [juː], or [uː] after other consonants. But words like ewer, Ewing, university always begin with [juː].

But if I did begin a word with [ɪu], I would definitely use an. If I try to say a ewer [ə ɪuər], it feels wrong, whereas an ewer [ən ɪuər] feels right.

1It's actually closer to [yu], where the first element of the diphthong is the French vowel in tu.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.