This is related to the question that I asked in English language and usage community: about whether there is a dialectal difference among the native English speakers in pronouncing the u of words like unitary/uniform as [u] or as [ju] (more generally - a purely vowel sound vs. [j] + vowel.) This is ultimately related to using article a/an before the word.

It was claimed by several users in the comments that pronunciation without [j] is necessarily a mark of a non-native speaker. I am wondering whether this is indeed the case or, if we are dealing with dialectal differences. I personally believe to have seen forms like "a + unitary/uniform* in texts written by natives. So it boils down to anecdotal evidence vs. anecdotal evidence. Are there linguistic/statistical data to judge one way or the other?

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    Seeing a particular form in a text written by a native speaker is not evidence. Native speakers write things wrong all the time. You can even find examples of native speakers saying the wrong thing from time to time. In order to prove that something is an actual feature, you need to find evidence that (some) native speakers consistently and repeatedly produce it that way. For this question to make sense, you’d have to find native speakers without a speech impediment who consistently use an before [j] or pronounces initial /ju-/ as [u-]. And outside of weird idiosyncrasies, you won’t. Apr 20, 2023 at 20:01
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    You don't need a uniform to drive an Uber
    – Jim Mack
    Apr 20, 2023 at 21:52
  • Certainly in most of the US "unitary" (and "you") is pronounced with a buggered leading sound that is not a pure vowel sound but which has a bit of tongue waggling added. Most reasonably aware speakers would consider it to be a consonant sound rather than vowel, so the "a" indefinite article should be used. youtu.be/ul6130eyjKI
    – Hot Licks
    Apr 20, 2023 at 23:03
  • I think you have just found some simple mistakes/typos, which are often made by natives. There are some examples such as a herb/an herb out there, but I don't think people pronouncing the u in "unitary" like the u in "uninterested" would be considered correct. And even if it was, it shouldn't be in formal writing.
    – Kimbi
    Apr 21, 2023 at 3:59
  • @JanusBahsJacquet the bulk of your comment is correct - and, if you carefully read both of my questions, you might have noticed that I share the same scientific mindset, and I am not making any claims and not trying to prove anything. On the other hand, statements like And outside of weird idiosyncrasies, you won’t. do not prove anything either, unless you can support them by data and references (and if you can, you could as well write an answer.)
    – Roger V.
    Apr 21, 2023 at 7:14

1 Answer 1


You could look at the article "A Corpus-Based Sociolinguistic Study of Indefinite Article Forms in London English". One can find both "a" and "an", but the probability of an output depends on where you are from, how old you are, other demographic features, and some linguistic features as well. You can call these differences "dialects", if you like.

  • Dialect perhaps not the most precise word... but it is important that both are used, and it depends on geographic and demographic factors. Thanks!
    – Roger V.
    Apr 20, 2023 at 18:28
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    This seems to deal solely with the use of a rather than an before vowel [phoneme]-initial words, not words such as uniform, unitary. Apr 21, 2023 at 10:42

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