How can I best handle the following as SE:

I would like to reword this question's title because as the discussion and answers evolved I realized the focus of the question resolved in a different direction than I initially perceived.

Specifically I would like to reword the question as follows:


  • "Request for a scholarly reference for the correct usage of the English indefinite article (a/an)."


  • "Is the relationship between the English indefinite article (a/an) syntactical or phonological?"

It seems (IMHO) that those who tagged this question as a duplicate mistakenly saw it only as a request for a generic "How to use a/an correctly?" and overlooked the carefully included initial statement that the Question was "to address a specific question"

Furthermore I would like to then be able to have someone remove the duplicate tag as this is certainly a more specific and divergent linguistic issue than a mere how-to use a/an question.

So, what is the SE way to do this right?

  • 4
    You can always edit your title. However, you can't re-open your question. To post in meta is perfectly appropriate; a moderator can re-open if they see fit, or five users with sufficient reputation. Commented Aug 4, 2015 at 20:07
  • @medica, thank you. I appreciate your advice on finding the right way to handle this. After reading SE guidelines carefully I am wondering if I shouldn't just ask a whole new question to avoid the confusion since many of the answers in the original question are merely mentioning references. However I am concerned that the new question would then be treated as a duplicate of the current one. Catch-22! :-P
    – O.M.Y.
    Commented Aug 4, 2015 at 20:59
  • It very well might. In the end, unless it's really a different question, you should go about it in the accepted manner. Commented Aug 4, 2015 at 21:03
  • 2
    I personally don't see how the question differs from the marked duplicates.
    – Dan Bron
    Commented Aug 4, 2015 at 21:20
  • @DanBron. The duplicates Q's address the general rules of usage. In every case the A's address only the phonological context. It appears however that there are linguists who have a professional opinion that the form of a/an is syntactically related to the subject. This is apparently a strong enough linguistic view to impact the education of our college students (my friend told me her college professor is the one who taught her the syntactical view) and youth (which she taught what had been taught to her). That is a much different subject than just "How do I use a/an correctly?"
    – O.M.Y.
    Commented Aug 4, 2015 at 21:33
  • 1
    If your new question were "What authority says that a/an is phonologically determined rather than syntactically?" you would have to provide a properly reasoned and sourced (ie not just 'several teachers') argument that suggests it ever could be syntactic; otherwise it would just be a duplicate of your original. Even then, the answer would probably be "Usage: duplicate of the marked questions (and many others)." Commented Aug 4, 2015 at 23:14
  • My new understanding is that Noam Chomsky, Otto Jespersen, and Paul Postal all had interesting theories on the syntactic role of the indefinite article. These are well known linguists, not "just 'several teachers'". Perhaps a good phrasing of a new Q would be "Please explain the differences between the grammatical theories of Chomsky, Jespersen, Postal, and Bloomfeld on the syntactical and phonological relationship of the indefinite article to its subject.***" (sounds like the title to a Thesis).
    – O.M.Y.
    Commented Aug 5, 2015 at 13:45
  • That does sound like an interesting question, if rather complex; but it would be for Linguistics.SE, not us, since it has no necessary connection to English. (Please don't think we're being discouraging for the sake of it; more trying to avoid downvotes and closevotes). Commented Aug 6, 2015 at 22:37


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