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Recently I got corrected by other person from "a bosonic bath" to "an bosonic bath" (neither of us is a native speaker). That sounds weird to me, and does not look according to the rules I learned back in school. However, a Google search reveals that the "an" variant also sees some use. One can also find "an bosonic field theory", "an bosonic integer quantum Hall state", "an bosonic cloud" etc used. What is the motivation for that? And what variant should be considered correct?

There is a related question about "an yearly" used in some old literature, Why is it "an yearly"?. There, as far as I understood, it can be explained as i) before the Great Vocal Shift, "yearly" was pronounced "eerly", so that's why "an yearly" in older writing ii) the one and only form of indefinite article was "an" long ago, and that form has been preserved in formal language for a longer time. The first explanation does not fit "an bosonic" at all. The second one somehow fits, but... It feels then that some people want to sound more formal and archaic, despite the fact that their language is full of new words.

EDIT: There was a request for "authoritative sources" for the "an bosonic" usage and a claim that Google Ngrams does not find this variant (maybe because of that my question was marked as "off-topic"?). As I mentioned, usages of "an bosonic" can be Googled. Of them, I found three interesting occurences:

  1. "an bosonic integer quantum Hall phase" in the text of Phys. Rev. Lett. 110, 046801 by T. Senthil and Michael Levin, of MIT and University of Maryland respectively. Physical Review journals are published by the American Physical Society and the papers there are edited rather thoroughly (but maybe not ideally).
  2. "an bosonic bath" right in the abstract of Quantum 6, 691 (2022) by Rahul Trivedi, Kevin Fischer, Shanhui Fan, and Jelena Vuckovic, of whom Kevin Fischer is of Stanford University. Quantum is an international journal, with some of the editors most probably native speakers.

Interestingly, I have also found two cases when a paper preprint published on arXiv contains "an bosonic" which then was edited away in the published version. Both papers are from the European New Journal Of Physics. Also, there is a thesis from the University of California, Berkley with two versions found online, and in one of them "an bosonic gas" is edited away.

Maybe occurrences of "an bosonic" are merely mistakes that accidentally passed through an editor...

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    Can you provide links to authoritative sources where "an bosonic" is used? A cursory search shows that the expected "a bosonic" is used.
    – dubious
    Commented Mar 6, 2023 at 16:28
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    Google Ngrams finds no results for an bosonic. (NB It's better to say "Neither of us is a native speaker".) Commented Mar 6, 2023 at 16:37
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    They are almost certainly all typographical errors. Commented Mar 6, 2023 at 19:03
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    I'm not sure I understand the reasoning behind closing this as 'needing research'. The OP did much more than reasonable due diligence. Please, close voters, stop with the empty button pushing for questions you don't like!
    – Mitch
    Commented Mar 6, 2023 at 21:15
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    If the original statement were an Ohmic bosonic bath and Ohmic was dropped, an bosonic bath would be a possible typo. Is this possible? In any case this does appear to be a typo, unless someone believes the b is silent.
    – jimm101
    Commented Mar 6, 2023 at 22:01

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It is probably just a mistake in most cases. Mistakes in the use of a/an can arise from typos or from editing (e.g. if someone wrote "an integer quantum Hall phase" and then added "bosonic" without remembering to change an to a). It does not sound more formal and archaic to me, and I would bet most native speakers would also not think of it that way.

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  • So, yes, in our case it was also a mistake. Most probably, there was another word before "bosonic".
    – Andrii
    Commented Apr 3, 2023 at 8:44

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