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ARTICLE. A inserted after adjectives used as adverbs

A inserted after some adjectives used as adverbs:

“It was upon this fashion bequeathed me by will but poor a
thousand pounds.

This usage is found in the earlier text of LAYAMON (A.D. 1200): "Long a time (longe ane stunde)," ii. 290, &c., where the adjective appears merely to be emphasized, and not used adverbially. In the later text the adjective is placed, here and in other passages, in its ordinary position. The adjectives "each," "such," "which," (used for "of what kind,") and "many" were especially often thus used. "At ich a mel" = "at each meal," Piers Plough. Crede. 109. (So in Scotch "ilka.") "Whiche a wife was Alceste," CHAUCER, C. T. 11754 = "what a wife." "On moni are (later text, mani ane) wisen," LAYAMON, i. 24; "monianes cunnes," ib. 39; "of many a kind (l. t. of manian erthe)," "of many an earth."

The last-quoted passages render untenable the theory (Archbishop Trench, English Past and Present) which explains "many a man" as a corruption of "many of men." In these passages, e.g. "moni anes cunnes" ("of many a race"), the article or numeral adjective "an" is declined like an adjective, while "moni" is not. The inference is, that "moni" is used adverbially. In the same way the Germans say "mancher (adj.) mann," but "manch (adv.) ein mann," "ein solcher (adj.) mann," but "solch (adv.) ein mann." In A.-S. the idiom was "many man," not "many a man." The termination in y, causing "many" to be considered as adverbially used, may not perhaps account for the introduction of the a into E. E., but it may account for its retention in Elizabethan and modern English. Nor can it escape notice that most of the adjectives which take a after them end in ch, or lic ("like"), an adverbial termination. So beside the adjectives enumerated above, "thellich" (modern Dorsetshire, "thilk" or "thick"), "the like," answering to "whilk" ("which"), is followed by a. So after the adverb "ofte," we have "a day" in “Ful ofte a day he swelde and seyde alas!” CHAUCER, Knighte's Tale, 498. It is perhaps some such feeling, that "many" means "often," which justifies the separation of "many" and "a" in the following:

“I have in vain said many
A prayer upon her grave.

Perhaps in this way (as an adjective used adverbially) we must explain (compare "none (adj.) inheritance," Acts vii. 5):

“Exceeding pleasant; none (adv.) a stranger there
So merry and so gamesome.

like "ne'er a stranger," unless after "none" we supply "who was."

A is pleonastically used in

“I would not spend another such a night.

In "What poor an instrument" (A. and C. v. 2. 236), "what" is used for "how."

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