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Ą (minuscule: ą) is a letter in the Polish, Kashubian, Lithuanian, Creek, Navajo, Western Apache, Chiricahua, Hocąk, Mescalero, Gwich'in, Tutchone, and Elfdalian alphabets. It is formed from the letter a and an ogonek and usually – except for modern Polish – denotes a nasal a sound.
In Polish and Kashubian ą is right after a in the alphabet but it never appears at the beginning of a word. Originally ą was a nasal a but in modern times the pronunciation of this vowel has shifted to a nasal o sound. It is most commonly pronounced as /ɔw̃/, /ɔn/, /ɔm/.
Unlike French but rather like Portuguese ão, nasal vowels in Polish are asynchronous, meaning that they are pronounced as an oral vowel + a nasal semivowel [ɔw̃], or a nasal vowel + a nasal semivowel. For the sake of simplicity, it is sometimes represented as /ɔ̃/.
- obowiązek ("duty", "obligation"), pronounced [ɔbɔˈvjɔw̃zɛk]
- robią ("They are making"), pronounced [ˈrɔbjɔw̃]
- wciąż ("still"), pronounced [ˈftɕɔw̃ʂ]
- kąpać ("to bathe") is pronounced [ˈkɔmpatɕ]
- pająk ("spider") is pronounced [ˈpajɔŋk]
- bądź (imperative be), as in Bądź cierpliwy! ("Be patient!") is pronounced [ˈbɔɲtɕ]
- oglądając ("(by) watching") is pronounced [ɔɡlɔnˈdajɔnts]
In dialects of some regions, ą in final position is also pronounced as /ɔm/, thus, robią is occasionally pronounced as [ˈrɔbjɔm].
Polish ą evolved from long nasal a of medieval Polish, which developed into a short nasal o in the modern language. This medieval vowel, along with its short counterpart, evolved in turn from the merged nasal *ę and *ǫ of Late Proto-Slavic.
|Early Proto-Slavic||*em/*en/*im/*in and *am/*an/*um/*un|
|Late Proto-Slavic||/ẽ/ and /õ/, transcribed 〈ę〉 and 〈ǫ〉|
|Medieval Polish||short and long /ã/, sometimes written approx. 〈ø〉|
|Modern Polish||short /ã/ → /ɛw̃/, /ɛn/, /ɛm/, written 〈ę〉
long /ã/ → /ɔw̃/, /ɔn/, /ɔm/, written 〈ą〉
Another explanation is connected to the adoption of the Old Czech-style orthography of the Latin alphabet for writing Polish at the turn of the 16th century. At that time, in Poland-Lithuania still Latin dominated in writing in the polity's Kingdom of Poland, while the Cyrillic-based vernacular of Ruthenian had been in official use in the monarchy's Grand Duchy of Lithuania since the 13th century. In pronunciation, the Church Cyrillic letter big yus (Ѫ ѫ) corresponds to the pronunciation of the Polish ą. However, it is little yus (Ѧ ѧ) (phonetically similar to ę) that is strikingly similar to the Latin alphabet initial letter (A, a) plus the ogonek. Some believe that this letter gave the beginning to the diacritic of ogonek, resulting in the letter ą for denoting the nasal o, though logically it should be rather ǫ than ą. When the ogonek had already been in place as the diacritic for marking nasality in vowels, it was appened to e, thus resulting in ę for nasal e.
ą often alternates with ę, for example:
- tooth: ząb → zęby (teeth), thousand: tysiąc → tysięcy (thousands), snake: wąż → węże (snakes)
- husband in nominative: mąż → z mężem (with husband, in instrumental case)
- weight: ciężar → ciążyć (to weigh down, to be a burden), month: miesiąc → miesięczny (monthly), a judge: sędzia → sądzić (to judge, think)
- row in nominative: rząd → cztery razy z rzędu (four times in a row, in genitive case)
This letter is most often found at the end of the noun, to construct an ending of accusative case as in aslą [a:sla:] - accusative of asla (ground, floor) - where both a and ą in aslą are pronounced equally as two long "a" sounds. Thus ą is used to distinguish between the transcription of accusative and the nominative cases of the noun asla.
Nasal an/am forms have transitioned to pronouncing [a:] as in sąrašas (list) ~ san-grąža (turnover, return).
In some cases ą, ę and į (never ė) may be used in different forms interchangeably, as in tąsa (extension) - tęsia (extends) - tįsoti (to lie extended). Finally some verbs have it in the middle of the word, only in the present tense (bąla - is getting white, but not pabalo (has become white).
Ą can also be found at the beginning of several words (ąsotis [a:so:tis] (jug)).
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In some indigenous languages of the Americas, ą denotes a nasal a sound.
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|Unicode name||LATIN CAPITAL LETTER A WITH OGONEK||LATIN SMALL LETTER A WITH OGONEK|
|UTF-8||196 132||C4 84||196 133||C4 85|
|Numeric character reference||Ą||Ą||ą||ą|
|ISO-8859-2 and ISO-8859-4||161||A1||177||B1|
|Mac Central European||132||84||136||88|