Ą

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Ą (minuscule: ą) is a letter in the Polish, Kashubian, Lithuanian, Creek, Navajo, Western Apache, Chiricahua, Osage, 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.

Polish[edit]

In Polish and Kashubian, ą is right after a in the alphabet but never appears at the beginning of a word. Originally ą was a nasal a but in modern times, its pronunciation has shifted to a nasal o sound. The letter doesn't simply have one determined pronunciation, but most often it will be pronounced /ɔw̃/, or just simply /ɔ/ followed by a nasal consonant with a place of articulation that appears in the Polish language. Therefore, ą will sometimes be pronounced as /ɔn/, /ɔm/, /ɔŋ/, /ɔɳ/, /ɔɲ/.

Unlike French but rather like Portuguese ão, nasal vowels in Polish are asynchronous: 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"), [ˈrɔbjɔw̃]
  • wciąż ("still"), [ˈftɕɔw̃ʂ]

Before all stops and affricates, it is pronounced as an oral vowel + nasal consonant, with /ɔn/ appearing before most consonants, and /ɔm/ appears before p or b:

  • kąpać ("to bathe") is pronounced [ˈkɔmpatɕ]
  • pająk ("spider"), [ˈpajɔŋk]
  • bądź (imperative "be"), as in Bądź cierpliwy! ("Be patient!"), [ˈbɔɲtɕ]
  • oglądając ("(by) watching"), [ɔɡlɔnˈdajɔnts]

Loss of all nasal quality is rare with ą, occurring only before ł, thus, zajął [ˈzajɔw].

In dialects of some regions, ą in final position is also pronounced as /ɔm/, thus, robią is occasionally pronounced as [ˈrɔbjɔm].

History[edit]

Polish ą evolved from long nasal a of medieval Polish, which developed into a short nasal o in the modern language. The medieval vowel, along with its short counterpart, evolved in turn from the merged nasal *ę and *ǫ of Late Proto-Slavic.

Evolution
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 to write Polish at the turn of the 16th century. In Poland-Lithuania, Latin still dominated in writing in the Kingdom of Poland, and the Cyrillic-based vernacular of Ruthenian had been in official use in the 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 the letter gave the beginning to the diacritic of ogonek, resulting in the letter ą for denoting the nasal o, when it logically should have been rather ǫ than ą. When the ogonek had already been in place as the diacritic for marking nasality in vowels, it was appended to e, resulting in ę for nasal e.[citation needed]

Alternations[edit]

The letter often alternates with ę:

  • "tooth": ząbzęby ("teeth"),
    "thousand": tysiąctysięcy ("thousands"),
    "snake": wążwęże ("snakes")
  • "husband" in nominative: mążz mężem ("with husband", in instrumental case)
  • "weight": ciężarciążyć ("to weigh down, to be a burden"),
    "month": miesiącmiesięczny ("monthly"),
    "a judge": sędziasądzić ("to judge, think")
  • "row" in nominative: rządcztery razy z rzędu ("four times in a row", genitive case)

However, in words derived from rząd ("government"), the vowel does not change. Thus, rządu (genitive of rząd) retains the ą, e.g., rozporządzenie rządu ("government's ordinance")

Audio examples[edit]

Lithuanian[edit]

In modern Lithuanian, it is no longer nasal and is now pronounced as a long a. It is the second letter of the Lithuanian alphabet called a nosinė (nasal a).

The letter is most often found at the end of the noun to construct an ending of accusative case, as in aslą [aːslaː], the accusative of asla (ground, floor); both a and ą in aslą are pronounced [aː] (a long a). Thus, ą is used to distinguish between the transcription of accusative and the nominative cases of the noun asla.

It is also used when converting present tense verbs into participles, e.g., (matąs (somebody who is seeing (matyti) right now).

Nasal an/am forms are now pronounced [aː], as in sąrašas (list) and san-grąža (turnover, return).

In some cases, ą, ę and į (but 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 a word but only in the present tense, e.g., (bąla (is getting white), but not pabalo (has become white).[1]

The letter can also be found at the beginning of several words, e.g., ąsotis [a:so:tis] (jug).

The Americas[edit]

The ogonek in European languages is attached to the right leg of A.
In Native American languages, it's under the middle of A.

In some indigenous languages of the Americas, the letter denotes a nasal a sound:

Elfdalian[edit]

The Elfdalian alphabet contains the letters that occur in the Swedish alphabet as well as various letters with ogonek to denote nasality. Ą and ą denote a nasal a sound.

Reconstructed language[edit]

Scholars who have reconstructed the Proto-Germanic language (the ancestor of all modern Germanic languages, spoken c. 500 BC – AD 500) use the letter ą to denote a nasal vowel.

Computing codes[edit]

character Ą ą
Unicode name LATIN CAPITAL LETTER A WITH OGONEK LATIN SMALL LETTER A WITH OGONEK
character encoding decimal hex decimal hex
Unicode 260 0104 261 0105
UTF-8 196 132 C4 84 196 133 C4 85
Numeric character reference Ą Ą ą ą
CP 775 181 B5 208 D0
Windows-1250 165 A5 185 B9
ISO-8859-13 and Windows-1257 192 C0 224 E0
ISO-8859-2 and ISO-8859-4 161 A1 177 B1
Mac Central European 132 84 136 88

See also[edit]

References[edit]