Ę (minuscule: ę; Polish E z ogonkiem, "E with a little tail"; Lithuanian e nosinė, "e nasal") is a letter in the Polish alphabet, Lithuanian alphabet, and the Dalecarlian alphabet. In Latin, Irish, and Old Norse palaeography, it is known as E caudata (tailed E).
In Polish ę comes after e in the alphabet but never appears at the start of a word. It is most commonly pronounced as /ɛw̃/, /ɛn/, /ɛm/, or /ɛ/, depending on the context.
Unlike French, nasal vowels in Polish are asynchronous, meaning that they are pronounced as an oral vowel + a nasal semivowel [ɛw̃], or a nasal vowel + a nasal semivowel. For the sake of simplicity, it is sometimes transcribed [ɛ̃].
- język ("language"), pronounced [ˈjɛw̃zɨk]
- mięso ("meat"), pronounced [ˈmjɛw̃sɔ]
- ciężki ("heavy", "difficult"), pronounced [ˈtɕɛw̃ʂki]
Before all stops and affricates, it is pronounced as an oral vowel + nasal consonant, with /ɛn/ before most consonants, while /ɛm/ appears before p, b, w, or f; and /ɛɲ/ appears before palatal consonants ć, dź; before palatal sybilants ś and ź it is either /ɛɲ/ or (more frequently) /ɛj͂/. For example,
- więcej ("more"), pronounced [ˈvjɛntsɛj]
- sędzia ("judge", "referee"), pronounced [ˈsɛɲdʑa], rarely (in dialects) also [ˈsɛndʑa]
- głęboki ("deep"), pronounced [ɡwɛmˈbɔki]
- więzi ("bonds"), pronounced [ˈvjɛj͂ʑi], or [ˈvjɛɲʑi]
If ę is the final letter of a word, or if it is followed by either L or Ł, some Poles will pronounce it simply as [ɛ] but it sounds incorrect like speaking with blocked nose. For example, będę ("I will (be)") can be either [ˈbɛndɛ] or [ˈbɛndɛ̃], similarly dziękuję ("thank you") can be either [dʑɛŋˈkujɛ] or [dʑɛŋˈkujɛ̃].
In dialects of some regions, ę in final position is also pronounced as /ɛm/, thus, robię is occasionally pronounced as [ˈrɔbjɛm]. Such a way of incorrect speaking is a "trademark" of the former Polish President Lech Wałęsa, and some of his sentences, often transcribed to reflect the pronunciation, e.g. "Nie chcem, ale muszem" (properly written "Nie chcę, ale muszę"; eng. "I don't want to, but I have to") became a part of popular language.
Polish ę evolved from short nasal a of medieval Polish, which developed into a short nasal e in the modern language. This medieval vowel, along with its long counterpart, evolved in turn from the merged nasal *ę and *ǫ of Late Proto-Slavic. Thus,
|Early Proto-Slavic||*em/*en and *am/*an|
|Late Proto-Slavic||/ẽ/ and /õ/, transcribed by 〈ę〉 and 〈ǫ〉|
|Medieval Polish||short and long /ã/, written approximately 〈ø〉|
|Modern Polish||short /ã/ → /ɛw̃/, /ɛn/, /ɛm/, written 〈ę〉
long /ã/ → /ɔw̃/, /ɔn/, /ɔm/, written 〈ą〉
ę often alternates with ą, for example:
- husband: mąż → mężowie (husbands), error: błąd → błędy (errors), pigeon: gołąb → gołębie (pigeons)
- oak in nominative: dąb → dębem (instrumental)
- hands in nominative: ręce → rąk (genitive)
- five: pięć → piąty (fifth)
With some forms of noun, ę is used at the end of the word to construct accusative case, as in eglę, accusative of eglė (spruce). It is also used when converting the past tense verb into participle (tempęs - somebody who has pulled (lit. tempė) in the past.
Nasal en/em forms have transitioned to being pronounced [e:] as in kęsti (to suffer) - kenčia (is suffering or suffers) so that ę is no longer nasal anymore.
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 (gęsta - is going off (fire, light), but not užgeso (went off).
Unlike with į or ą, there are no known Lithuanian words that would start with ę.
The Unicode codepoints for the letter are U+0118 for the capital, and U+0119 for the lower case. The HTML-codes are Ę and ę for Ę and ę, respectively.
Letter E with diacritics
Letters using ogonek sign ( ◌̨ )