Ą Explained

Ą (minuscule: ą) is a letter in the Polish, Kashubian, Lithuanian, Creek, Navajo, Western Apache, Chiricahua, Mescalero, Gwich'in, Tutchone, and Elfdalian alphabets. It is formed from the letter a and an ogonek and usually denotes a nasal a sound.

Polish

In Polish and Kashubian ą is right after a in the alphabet but it never appears at the start 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.

Unlike those in French (but rather like Portuguese ão), nasal vowels in Polish are asynchronous, meaning that they are pronounced as an oral vowel + a nasal semivowel, or a nasal vowel + a nasal semivowel. For instance, ą might be more accurately represented as but for the sake of simplicity, it is usually represented as .

Some examples,

Before all stops and affricates, it is pronounced as an oral vowel + nasal consonant. The nasal consonant may be either m (before p or b) or n (all other cases). For example,

History

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.

Evolution
Late Proto-Slavic and, represented by ę and ǫ
Medieval Polishlong and short, sometimes written approx. as ø
Modern Polishlong → short, written ą
short → short, written ę

Alternations

ą often alternates with ę, for example:

[but note that in words derived from '''rząd''' (''government'') the vowel does not change]
government in nominative: rząd → rozporządzenie rządu (government's ordinance, in genitive case)

Audio examples

Lithuanian

In Lithuanian, it formerly indicated a nasal a but the nasal quality has since been lost. In the modern language ą is pronounced as a long a.

The Americas

In some indigenous languages of the Americas, ą denotes a nasal a sound.

See also