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.
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 .
- obowiązek ("duty", "obligation"), pronounced
- robią ("They are making"), pronounced
- wciąż ("still"), pronounced
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,
- kąpać ("to bathe") is pronounced
- pająk ("spider") is pronounced
- Bądź cierpliwy! ("Be patient!") is pronounced
- oglądając ("(by) watching") is pronounced
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.
|Late Proto-Slavic|| and , represented by ę and ǫ|
|Medieval Polish||long and short , sometimes written approx. as ø|
|Modern Polish||long → short , written ą|
short → short , written ę
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)
- row in nominative: rząd → cztery razy z rzędu (four times in a row, in genitive case)
[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)
- weight: ciężar → ciążyć (to weigh down, to be a burden), month: miesiąc → miesięczny (monthly)
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.
In some indigenous languages of the Americas, ą denotes a nasal a sound.