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However, ⟨a⟩ occurs in many common digraphs, all with their own sound or sounds, particularly ⟨ai⟩, ⟨au⟩, ⟨aw⟩, ⟨ay⟩, ⟨ea⟩ and ⟨oa⟩. "A" is often used to denote something or someone of a better or more prestigious quality or status: A-, A or A , the best grade that can be assigned by teachers for students' schoolwork; "A grade" for clean restaurants; A-list celebrities, etc.
⟨a⟩ is the third-most-commonly used letter in English (after ⟨e⟩ and ⟨t⟩), In algebra, the letter a along with other letters at the beginning of the alphabet is used to represent known quantities, whereas the letters at the end of the alphabet (x, y, z) are used to denote unknown quantities. Such associations can have a motivating effect, as exposure to the letter A has been found to improve performance, when compared with other letters.
The Italic form, also called script a, is used in most current handwriting and consists of a circle and vertical stroke.
This slowly developed from the fifth-century form resembling the Greek letter tau in the hands of medieval Irish and English writers. In Greek handwriting, it was common to join the left leg and horizontal stroke into a single loop, as demonstrated by the uncial version shown. In some of these, the serif that began the right leg stroke developed into an arc, resulting in the printed form, while in others it was dropped, resulting in the modern handwritten form.
There was also a cursive style used for everyday or utilitarian writing, which was done on more perishable surfaces.
There are some other cases aside from italic type where script a ("ɑ"), also called Latin alpha, is used in contrast with Latin "a" (such as in the International Phonetic Alphabet).
15th-century Italy saw the formation of the two main variants that are known today.
These variants, the Italic and Roman forms, were derived from the Caroline Script version.
At the end of the Roman Empire (5th century AD), several variants of the cursive minuscule developed through Western Europe.
Among these were the semicursive minuscule of Italy, the Merovingian script in France, the Visigothic script in Spain, and the Insular or Anglo-Irish semi-uncial or Anglo-Saxon majuscule of Great Britain.