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This one’s mostly for language nerds:

I usually see “poco a poco” spelled without an accent on the “a”, but now and again I see it spelled “poco à poco” – it’s written that way in some scores, and Googling “poco à poco” (with quotes) turns up a lot of results with that spelling, so it doesn’t seem to be that uncommon.

So my question is for anyone who isn’t just familiar with Italian music terms, but who’s actually fluent in the language and understands its grammar and spelling rules: Is the “a” in “poco a poco” accented in the original Italian? And if not, why do some people spell it that way?

  • Good question and I am looking forward to the answer. One possible explanation is hypercorrection. People think: it's foreign so it must look weird. Another possibility is confusion with French. Note I am just guessing which is why this is a comment rather than an answer. – badjohn Feb 22 at 8:57
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It is correct that there should be no accent on a. However it was common practice, up until the 1700s (before the modern Italian orthography was developed later on) to use accents more liberally, even in Italian territory.

Apart from poco à poco, you also find ricercar à 6, and similar instances concerning the number of voices, or even à diminuire (synonymous to diminuendo). All of these a’s would not be accented nowadays. Another old Italian allography is leggiero and derivatives, which today would be spelled without the i.

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  • Note that the spelling à was common before the standardisation of Italian for modern ha, the third person singular pres. indic. of avere (to have). Likewise, ò = ho, ànno = hanno. – Michaelyus Feb 24 at 19:55
  • This is quite certainly the preposition we’re talking about – giobrach Feb 24 at 21:07
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There is no accent on the word "a" in Italian. The only use of à is to mark a change of pronunciation if it is the final letter of a word.

"Poco à poco" is presumably an error following the logic that "foreign languages have accents". I have also seen things like "D.C al finé" written by people who presumably don't know that the final e in "fine" is pronounced anyway!

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  • could it be that this means that the à must be separated from the o of poco and not tied to oa.? – Albrecht Hügli Feb 22 at 22:37
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poco a poco: Italian

French: peu à peu.

poco à poco: Spanish? wrong!

Is the “a” in “poco a poco” accented in the original Italian?

like you say: the music language is Italian and there is no accent.

https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/poco_a_poco

And if not, why do some people spell it that way?

Because they don't know better ;) probably derived from the French peu à peu.

link

Edit: Spanish is poco a poco (tambien!)

I can't say where this à comes from... may be this means that the à must be properly separated from the o of poco and shouldn't be tied to oa.?

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  • 3
    I don't think that Spanish ever uses that accent and your own link doesn't show it. French does but it wouldn't use poco. – badjohn Feb 22 at 16:29
  • 1
    French: peu à peu. Spanish: poco a poco! you are right. I must have been mistaken. – Albrecht Hügli Feb 22 at 22:31
  • 1
    A similar mistake may explain some of the incidents that the OP has seen. – badjohn Feb 22 at 22:34
  • I've edited my answer. Thank you for clearing! – Albrecht Hügli Feb 22 at 22:40

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