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We show optical data obtained at 8 K on narrow GaAs/GaAlAs quantum wires, with width down to 15 nm, fabricated by reactive ion etching and metal organic chemical vapor deposition overgrowth. Lateral confinement energies (up to 23 meV) and polarization effects are evidenced in the photoluminescence excitation spectra. These experimental results are in good agreement with calculated absorption spectra, which include the effects of wire width fluctuations, yielding, for our fabrication technique, a value of ±5 nm for these size fluctuations.