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YET ANOTHER...

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RE: YET ANOTHER...

Postby phreadom » Mon 04.16.2007 1:28 pm

Shirasagi wrote:
The (I guess too subtle) point of my "thou" post is that people only care about language change when it's happening during their life time. In Old English "show" meant "to look at" (cf. Modern German "schauen"). Here you have every English speaker using the word "wrong", but no one cares because the shift happened before they were born.

On the other hand, "irregardless" is perfectly good English, if looked at historically. The double-negative used for emphasis has been part of English far as long as we call it "English". The scholars with their hard-ons for Latin back in the 18th century (particularly Lowth) are the ones who decided it was not "good" English. Even though it was good enough for Chaucer! Happily, while they were able to stigmatize the double-negative, it's too much part of the language to be stamped out.

The true test of a word or phrase is if it clearly relays meaning in idiomatic use. And "irregardless" passes that test. "Purists" may grumble, but no one who hears it interprets it as "regardful".


How about the fact that historically English only rose to power so to speak by taking on the advancements of more logical syntax and greater vocabulary based on the structures of Greek and Latin? Before that, French was the major language.

Sure people will be able to guess what you meant from context, even as ignorant as they might be... but it doesn't make it "correct", it simply makes it functional for the layman, who from my observation, only uses this word out of ignorance when they're trying to make themselves sound smart.

It still fails the test of efficient exchange of information through adherence to a logical structure and set of syntactical rules. Sure, the boys in the hood can understand their own basic slang talk... but when it comes to the exchange of more complex ideas, they are forced to either step up to more advanced language or completely fail in the attempt. Or for instance, clear communication between disparate groups etc.

It's an analogy to poor user interface design. Sure you can learn to use it and even be efficient at it, but it doesn't make it good or correct. We are adaptive, and our ability to still understand what someone is saying, even when they say something wrong, is a testament to that ability. It still doesn't make it correct or optimal. It simply means that when you say "I ain't got no teef.", odds are I'll know that you're an uneducated hick with no teeth. But I'll also know in my head that what you actually meant was "I don't have any teeth."

It's like when people say "that's bad!" or "that's sick!" when they mean something is good or very good. Even though it makes no sense, and would likely confuse the hell out of someone who hadn't heard it before... it's like the bad user interface... eventually you learn what it means in a given context and you mentally adjust for the illogical behavior/phrase.
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RE: YET ANOTHER...

Postby Yudan Taiteki » Mon 04.16.2007 2:01 pm

phreadom wrote:
How about the fact that historically English only rose to power so to speak by taking on the advancements of more logical syntax and greater vocabulary based on the structures of Greek and Latin? Before that, French was the major language.


Greek and Latin syntax is no more "logical" than Old English. To the grammarians of the time, "logical" meant "as much like Latin as possible"; but there's nothing inherently more or less logical about that language. The rise of English corresponded with a rise in native power of England.

Sure people will be able to guess what you meant from context, even as ignorant as they might be... but it doesn't make it "correct", it simply makes it functional for the layman, who from my observation, only uses this word out of ignorance when they're trying to make themselves sound smart.


Considering that language is an ability enjoyed by the majority of humans, regardless of class, education, or anything else, "functional for the layman" seems perfectly fine. It's like saying that the only correct way to walk is the way rich people do, because their walking style is much more logical than everyone else's.

It still fails the test of efficient exchange of information through adherence to a logical structure and set of syntactical rules.


I'm still waiting for your defense of irregular verbs as logical.

Once again, you're confusing "logical" with "conforming to the modern educated dialect." There are many illogical things in every dialect of every language. Countless structures and words are used in educated English that would have been considered wrong a few hundred (or even 50 in some cases) years ago.

Language change is natural -- it does not evolve in the sense that it moves from simple to complex, it just changes.

Sure, the boys in the hood can understand their own basic slang talk... but when it comes to the exchange of more complex ideas, they are forced to either step up to more advanced language or completely fail in the attempt.


This is utter nonsense (and borderline racist) -- numerous books, such as William Labov's Language in the Inner City have shown that the language spoken by "boys in the hood" is just as complex and expressive as any other language or dialect.

It simply means that when you say "I ain't got no teef.", odds are I'll know that you're an uneducated hick with no teeth. But I'll also know in my head that what you actually meant was "I don't have any teeth."


No, what the person meant was "I ain't got no teef." "teef" is a dialectical pronunciation of "teeth" that follows a completely logical and regular pronunciation change rule (observed in several dialects of English). "ain't" has 200 years of usage history behind it, and the common complaint that there are no words to contract it from also applies to "won't", which is perfectly fine.

You seem to equate "logical" with "speaking like I speak". You also have serious misconceptions about the nature of language, the development and change of language, and the history and usage of your own native language; there are numerous books on general linguistics and on dialects that would explain these things to you. My primary recommendations would be Steven Pinker's The Language Instinct and the Labov book I mentioned earlier.
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RE: YET ANOTHER...

Postby phreadom » Mon 04.16.2007 2:34 pm

"won't" is a contraction of "will not". Even a cursory glance at the dictionary would tell you that, if it wasn't already obvious.

Yes, I'm prejudiced against the way that stupid people talk. :) I don't like stupid people. People that can concisely illustrate complex ideas, facilitated by a complex grammar and vocabulary are inherently more valuable to me.

And as far as "complex and expressive", I guess that all depends on whether you're trying to express ideas that advance humanity as a whole, or about your bling and rock and hoes, and who you're going to pop a cap into next. Don't blame me for the inner cities' choice of culture and associated vernacular.

I'm not by any means defending English as perfect, but when you advocate not even adhering to any basic rules, you create an inefficient language that amounts to having to learn everything by brute force and simply remember what every single word and variation of word means in every possible context, instead of building a logical set of buildings blocks which the language then builds from. Japanese seems to me to be a shining example of this. (this also answers your question about irregular verbs)

I agree with the "teef" issue. That distracts from the point however.

And for the record, I've lived in the "inner city" before. In several cities in Michigan including Muskegon, Grand Rapids, Detroit etc. The vernacular does not lend itself to intellectual pursuits.

If all you're concerned about is communicating the fact that you need to go pick up another 40 of OE and mack on some bitches, then sure. Functionally fine. If you're trying to express complex intellectual matters... it falls short. One requires education and intelligence... the other simply requires basic human instinct.

Not hard to guess which I place more value on.

I'm done bickering about this.
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RE: YET ANOTHER...

Postby Yudan Taiteki » Mon 04.16.2007 2:50 pm

Once again, you are almost completely ignorant of linguistics and have absolutely no idea what you are talking about. Since you don't seem interested in broadening your knowledge of linguistic theory and research, I won't bother responding.

For the benefit of others, to be brief:
1. The dialect of inner-city people is based on concrete, describable rules just as any language -- they simply happen to be different rules from the educated dialect. In fact, it is impossible for any human language to be without rules.
2. The reason why such language is often not used for "intellectual" pursuits has to do with social factors, not any inherent property of the language itself.
3. Most of the criticism of such language is based more on prejudice and racism than anything else.
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RE: YET ANOTHER...

Postby witega » Mon 04.16.2007 3:45 pm

phreadom wrote:
How about the fact that historically English only rose to power so to speak by taking on the advancements of more logical syntax and greater vocabulary based on the structures of Greek and Latin? Before that, French was the major language.


English 'rose to power' because Britain was the most successful of the European colonial powers, establishing and maintaining hegemony on the widest scale. And when colonialism started to fail, the US stepped in as an economic and military superpower. It has nothing to do with the quality of English as a language and everything to do with the military and economic power of English-speakers for the last 2 centuries. Had France had the internal stability to manage to hold on to and develop their North American holdings or the German-Austrian access had won WWI gaining European hegemony, French or German could just as easily have taken English's current position as an international prestige language.

And the fact is that of the major European languages, English is the *least* like Latin and Greek. The biggest influence of the French conquest of England in 1066 was that English almost totally lost the grammatical case and complex verbal conjugations characteristic of older Indo-European languages. If similarity to the 'logical syntax' of Latin and Greek has any relevance to the 'power' of a language, Russian or German--or even modern Greek should have far more influence than English. (Yudan is right that there is nothing inherently more 'logical' about Latin or Greek syntax compared to other languages--that idea is simply a legacy of the Renaissance's obsession with the 'Classical' age as superior to that of their more recent ancestors).

English does have one of if not the largest vocabularies, and I would consider that one strength of the language. But among the significant factors in that immense vocabulary are root causes you are apparently decrying--
First, the collapse of the old declension and conjugation systems. If there is a foreign word (from French, Latin or Greek in the 16th century, just about any language in this century), I don't have to worry about fitting it into a native declension or knowing the source declension. If it's a noun, I just take it, add 's' for plural or possessive and its ready to be naturalized (manga, mangas, manga's). If its a verb, same thing - add 's' for 3rd person singular present, 'd/ed' and 'ing' for other variations and its ready to go (I karaoke, he karaokes, we karaoked, etc). The only question is whether enough other people find the borrowing useful that it gets used and thereby naturalized. That's as opposed to Latin where everyone might be able to decline 'manga' like 'regina' but it would be anybody's guess what the accusative singlur of 'quark' would be much less the 3person singular pluperfect passive of 'karaoke'.
Second, not only there is no authoritative control working to stop or limit coinages and borrowings (cf French) but there is no single prestige form of the language. People from London to Bombay are free to play with the language, and the only control is the natural one of whether enough other speakers find it useful and understable to the extent that they also use it and usage spreads. So if I borrow 'manga', create 'irregardless' by combining two words, or invent 'quark' out of whole cloth, they become English words when the general speaker of my dialect understands them.
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RE: YET ANOTHER...

Postby Hatori » Mon 04.16.2007 9:28 pm

Man, you "old" people have cracked one too many hilarious jokes I actually LOLed in real life.
Ikera..... Haha... Mixed name. XD *humors self with something not funny*
我是老师。我是老师。我是老师。我是老师。我是老师。我是老师。我是老师。
lol
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RE: YET ANOTHER...

Postby phreadom » Mon 04.16.2007 10:50 pm

Yeah.. we went and did nonkaraoke. Although you know what karaoke is, and obviously nonkaraoke would imply that I wasn't doing karaoke, I actually meant that we were... so even though I'm using a counterintuitive nonsensical word, you're expected to understand it because it's perfectly ok to make up words that break the logical structure you describe, as long as I explain it and enough people start using it. :) Wonderful! Or should I say Wonderless? Or maybe unwonderfulless? :D

It amuses me that you reference the idea of following certain rules to denote plural etc... but don't seem to have any problem throwing other similar rules out the window.

I'm still digging for the article I read on the transition to English as a major language, and that it was initially too lacking to be used for government and literature etc. Hence it's borrowing from older languages and French etc. It was simply too primitive.

Take "jiggy" for instance. White people thinks it means to dance or to have sex. It actually comes from black culture meaning to dress up and flaunt your wealth etc.

Because of a lack of understanding, the word takes on divergent meanings. This is fine in English, but it's not really what I've been talking about. What I'm saying is more the equivalent of knowing what the word cow means... knowing what cows mean... and then saying "uncows" and expecting people not to think you mean something that isn't cows. Couple that with the fact that irregardless is generally -always- used in a context of trying to sound intellectual. In that context, it -should- be used correctly. Anyone trying to use an intellectual vernacular should be educated enough to know better. This goes along with the reason that generally "proper" english is almost identical no matter where it is spoken. It adheres to a set of rules and guidelines to some extent to facilitate efficient exchange of information.

And for the record, I talked to some fellow "inner city" people and they agreed that the "ghetto slang" etc isn't suited for intellectual discourse. It's just not part of that culture. When they need to discuss something like that, they use "proper" educated English. That's what it's for. Now when you're speaking in that context... trying to portray yourself as intellectual, and you use a word that violates the rules of that particular language subset... you're wrong.

There is a name for these different groups of language... what you use with friends, what you use when addressing a crowd, what you use when writing an official letter etc. If you're going to try using the educated vernacular, you should adhere to the set language and not use nonsensical words, and then not make up excuses when it's pointed out to you.

Are you nonunderstandless of my point?
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RE: YET ANOTHER...

Postby Yudan Taiteki » Mon 04.16.2007 11:07 pm

phreadom wrote:
Yeah.. we went and did nonkaraoke. Although you know what karaoke is, and obviously nonkaraoke would imply that I wasn't doing karaoke, I actually meant that we were... so even though I'm using a counterintuitive nonsensical word, you're expected to understand it because it's perfectly ok to make up words that break the logical structure you describe, as long as I explain it and enough people start using it. :)


This isn't about individuals making up words, it's about a word with a 70-year history of usage, that is fully understood by every native speaker who hears it. Etymologies of words are often strange, or lack logic. This is absolutely inevitable. Language changes naturally -- nobody really knows why, but it does. There's nothing anyone can do to stop it, and the change happens across an entire group of people. You shouldn't expect anything in language to be logical.

I'm still digging for the article I read on the transition to English as a major language, and that it was initially too lacking to be used for government and literature etc. Hence it's borrowing from older languages and French etc. It was simply too primitive.


There is no such thing as a primitive language. What may have been meant by the article is that Old English lacked certain vocabulary (and indeed a huge amount of vocabulary was borrowed in the transition to Middle English), but this is different from the underlying structure of the language. One of the most significant advances in linguistic research in the past 50-75 years is the study of a wide variety of languages (literally thousands) that has resulted in the conclusion that there are a number of "language universals" and that no language is more or less complex than another.

And for the record, I talked to some fellow "inner city" people and they agreed that the "ghetto slang" etc isn't suited for intellectual discourse.


This is a social issue, not a linguistic one. It's not the inherent properties of the dialect but the social prejudices against it that drive this.

If you're going to try using the educated vernacular, you should adhere to the set language and not use nonsensical words, and then not make up excuses when it's pointed out to you.


If you are attempting to use the educated dialect and say "irregardless", then you are wrong. Because now you have a reference point of comparison. It's when you start claiming that one dialect or language is more "logical" or "primitive" than another that you run into problems.

Your misconceptions about language are understandable. It's easy to think that just because we use language every day that we understand everything about it, but there's a lot more to it than that. It's sort of like thinking that because you are human and use your body every day, that you know as much as a biologist about the human body.
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RE: YET ANOTHER...

Postby lalaith » Tue 04.17.2007 12:12 am

Interrupting this learned discourse....

Shirasagi wrote:
The (I guess too subtle) point of my "thou" post is that people only care about language change when it's happening during their life time.


I thought you made your point in a very funny way. That's why I reponded with the "you"/"y'all" post.
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RE: YET ANOTHER...

Postby phreadom » Tue 04.17.2007 12:33 am

Yudan Taiteki wrote:
Your misconceptions about language are understandable. It's easy to think that just because we use language every day that we understand everything about it, but there's a lot more to it than that. It's sort of like thinking that because you are human and use your body every day, that you know as much as a biologist about the human body.


I applaud your patronizing tone. ;) Very well written.

However, it reminds me more of a layman trying to sound smart and saying I have ventral pain when they mean dorsal (their back hurts). I have studied a bit of linguistics and debate a bit with my resident linguist who studies it in college and speaks 8 languages fluently. He's an Israeli who speaks Hebrew, Russian, French, German, Japanese, English, one or two of the Chinese languages and some Latin. He also knows some Arabic. (I'm not sure what else he knows, I believe Spanish and Italian?) We have people in our group from Argentina, Germany and China, and have in the past had Brazilian and French as well.

I've been over a number of these points with him and read various articles etc that he's pointed out. Not to mention that oddly enough, Biology was something that I was a top student in, teachers assistant in and took in college as well. I've forgotten quite a bit of it (I've been out of college for 15 years). You seem to assume that because I disagree with you that I am sadly completely ignorant and mistaken. I admit that I'm no linguistic expert by any stretch of the imagination... but you imply that I think I know everything about language, which I don't believe I even implied. I know I don't. I was simply stating my opinions based on what I do know.

I'm not just some ignorant layman who mistakenly believes he knows everything about language, the human body, or generally any other topic. This is why I constantly study a vast array of different topics to expand my understanding.

I'm not fond of being patronized or having words put in my mouth so to speak.
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RE: YET ANOTHER...

Postby Yudan Taiteki » Tue 04.17.2007 8:25 am

It's not your lack of knowledge, but your seeming unwillingness to even respond to the points, and the insulting (and arguably racist) undertones of your posts on the issue. You still have not made a clear response explaining why you think educated English is logical whereas other dialects are not -- your only response was to insult the speakers of the dialect based on social issues, which has nothing to do with the properties of the language itself.

That "inner-city slang" (AAVE or BVE) is based on a concrete set of grammatical rules just like any other language/dialect is a fact, not an opinion. The dialect has been studied numerous times and entire books (more than one) written about it, including one that set out the grammatical rules in detail.

However, this is not obvious if you have never read anything specifically about AAVE. The common misperception of AAVE as a primitive or substandard dialect is understandable, albeit wrong. That was pretty patronizing, but I still recommend the two books I mentioned earlier.
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RE: YET ANOTHER...

Postby phreadom » Tue 04.17.2007 5:18 pm

I guess it boils down to the cultures that use said dialects. I don't like the culture that uses "inner-city slang", nor do I care for rednecks, hicks etc. I don't like the culture, it's not a matter of skin color, it's a matter of a dialect that grows out of ignorance and whose main use seems to be simplistic, or low class in nature. I don't much care that socioeconomic issues pressured a certain group of people to create their own "ghetto slang". I simply don't see things that I value coming from it, and I see it negatively affecting the language of the groups that I do value... by trying to justify words like "irregardless", based on the ignorant actions of lower class groups. The socioeconomic reasons for that lower class group not having the education to properly understand or use an upper class dialect really aren't my main concern. I don't see that as "racist" by any means. I see that as possibly apathetic to the plight of inner city people, but I also hate redneck slang as well and the culture that seems to go along with it... one of willful ignorance and even a pride in that fact. It's not a matter of skin color, it's a matter of what a dialect is used for, how it came about, and how I personally feels that bleeds over into negatively affecting the vernacular that I personally do value and care about.

I understand that AAVE or BVE have their own sets of rules etc. But I do not feel that they are compatible with the rules of intellectual discourse and science etc.

I'm sure I'll get around to studying this further, but that's generally my basic stance. I appreciate your response... hopefully you kind of understand where I'm coming from.
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RE: YET ANOTHER...

Postby Yudan Taiteki » Tue 04.17.2007 5:57 pm

it's a matter of a dialect that grows out of ignorance


Ignorance of what? The thing about AAVE is that many of its features are quite old, and can be attested to in Black English ever since there started being blacks in America. The idea that AAVE developed due to lack of education is an obsolete theory. The two most prominent theories nowadays are:
1) When slaves were taken from Africa to the US, they initially learned a pidgin form of English, which was then developed into a creole by their native-born children.
2) The blending of African languages with English resulted in many of the differences between AAVE and normal English.
Now, this is about the origins of the dialect. The *perpetuation* of the dialect is due to a combination of factors, including a lack of education among the speakers of the dialect.

The problem with the lack of education theory is that it doesn't make sense with what we know about how languages are learned. I understand that someone would want to look at (for instance) the way that "be" is not conjugated at all in AAVE and chalk that up to a lack of education. But plenty of uneducated people learn to conjugate "be" just fine; nobody has to be taught to conjugate irregular verbs in their own language (unless they are archaic or formal conjugations). The reason most AAVE-speakers don't conjugate "be" is because their parents don't conjugate it, and you can repeat that reason all the way back until you run into either #1 or #2 above (and indeed, non-conjugation of "be" is a feature of some African languages).

It's also tempting to say that the non-conjugation of "be" is evidence of a lack of complexity, but it's hard to argue that you gain or lose expressive power by the presence or absence of irregular verbs (just look at Japanese!)

I understand that AAVE or BVE have their own sets of rules etc. But I do not feel that they are compatible with the rules of intellectual discourse and science etc.


How? If all you mean is that "educated people do not use that dialect in formal papers and talk, so using the educated dialect of English is necessary if you want to participate in such discussion", then I agree. I would also agree with the value of having a standard dialect to use, particularly in writing. However, if you are actually trying to claim that there are inherent problems with AAVE, completely separate from social issues, that would prevent it from being used in intellectual or scientific discourse, then I want to see you explain that further.

Anything that can be expressed in educated English can be expressed in AAVE. It's true that nobody writes a formal paper in AAVE, but it could be done (although the lack of a standard orthography for the dialect would be an initial barrier).

I simply don't see things that I value coming from it, and I see it negatively affecting the language of the groups that I do value... by trying to justify words like "irregardless", based on the ignorant actions of lower class groups.


As Josh Reyer said, people only care about the change that happens during their lifetime.

To someone several hundred years ago, your failure to distinguish between "thou" and "you" would have been considered a low-class, ignorant vulgarism.

Perhaps you are misunderstanding what I'm trying to say -- I completely agree with you that "irregardless" is not a logical word formation and that it is borne out of a confusion between two already existing words. However, I don't see that etymology as being problematic, because things like that happen all the time in language.

I used the example of "kodomo-tachi" (children) from Japanese earlier, which has two plural suffixes. The reason that modern Japanese has a verb "suru" that can occur at the end of a sentence is due to confusion and ignorance of conjugations that developed slowly over the centuries until it became the accepted form. In English, we have the eroding differentiation between "who" and "whom", which is almost guaranteed to be totally gone in a generation or two.

So if you want me to look at a formal paper, and you use "irregardless", I will tell you that you are wrong. But in less formal speech or a medium like a message board, as long as the language communicates well (which "irregardless" does, since everyone understands the meaning), I don't see any point in getting worked up over it. Time will tell if it ever gets adopted into educated English. Sometimes a word remains forever taboo ("ain't") whereas other times, it becomes the standard.
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RE: YET ANOTHER...

Postby phreadom » Tue 04.17.2007 6:10 pm

I don't disagree with basically any of what you've said.

I simply think that the dialect has never been that of an educated class, and I think you'd be hard pressed to show me that inner city people (or country folk) have the same level of education as those who use more formal "educated" English. The inherent lack of education leads to a vernacular lacking in the ability to properly discuss intellectual ideas etc. I'm inclined to believe that even structurally it falls short, but without further study I won't make that assertion.

This is not just about inner city slang or black people etc. It's about the dialects of lower class, less educated groups of people, regardless of the justifications for why they lack the education or socioeconomic status. I don't care how effectively they can talk about their lower class day to day issues. They lack the ability to effectively participate in what I personally deem to be nobler pursuits without expanding their vocabulary, their education and possibly even the structure of their language to facilitate more accurate and precise communication of information.

Perhaps I'll take a course in linguistics when I go back to school. It's been something I've been interested in recently, and after a 15 year hiatus, I think it's about time I go back.
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RE: YET ANOTHER...

Postby Yudan Taiteki » Tue 04.17.2007 6:23 pm

phreadom wrote:
I simply think that the dialect has never been that of an educated class, and I think you'd be hard pressed to show me that inner city people (or country folk) have the same level of education as those who use more formal "educated" English.


No, of course they don't.

The inherent lack of education leads to a vernacular lacking in the ability to properly discuss intellectual ideas etc. I'm inclined to believe that even structurally it falls short, but without further study I won't make that assertion.


But you still haven't given any specifics. In Labov's book that I mentioned earlier, he does provide a number of transcribed conversations in which AAVE speakers did discuss intellectual ideas, in the dialect.

What you're describing is still a social issue, not a linguistic one.
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