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insight by wfx

Welcome to Wordwide FX's new enterprise!

Insight by WFX is a synthesis of our passion for languages and the financial markets. Here you will find technical and fundamental analyses from our clients, media partners and contributors in different languages, as well as discussions on languages and translation. And of course we will keep you updated on what is happening inside Wordwide FX Financial Translations. Hope you enjoy it! Greetings from the Wordwide FX team!

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24/08/2017

The Earliest Surviving Secular English Song (c. 1225 AD)

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By Wordwide FX Financial Translations

Via Realofhistory.com

Miri it is while sumer ilast with fugheles song, oc nu

neheth windes blast and weder strong. ei ei what this

niht is long. and ich with wel michel wrong, soregh and

murn and fast.

Merry it is while summer lasts with the song of birds;

but now draws near the wind’s blast and harsh weather.

Alas, Alas! How long this night is! And I, most unjustly,

sorrow and mourn and fast

 

These lines are the lyrics to might be the earliest surviving secular English song, dating from the first half of 13th century (circa 1225 AD). Known as Mirie it is while sumer ilast (‘Merry it is while summer lasts’), the preservation of the song is quite fortuitous since it was composed on a paper that was kept inside an unrelated historical manuscript.

The manuscript in question here pertains to the Book of Psalms, originally written in Latin on parchment, dating from the latter half of 12th century AD. However after a few decades of its composition, an anonymous writer (probably not the original scribe) added a flyleaf – a blank page, at the beginning of the manuscript. This particular page contained handwritten compositions of two French songs, along with a verse (in Middle English) of what is now considered as the earliest surviving secular English song – Mirie it is while sumer ilast. This ‘rudimentary’ music has been recreated and performed on a medieval harp by Ian Pittaway. There is another version by Ensemble Belladonna (below).


Another famous specimen Sumer is icumen in (more widely known as the Cuckoo Song or Summer Canon), is also counted among the earliest surviving songs in English. Possibly composed circa 1260 AD, the song (also written in Middle English, Wessex dialect) is now given the distinction of being the oldest known piece of six-part polyphonic music in English. The following musical arrangement was performed by the Hilliard Ensemble.

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21/11/2016

Old Norse (Dǫnsk tunga)

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By Wordwide FX Financial Translations

Via Omniglot.com

Old Norse was a North Germanic language once spoken in Scandinavia, the Faroe Islands, Iceland, Greenland, and in parts of Russia, France and the British Isles and Ireland. It was the language of the Vikings or Norsemen. The modern language most closely related to Old Norse is Icelandic, the written form of which has changed little over the years, while the spoken form has undergone significant changes.

The earliest known inscriptions in Scandinavia date from the the 2nd century AD and were written in Runes mainly on stone, or on personal artifacts such as brooches and swords. The majority of these inscription have been found in Denmark and Sweden, and they are written in a dialect much more archaic than Old Norse itself.

Most Old Norse literature was written in Iceland and includes the Eddas, poems about gods and mythic origins, or the heroes of an earlier age; Scaldic poetry, which was concerned with extolling the virtues and telling tales of the notable exploits of kings and other patrons; and the Sagas, stories of historical figures or groups intended as entertainment.

Between 800 and 1050 AD a division began to appear between East Norse, which developed into Swedish and Danish, and West Norse, which developed into NorwegianFaroeseIcelandic and Norn, an extinct language once spoken in Shetland, Orkney, and northern parts of Scotland.

 

 

Sample texts in Old Norse

Allir menn eru bornir frjálsir ok jafnir at virðingu ok réttum. Þeir eru allir viti gœddir ok samvizku, ok skulu gøra hvárr til annars bróðurliga.

Translation provided by a Carmenta Old Norse Tutor

Translation

All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.
(Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights)

Þórr heitir áss, ok er sterkr mjök ok oft reiðr. Hann á hamar góðan. Þórr ferr oft til Jötunheima ok vegr þar marga jötna með hamrinum. Þórr á ok vagn er flýgr. Hann ekr vagninum um himininn. Þar er Þórr ekr, er stormr.

Translation

A god is named Thor. He is very strong and often angry. He has a good hammer. Thor often goes to Gianthome and slays many giants there with the hammer. Thor also has a carriage that flies. He drives the carriage through the sky. Where Thor drives there is storm.

Transliteration of the image below (The Lord's Prayer)

Faðer uor som ast i himlüm, halgað warðe þit nama. Tilkomme þit rikie. Skie þin uilie so som i himmalan so oh bo iordanne. Wort dahliha broð gif os i dah. Oh forlat os uora skuldar so som oh ui forlate þem os skuüldihi are. Oh inleð os ikkie i frestalsan utan frels os ifra ondo. Tü rikiað ar þit oh mahtan oh harlihheten i ewihhet. Aman.

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10/10/2016

139 Old Norse Words That Invaded The English Language

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By Wordwide FX Financial Translations

Via Babbel Magazine

By John-Erik Jordan

Without the Vikings, English would be missing some awesome words like berserk, ugly, muck, skull, knife, die, and cake!

When I say “Old English” what comes to mind? The ornate, hard-to-read script? Reading Beowulf in your high school English class? The kinds of figurative compound nouns – orkennings – like “swan of blood” and “slaughter-dew” that have sustained heavy metal lyrics for decades?

Old English, also known as Anglo-Saxon, was a language spoken by the Angles and the Saxons – the first Germanic tribes to settle the British Isles. They were not the first inhabitants, as any Welsh or Gaelic speaker will tell you, but their language did form the basis for the Angle-ish we speak today. But then why can’t we modern-day English speakers understand Old English? In terms of vocabulary, grammar and syntax, Old English resembles its cousins Dutch and German more than it does modern English. So how did English change so drastically?

The short answer is that the English language changed forever after the Norman invasion brought a new ruling class of French speakers to the British Isles in 1066. French was the language of the nobility for the next 300 years – plenty of time for lots of French words to trickle down to the merchant and peasant classes. For example, the Anglo-Saxons already had words for “sheep” and “cows”, but the Norman aristocracy – who usually only saw these animals on the plate – introduced mouton (mutton) and boeuf (beef). Today, nearly thirty percent of English words come from French.

As a result, modern English is commonly thought of as a West Germanic language with lots of French and, thanks to the church, Latin influence. But this history of English’s development leaves out a very important piece of the linguistic puzzle – Old Norse: the language of the Vikings.

How To Speak Viking

The Old Norse noun víking meant an overseas expedition, and a vikingr was someone who went on one of these expeditions. In the popular imagination, the Vikings were essentially pirates from the fjords of Denmark and Norway who descended on medieval England like a bloodthirsty frat party; they raped, pillaged, murdered, razed villages and then sailed back across the North Sea with the loot.

But the truth is far more nuanced. The earliest Viking activity in England did consist of coastal raids in the early ninth century, but by the 870s the Danes had traded sword for plow and were settled across most of Northern England in an area governed by treaties known as theDanelaw. England even had Danish kings from 1018 to 1042. However, the more successful and longer-lasting Norman conquest in 1066 marked the end of the Viking era and virtually erased Danish influence in almost all aspects of English culture but one: its effect on the development of the English language.

Traust me, þó (though) it may seem oddi at first, we er still very líkligr to use the samewords as the Vikings did in our everyday speech. Þeirra (their) language evolved into the modern-day Scandinavian languages, but þeir (they) also gave English the gift of hundreds of words.

[A NOTE ON THE LETTER Þ: THE OLD NORSE LETTER, CALLED THORN, MAKES THE SAME SOUND AS THE “TH” IN "THIN".]

Names of Days

The most obvious Viking influence on modern English is the word Thursday (Þorsdagr), which you can probably guess means "Thor’s day".

“Tuesday”, “Wednesday” and “Friday” are sometimes also attributed to the Norse gods Tyr, Odin and Freya, respectively; but the days are actually named for the Anglo-Saxon equivalents of these gods, Tiw, Wodan and Friga. The similarity of these names points to the common ancestry of the various Germanic tribes in prehistoric northern Europe – centuries before their descendants clashed on England’s shores.

War & Violence

If the Vikings are famous for one thing, it’s their obsession with war. They didn’t just bring death and destruction to England in the Middle Ages, they brought really cool words for death and destruction. They were certainly a rough bunch. Just look at a Viking the rangr way, and he might þrysta (thrust) a knifr into your skulle.

  • berserk/berserker – berserkr, lit. ‘bear-shirt’. A berserkr was a Viking warrior who would enter battle in a crazed frenzy, wearing nothing for armor but an animal skin.
  • club – klubba. People have been bashing each other with heavy things since time immemorial, but not until the Danes started bringing this weapon down on English heads did this blunt weapon receive its fittingly blunt name.
  • ransack – rannsaka (to search a house)
  • These days, the adjective scathing is reserved for sharp criticism, but in the context of the original meaning of scathe (to injure), skaða takes on a much more visceral quality.
  • slaughter – slatra (to butcher)
  • Even though the gun wasn’t invented until centuries after the Viking era, the word comes from Old Norse. The most common usage was in the female name Gunnhildr: gunn andhildr both can translate as “war” or “battle”. Only truly badass Vikings named their infant daughters “Warbattle”.

Society & Culture

But life in the Danelaw wasn’t all murder and mayhem. Ironically, these savage berserkers also gave us words that are central to our "civilized" culture:

bylaw – bylög (village-law)sale – sala
heathen – heiðinn (one who inhabits the heath or open country)skill – skil (distinction)
Hell – In Norse mythology, Loki’s daughter Hel ruled the underworld.steak – steik (to fry)
husband – hús (house) + bóndi (occupier and tiller of soil) =húsbóndithrall – þræll (slave)
law – lagthrift – þrift (prosperity)
litmus – litr (dye) + mosi (lichen; moss)tidings – tíðindi (news of events)
loan – lán (to lend)troll
sagayule – jol (a pagan winter solstice feast)

Animals

Although most English animal names retain their Anglo-Saxon roots (cow, bear, hound, swine, chicken, etc) the Vikings did bring certain animals names into the vernacular:

  • bug – búkr (an insect within tree trunks)
  • bull – boli
  • reindeer – hreindyri
  • skate – skata (fish)
  • wing – vængr

Some words associated with hunting and trapping also come from Old Norse. Sleuth now means “detective”, but the original slóth meant “trail” or “track”. Snare, on the other hand, retains the original meaning of O.N. snara.

The Landscape

Old Norse is good at describing bleikr landscapes and weather. This was especially useful in the Vikings’ adopted northern England, where flatr or rogg (rugged) terrain can be shrouded in fok, and oppressed by gustr of wind and lagr (low) ský (clouds).

Much of the Danelaw bordered swamps and alluvial plains, so it’s no surprise that many Norse words for dirty, mucky things survive in English:

  • dirt – drit (excrement)
  • dregs – dregg (sediment)
  • mire – myrr (bog)
  • muck – myki (cow dung)
  • rotten – rotinn

The Norse Legacy in English

Thanks to the cross-cultural fermentation that occured in the Danelaw – and later when England was temporarily absorbed into Canute the Great’s North Sea Kingdom – the English language is much closer to that of its Scandinavian neighbors than many acknowledge. By the time that the Norman conquest brought the irreversible influence of French, Old English had already been transformed beyond its Anglo-Saxon roots.

This is still in evidence today; modern English grammar and syntax are more similar to modern Scandinavian languages than to Old English. This suggests that Old Norse didn’t just introduce new words, but influenced how the Anglo-Saxons constructed their sentences. Some linguists even claim that English should be reclassified as a North Germanic language (along with Danish, Norwegian, Icelandic and Swedish), rather than a West Germanic language (with Dutch and German). The Viking influence may be most apparent in theYorkshire dialect, which uses even more Norse words in daily speech than standard English does.

English is probably too much of a hybrid to ever neatly classify, but its Old Norse rót is clearly there among the tangle of Anglo-Saxon, French and Latin roots. The language of the Vikings may have become subdued over the centuries, but make no mistaka about it – from byrðr(birth) undtil we deyja (die) – Norse’s raw energy simmers under the surface of everything we say.

More Norse Words

VERBS
bark – bǫrkrrid – rythja (to clear land)
bask – baðask (reflexive of baða, “to bathe”)run – renna
billow – bylgjascare – skirra
blunder – blundra (to shut one’s eyes; to stumble about blindly)scrape – skrapa
call – kalla (to cry loudly)snub – snubba (to curse)
cast – kasta (to throw)sprint – spretta (to jump up)
choose – kjósastagger – stakra (to push)
clip – klippa (to cut)stain – steina (to paint)
crawl – krafla (to claw)stammer – stemma (to hinder or dam up)
gawk – ga (to heed)sway – sveigja (to bend; to give way)
get – getatake – taka
give – gefaseem – sœma (to conform)
glitter – glitrashake – skaka
haggle – haggen (to chop)skip – skopa
hit – hitta (to find)thwart – þvert (across)
kindle – kyndawant – vanta (to lack)
race – rás (to race, to move swiftly)whirl – hvirfla (to go around)
raise – reisawhisk – viska (to plait or braid)

OBJECTS
axle – öxull (axis)loft – lopt (air, sky; upper room)
bag – bagginmug – mugge
ball – bǫllr (round object)plow, plough – plogr
band (rope)raft – raptr (log)
bulk – bulki (cargo)scale (for weighing) – skal (bowl, drinking cup)
cake – kakascrap – skrap
eggseat – sæti
glove – lofi (middle of the hand)skirt – skyrta (shirt)
knot – knutrwand – vondr (rod)
keel – kjölrwindow – vindauga (lit. “wind-eye”)
link – hlenkr

ADJECTIVESTHE BODY
aloft – á (on) + lopt (loft; sky; heaven)freckles – freknur
ill – illr (bad)foot –fótr
loose – laussgirth – gjörð (circumference)
sly – sloegrleg – leggr
scant – skamt (short, lacking)skin – skinn (animal hide)
ugly – uggligr (dreadful)
weak – veikr

PEOPLEEMOTIONS
fellow – felagianger – angr (trouble, affliction)
guest – gestrawe – agi (terror)
kid – kið (young goat)happy – happ (good luck; fate)
lad – ladd (young man)irk – yrkja (to work)
oaf – alfr (elf)




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27/09/2016

The earliest use of the F-word discovered

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By Wordwide FX Financial Translations


An English historian has come across the word ‘fuck’ in a court case dating to the year 1310, making it the earliest known reference to the swear word.

Dr Paul Booth of Keele University spotted the name in ‘Roger Fuckebythenavele’ in the Chester county court plea rolls beginning on December 8, 1310. The man was being named three times part of a process to be outlawed, with the final mention coming on September 28, 1311.

Dr Booth believes that “this surname is presumably a nickname. I suggest it could either mean an actual attempt at copulation by an inexperienced youth, later reported by a rejected girlfriend, or an equivalent of the word ‘dimwit’ i.e. a man who might think that that was the correct way to go about it.”

Prior to Dr. Booth’s discovery, the previous earliest use of the word was in them poem Flen flyys, written around 1475. It had a line that read “fvccant vvivys of heli”, a Latin/English mix meaning “…they fuck the wives of Ely”. Historians have come across earlier uses of the word in medieval England, but have doubted that it was being used as a sexual reference. For example, the name John le Fucker appears in 1278, but this likely could be just a different spelling for the word ‘fulcher’ which means soldier.



‘Roger Fuckebythenavel’ as seen in the Cheshire County Court Rolls – TNA CHES 29/23 – photo by Paul Booth

In his book, The F Word, Jesse Sheidlower explains “fuck is a word of Germanic origin. It is related to words in several other Germanic languages, such as Dutch, German, and Swedish, that have sexual meanings as well as meaning such as ‘to strike’ or ‘to move back and forth’.”

Dr Paul Booth is the Honouray Senior Research Fellow in History at Keele University and Co-Director of the Arts and Humanities Research Council Project: Gascon Rolls, 1317-1468. He plans on publishing an article about his discovery in the journal Notes and Queries.

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20/09/2016

Chinese: Languages Under One Script

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By Wordwide FX Financial Translations

Few language names are as all-encompassing as that of Chinese. It is made to serve at once for the archaic inscriptions of the oracle bones, the literary language of the Zhou dynasty sages, the as well as the modern language in both its standard and dialectal forms. Why have so many disparate historical stages and geographical variants of a linguistic continuum like this been subdued under a single name? After all, the modern Chinese dialects are really more like a family of languages, and the Chinese of the first millennium BC is at least as different from the modern standard language as Latin is from Italian or French. The explanation is to be found in the profound unity of the Chinese culture that has been transmitted in an unbroken line beginning fro, the 3rd millennium BC and continuing down to the present day.

The Chinese language, especially in its written form, has always been one of the most powerful symbols of this cultural unity, which has facilitated by the use of a script that for all practical purposes was independent of any particular phonetic manifestation of that language, allowing the Chinese to look upon the Chinese language as being more uniform and unchanging than it actually was. That view was also reinforced by the use of a literary language which changed but little from century to century and from dynasty to dynasty. The Chinese have been historically uninterested in their spoken language and here, in the West, we have simply adopted the Chinese idea.

However, the Chinese dialects differ from one another quite dramatically. A speaker of the Peking dialect can no more understand a Cantonese speaker than an Englishman can understand an Austrian, although the former will feel culturally closer than the latter - England and Austria have not been politically united since the times of the Roman Empire. That does not mean than Chinese dialects have never been written, but even in periods when China has been disunited there has never been an attempt to set up a regional literary language based on one of the local dialects - as it happened in Europe when literary languages were based on the local vernaculars. 

The Chinese are of course aware of the differences between the modern vernacular-based standard and the older literary languages, but the probably do not think of them as two utterly different languages. The poetry of the Tang dynasty can be read and enjoyed by most university graduates in China; the same can scarely be said of Beowulf or even of Chaucer in the English-speaking world.


From Norman, Jerry,  Chinese. Cambridge Language Surveys. Cambridge University Press, 1988.

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06/06/2016

Could the language barrier actually fall within the next 10 years?

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By Wordwide FX Financial Translations

Via The Conversation.com

Wouldn’t it be wonderful to travel to a foreign country without having to worry about the nuisance of communicating in a different language?

In a recent Wall Street Journal article, technology policy expert Alec Ross argued that, within a decade or so, we’ll be able to communicate with one another via small earpieces with built-in microphones.

No more trying to remember your high school French when checking into a hotel in Paris. Your earpiece will automatically translate “Good evening, I have a reservation” to Bon soir, j’ai une réservation – while immediately translating the receptionist’s unintelligible babble to “I am sorry, Sir, but your credit card has been declined.”

Ross argues that because technological progress is exponential, it’s only a matter of time.

Indeed, some parents are so convinced that this technology is imminent that they’re wondering if their kids should even learn a second language.

Max Ventilla, one of AltSchool Brooklyn’s founders, recently told The New Yorker: "if the reason you are having your child learn a foreign language is so that they can communicate with someone in a different language twenty years from now – well, the relative value of that is changed, surely, by the fact that everyone is going to be walking around with live-translation apps."

Needless to say, communication is only one of the many advantages of learning another language (and I would argue that it’s not even the most important one).

Furthermore, while it’s undeniable that translation tools like Bing Translator, Babelfish or Google Translate have improved dramatically in recent years, prognosticators like Ross could be getting ahead of themselves.

As a language professor and translator, I understand the complicated nature of language’s relationship with technology and computers. In fact, language contains nuances that are impossible for computers to ever learn how to interpret.

Language rules are special

I still remember grading assignments in Spanish where someone had accidentally written that he’d sawed his parents in half, or where a student and his brother had acquired a well that was both long and pretty. Obviously, what was meant was “I saw my parents” and “my brother and I get along pretty well.” But leave it to a computer to navigate the intricacies of human languages, and there are bound to be blunders.

Even earlier this month, when asked about Twitter’s translation feature for foreign language tweets, the company’s CEO Jack Dorsey conceded that it does not happen in “real time, and the translation is not great.”

Still, anything a computer can “learn,” it will learn. And it’s safe to assume that any finite set of data (like every single work of literature ever written) will eventually make its way into the cloud.

So why not log all the rules by which languages govern themselves?

Simply put: because this is not how languages work. Even if the Florida State Senate has recently ruled that studying computer code is equivalent to learning a foreign language, the two could not be more different.

Programming is a constructed, formal language. Italian, Russian or Chinese – to name a few of the estimated 7,000 languages in the world – are natural, breathing languages which rely as much on social convention as on syntactic, phonetic or semantic rules.

Words don’t indicate meaning

As long as one is dealing with a simple written text, online translation tools will get better at replacing one “signifier” – the name Swiss linguist Ferdinand de Saussure gave to the idea that a sign’s physical form is distinct from its meaning – with another.

Or, in other words, an increase in the quantity and accuracy of the data logged into computers will make them more capable of translating “No es bueno dormir mucho” as “It’s not good to sleep too much,” instead of the faulty “Not good sleep much,” as Google Translatestill does.

Replacing a word with its equivalent in the target language is actually the “easy part” of a translator’s job. But even this seems to be a daunting task for computers.Lost in translation. Images.com/Corbis

So why do programs continue to stumble on what seem like easy translations?

It’s so difficult for computers because translation doesn’t – or shouldn’t – involve simply translating words, sentences or paragraphs. Rather, it’s about translating meaning.

And in order to infer meaning from a specific utterance, humans have to interpret a multitude of elements at the same time.

Think about all the contextual clues that go into understanding an utterance: volume, pitch, situation, even your culture – all are as likely to convey as much meaning as the words you use. Certainly, a mother’s soft-spoken advice to “be careful” elicits a much different response than someone yelling “Be careful!” from the passenger’s seat of your car.

So can computers really interpret?

As the now-classic book Metaphors We Live By has shown, languages are more metaphorical than factual in nature. Language acquisition often relies on learning abstract and figurative concepts that are very hard – if not impossible – to “explain” to a computer.

Since the way we speak often has nothing to do with the reality that surrounds us, machines are – and will continue to be – puzzled by the metaphorical nature of human communications.

This is why even a promising newcomer to the translation game like the website Unbabel, which defines itself as an “AI-powered human-quality translation,” has to rely on an army of 42,000 translators around the world to fine-tune acceptable translations.

You need a human to tell the computer that “I’m seeing red” has little to do with colors, or that “I’m going to change” probably refers to your clothes and not your personality or your self.

If interpreting the intended meaning of a written word is already overwhelming for computers, imagine a world where a machine is in charge of translating what you say out loud in specific situations.

The translation paradox

Nonetheless, technology seems to be trending in that direction. Just as “intelligent personal assistants” like Siri or Alexa are getting better at understanding what you say, there is no reason to think that the future will not bring “personal assistant translators.”

But translating is an altogether different task than finding the nearest Starbucks, because machines aim for perfection and rationality, while languages – and humans – are always imperfect and irrational.

This is the paradox of computers and languages.

If machines become too sophisticated and logical, they’ll never be able to correctly interpret human speech. If they don’t, they’ll never be able to fully interpret all the elements that come into play when two humans communicate.

Therefore, we should be very wary of a device that is incapable of interpreting the world around us. If people from different cultures can offend each other without realizing it, how can we expect a machine to do better?

Will this device be able to detect sarcasm? In Spanish-speaking countries, will it know when to use “tú” or “usted” (the informal and formal personal pronouns for “you”)? Will it be able to sort through the many different forms of address used in Japanese? How will it interpret jokes, puns and other figures of speech?

Unless engineers actually find a way to breathe a soul into a computer – pardon my figurative speech – rest assured that, when it comes to conveying and interpreting meaning using a natural language, a machine will never fully take our place.

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