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Re: [AAT] language evolution: chronology

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  • Marc Verhaegen
    ... before modern language was anywhere near complete. Isn t it time Long Rangers started tying their proposals to SOME kind of chronology, however vague? Say
    Message 1 of 10 , Jun 1, 2000
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      >> Derek Bickerton said: This suggests that the human diaspora commenced
      before modern language was anywhere near complete. Isn't it time Long
      Rangers started tying their proposals to SOME kind of chronology, however
      vague? Say what you like about my model, it's very explicit about this:
      - Protolanguage = erectus = 1.6+ mya
      - Syntax = H.s.sapiens = =/-130 kya
      - Grammatical morphology = prior to (or even during the early) diaspora.


      >> MV: I think you're right that the sapiens LCA ca.150kya had grammatical
      language (= "Mother Tongue", from which all present languages descend?). But
      probably there were 2 older phases (see Nowak & Krakauer 1999 PNAS 96:8028):
      1) 1 sound = 1 word: early erectus<2mya? pre-Homo?? 2) 1-word-sentences
      (word = combination of phonemes): erectus? 3) syntax (word order): since
      sapiens LCA ca.150kya? Although I think stone tool processing has not
      much to do with language (you can't explain how you have to make tools, you
      have to see how it's done), it's tempting to correlate language evolution
      with tool culture: 1) Odowan?? from ca.2.4mya to Dmanisi ergaster 1.7mya
      & later; 2) Acheulean? 3) African LSA? perhaps already MSA? Just
      a suggestion.


      >I would suggest that brain-expansion in hominids was probably due to
      language and tool use. Since brain-size reached modern levels c. 500 kya,
      then some kind of language had evolved by then. And since late erectus was
      rafting between islands in Indonesia c. 800 kya IMO that implies some kind
      of language ability.


      (Rafting? Swimming you mean?)

      Yes, brain expansion is probably correlated with speech evolution. I also
      think that Nowak & Krakauer's first phase lasted at least as long as their
      second one, and the second at least as long as the third. Perhaps
      schematically:

      Homo mya culture cc Nowak's phase
      -rudolf.?/ergaster 2.5?-.. Oldowan c.750 1sound/word
      -late erectus 1.0-.. Acheulean c.1000 >1sound/word
      -sapiens 0.3-0 MSA-LSA c.1300 >1word/sentence


      >I wonder what drove H. erectus/ergaster's initial brain-expansion over
      A.habilis? It might have been proto-language since it probably wasn't
      tool-use - that came along 0.6 mya prior at least. If erectus/ergaster were
      using fire and digging up roots to fuel their bigger brains then things were
      getting more complicated than the usual chimp-like Australopith life-style.
      >
      >And what was protolanguage like? Perhaps it was more vocab based than
      >syntax - when my son began his language development I noticed his great joy
      >in pointing and naming things. That seems to be very suggestive of the
      roots
      >of language. Full grammar implies a web of meanings and representations in
      >the proto-mind, which takes a lot of brain-power - which erectus' precursor
      >probably didn't have. But a set of words seems within the range of chimpy
      >minds, as Kanzi and other "speaking" chimps imply.
      >
      >Adam
      >
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    • Adam Crowl
      Hi AAT ... From: Marc Verhaegen To: Sent: Thursday, June 01, 2000 5:07 PM Subject: Re: [AAT] language
      Message 2 of 10 , Jun 1, 2000
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        Hi AAT


        ----- Original Message -----
        From: Marc Verhaegen <marc.verhaegen@...>
        To: <AAT@egroups.com>
        Sent: Thursday, June 01, 2000 5:07 PM
        Subject: Re: [AAT] language evolution: chronology


        > >I would suggest that brain-expansion in hominids was probably due to
        > language and tool use. Since brain-size reached modern levels c. 500 kya,
        > then some kind of language had evolved by then. And since late erectus was
        > rafting between islands in Indonesia c. 800 kya IMO that implies some kind
        > of language ability.
        >
        >
        > (Rafting? Swimming you mean?)
        >

        Very probably using some sort of water craft - the currents between the
        islands are rather strong and the distances probably more than swimming
        distance.

        > Yes, brain expansion is probably correlated with speech evolution. I also
        > think that Nowak & Krakauer's first phase lasted at least as long as their
        > second one, and the second at least as long as the third. Perhaps
        > schematically:
        >
        > Homo mya culture cc Nowak's phase
        > -rudolf.?/ergaster 2.5?-.. Oldowan c.750 1sound/word
        > -late erectus 1.0-.. Acheulean c.1000 >1sound/word
        > -sapiens 0.3-0 MSA-LSA c.1300 >1word/sentence
        >
        How do you see language evolving, Marc?

        Adam
      • Marc Verhaegen
        ... language and tool use. Since brain-size reached modern levels c. 500 kya, then some kind of language had evolved by then. And since late erectus was
        Message 3 of 10 , Jun 1, 2000
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          >> >I would suggest that brain-expansion in hominids was probably due to
          language and tool use. Since brain-size reached modern levels c. 500 kya,
          then some kind of language had evolved by then. And since late erectus was
          rafting between islands in Indonesia c. 800 kya IMO that implies some kind
          of language ability.

          >> (Rafting? Swimming you mean?)

          >Very probably using some sort of water craft - the currents between the
          islands are rather strong and the distances probably more than swimming
          distance.

          I think erectus was a superb swimmer-diver. Even Nasalis monkeys are
          sometimes found miles of the coast (Aquatic Ape, photo p.96), then why not
          our ancestors: Homo has a lot more aquatic features than Nasalis. H.erectus
          not only crossed Wallace's Line, but also Gibraltar & probably other sea
          straits. They colonised the whole Old World probably in a "short" time. I
          think they must have found a new niche (new in the Pleistocene?? cooling?):
          perhaps best characterised by "beach-combing"? collecting land foods &
          coconuts at the beach & fishing & collecting crayfish in shallow water
          (women & children?), diving for shellfish & butchering stranded whale
          carcasses (adult males?), sleeping in palm trees when there was danger?




          >> Yes, brain expansion is probably correlated with speech evolution. I also
          think that Nowak & Krakauer's first phase lasted at least as long as their
          second one, and the second at least as long as the third. Perhaps
          schematically:
          Homo mya culture cc Nowak's phase
          1) rudolf.?/ergaster 2.5?-.. Oldowan c.750 1sound/word
          2) late erectus 1.0-.. Acheulean c.1000 >1sound/word
          3) sapiens 0.3-0 MSA-LSA c.1300 >1word/sentence

          >How do you see language evolving, Marc? Adam

          -- For the preadaptations of language see
          http://www.infres.enst.fr/confs/evolang/actes/_actes74.html (we (with
          Stephen Munro) are writing a more detailed version of this & hope to get it
          published in the proceedings of the Paris Congerence 2000).

          -- But for language itself, Nowak & Krakauer (1999 PNAS) are right IMO:
          0) primate calls or songs (involuntary, emotional);
          1) voluntary calls (voluntary = breathing at free will in order to dive): 1
          call = 1 meaning;
          2) combination of calls=sounds into "words" (more than 1 phoneme per
          morpheme);
          3) combination of words into sentences, ie, syntax:
          a) first syntactic meaning of word order, eg, at first SVO
          (subject-verb-object, as in child language: SV and VO);
          b) later some words got used grammatically (as when "to go" is used to
          indicate the future);
          c) some of these functional words led to agglutination (eg, Spanish
          "dàmelo": me & lo are no longer independant words here);
          d) conjugation (eg, Spanish "cantar has" (litt. "to sing he has") became
          "cantaràs" (he'll sing), which replaced the old Latin future) is still a
          step further (fused agglutination).
          Probably the sapiens LCA c.200-150kya already had reached 3a (perhaps
          reaching 3a was what made us "superior" to older Homo species??), not
          impossibly even 3d. The differences between 3b & 3c & 3d are less than that
          between 3a & 3b, I think. All possible combinations & evolutions of 3a-b-c-d
          are possible once you've reached 3d. I think isolated languages tend to
          evolve towards 3d, but languages in frequent contact with other languages
          (creoles, bilinguism) tend to stay in 3b (there are no pure 3a languages
          (any more)). English is mostly 3a-3c, but a lot of conjugations seem to
          evolve towards 3d (I had heard > I'd heard...).


          Joseph Greenberg some 40 years ago has made a lot of interesting
          observations on language typologies. He says SOV languages are somewhat more
          frequent than SVO & certainly VSO languages (OVS, OSV & VOS are extremely
          rare). I'm trying to find out why that is so (I have some functionalistic
          ideas on this, eg, creoles are always SVO), but also how (eg, which
          transitions are possible, eg, it's not unlikely that to evolve from SOV to
          VSO you have to go through SVO). Greenberg gave a lot of other correlations,
          eg, VSO languages are always prepositional, but most SOV languages have
          postpositions (eg, Dutch, which is between SVO and SOV, has both
          prepositions (in the forest = in het bos) and, less frequent, postpositions
          (into the forest = het bos in)). In SOV languages, AN (adjectives before
          nouns) are somewhat more frequent than NA, and GN (genitives before nouns)
          are much more frequent than NG. Etc. Not every transition is possible IMO
          (functionalism), but influences of neighbouring languages can be important.
          I think it must be possible for every language to reconstruct how it evolved
          (at least recently), eg, why most Germanic & Romance languages in parallel
          evolved articles (Gothic & Latin had no articles), why some languages have
          (some) articles behind the noun (Scandinavian & Rumenian) and most have them
          before the noun. This, of course, is not about how language evolved (your
          question), but about how languages evolve. Nevertheless, very interesting.

          Marc
        • Dr. Christina Bjornstad
          ... From: Marc Verhaegen To: Sent: Thursday, June 01, 2000 8:40 AM Subject: Re: [AAT] language evolution:
          Message 4 of 10 , Jun 1, 2000
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            ----- Original Message -----
            From: Marc Verhaegen <marc.verhaegen@...>
            To: <AAT@egroups.com>
            Sent: Thursday, June 01, 2000 8:40 AM
            Subject: Re: [AAT] language evolution: chronology
            To all: Some of the new brain mapping work using PET scans etc., is showing
            relationships between particular areas of the brain and very detailed
            functions such as language. Not just language but types of language such as
            SVO or linear abstract language. Apparently there is a big difference in
            Latin based Europian language and for instance ancient Egyptian, or Chinese,
            one type being linear, and the other more global or with layers of meaning.
            A book by Leonard Shlain "The Alphabet vs the Goddess" asserts that the
            anatomy of the brain influences our way of thinking, illustrated by our
            language development, and ultimately affects our behavior. It's a very
            interesting idea to me anyway. The more abstract and linear our language,
            the more "left-brain dominant" we are. He goes into lots of ramafications
            of this which I couldn't adequately reproduce. This could be written or
            spoken language I suppose. It's a bit far from AAT, but maybe as our brains
            enlarged for whatever reason, left brain thinking vs right brain thinking
            influenced our behavior, tool making etc. Love to hear anyone's thoughts.
            Tina Bjornstad
          • Adam Crowl
            Hi AAT ... From: Dr. Christina Bjornstad To: Sent: Friday, June 02, 2000 6:32 AM Subject: Re: [AAT] language
            Message 5 of 10 , Jun 1, 2000
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              Hi AAT

              ----- Original Message -----
              From: Dr. Christina Bjornstad <cbjornstad@...>
              To: <AAT@egroups.com>
              Sent: Friday, June 02, 2000 6:32 AM
              Subject: Re: [AAT] language evolution: chronology


              >
              > ----- Original Message -----
              > From: Marc Verhaegen <marc.verhaegen@...>
              > To: <AAT@egroups.com>
              > Sent: Thursday, June 01, 2000 8:40 AM
              > Subject: Re: [AAT] language evolution: chronology

              > To all: Some of the new brain mapping work using PET scans etc., is
              showing
              > relationships between particular areas of the brain and very detailed
              > functions such as language. Not just language but types of language such
              as
              > SVO or linear abstract language. Apparently there is a big difference in
              > Latin based Europian language and for instance ancient Egyptian, or
              Chinese,
              > one type being linear, and the other more global or with layers of
              meaning.

              Does anyone have enough understanding of Ancient Egyptian to know that?
              Considering that they used several different writing styles and even
              alphabet it seems hard to imagine how they can be typified as "global". I
              guess the web of associations that the Egyptians had might have been more
              diffuse than English speakers since they seem to have a complex
              theology/cosmology to draw their meanings from.

              > A book by Leonard Shlain "The Alphabet vs the Goddess" asserts that the
              > anatomy of the brain influences our way of thinking, illustrated by our
              > language development, and ultimately affects our behavior. It's a very
              > interesting idea to me anyway. The more abstract and linear our language,
              > the more "left-brain dominant" we are. He goes into lots of ramafications
              > of this which I couldn't adequately reproduce. This could be written or
              > spoken language I suppose. It's a bit far from AAT, but maybe as our
              brains
              > enlarged for whatever reason, left brain thinking vs right brain thinking
              > influenced our behavior, tool making etc. Love to hear anyone's thoughts.

              I thought the left brain/right brain dominance thing was being disconfirmed
              by brain scanning?

              Adam
              >
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            • Dr. Christina Bjornstad
              ... such ... From: Adam Crowl To: Sent: Thursday, June 01, 2000 1:52 PM Subject: Re: [AAT] language evolution:
              Message 6 of 10 , Jun 1, 2000
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                > > To all: Some of the new brain mapping work using PET scans etc., is
                > showing
                > > relationships between particular areas of the brain and very detailed
                > > functions such as language. Not just language but types of language
                such
                > as
                ----- Original Message -----
                From: Adam Crowl <adam@...>
                To: <AAT@egroups.com>
                Sent: Thursday, June 01, 2000 1:52 PM
                Subject: Re: [AAT] language evolution: chronology


                > Hi AAT
                >
                > ----- Original Message -----
                > From: Dr. Christina Bjornstad <cbjornstad@...>
                > To: <AAT@egroups.com>
                > Sent: Friday, June 02, 2000 6:32 AM
                > Subject: Re: [AAT] language evolution: chronology
                >
                >
                > >
                > > ----- Original Message -----
                > > From: Marc Verhaegen <marc.verhaegen@...>
                > > To: <AAT@egroups.com>
                > > Sent: Thursday, June 01, 2000 8:40 AM
                > > Subject: Re: [AAT] language evolution: chronology
                >

                > > SVO or linear abstract language. Apparently there is a big difference
                in
                > > Latin based Europian language and for instance ancient Egyptian, or
                > Chinese,
                > > one type being linear, and the other more global or with layers of
                > meaning.
                >
                > Does anyone have enough understanding of Ancient Egyptian to know that?
                > Considering that they used several different writing styles and even
                > alphabet it seems hard to imagine how they can be typified as "global". I
                > guess the web of associations that the Egyptians had might have been more
                > diffuse than English speakers since they seem to have a complex
                > theology/cosmology to draw their meanings from.

                > > A book by Leonard Shlain "The Alphabet vs the Goddess" asserts that the
                > > anatomy of the brain influences our way of thinking, illustrated by our
                > > language dev> elopment, and ultimately affects our behavior. It's a
                very
                > > interesting idea to me anyway. The more abstract and linear our
                language,
                > > the more "left-brain dominant" we are. He goes into lots of
                ramafications
                > > of this which I couldn't adequately reproduce. This could be written or
                > > spoken language I suppose. It's a bit far from AAT, but maybe as our
                > brains
                > > enlarged for whatever reason, left brain thinking vs right brain
                thinking
                > > influenced our behavior, tool making etc. Love to hear anyone's
                thoughts.
                >
                > I thought the left brain/right brain dominance thing was being
                disconfirmed
                > by brain scanning?
                >
                > Adam
                > >
                > > ------------------------------------------------------------------------
                > > I'm not sure what you mean by disconfirmed. I'm just saying that
                apparently the left brain has a different way of "looking" at things than
                the right brain does. People with strokes demonstrate this. For instance a
                left brain stroke paralyzes the right side of the body. A victim of this is
                aware of their subsequent deficiencies--knows they can't move their right
                side. But a right brain stroke victim ignores their paralyzed side. They
                think it belongs to someone else. This is one way that reality differs on
                the two sides of the brain. I'll send my references on this, I can't
                remember them off the top of my head. The left brain given a quick visual
                image tend to analyze the scene point by point. For instance," there is a
                bear and some trees". The right brain flashed the same image might "see"
                danger, take the whole idea at once, and produce a feeling of anxiety or a
                desire to run away. The reason this would matter is, that if a society of
                people were to be more influenced by the non -emotional side of the brain,
                they might be more able to kill stuff, form hierarchies, and wars perhaps.
                The two sides of the brain obviously both work and also communicate back and
                forth so usually it comes out a wash. But what if the hemispheres developed
                somewhat separately over the eons of human evolution and thereby influenced
                past human behavior? We do have a peculiar social history. We tear things
                down then in a panic try to revive them (pollution, extinctions, etc.) I'll
                shut up now. Tina
              • Pauline M Ross
                ... showing ... as ... Chinese, ... meaning. Not sure what linear and global mean in this context, or what a linear abstract language is. However, it
                Message 7 of 10 , Jun 2, 2000
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                  > From: Dr. Christina Bjornstad <cbjornstad@...>
                  > To all: Some of the new brain mapping work using PET scans etc., is
                  showing
                  > relationships between particular areas of the brain and very detailed
                  > functions such as language. Not just language but types of language such
                  as
                  > SVO or linear abstract language. Apparently there is a big difference in
                  > Latin based Europian language and for instance ancient Egyptian, or
                  Chinese,
                  > one type being linear, and the other more global or with layers of
                  meaning.

                  Not sure what 'linear' and 'global' mean in this context, or what a 'linear
                  abstract language' is. However, it would be reasonable that the brain would
                  use different areas for these different types of language if they were
                  *read* rather than merely spoken, as ancient Egyptian and Chinese both have
                  a pictorial writing system, rather than phonetic.

                  But there is some evidence that different grammatical functions *are*
                  carried out in different parts of the brain. From Steven Pinker's 'Words
                  and Rules'(1999):

                  "...in most right-handed people, language, particularly grammar, is mostly
                  in the left [hemisphere]. ... Broca's area (actually a set of areas),
                  thought to be involved in the planning of speech, in verbal short-term
                  memory, and in the comprehension of complex sentences. ...Wernicke's area,
                  thought to be involved in connecting the sounds of words with their
                  meanings. A swath of cortex ... seems to hold words and their meanings,
                  with the meanings of words in different categories (colors, animals, tools,
                  and so on) concentrated in different parts. ... some verbs have links to
                  the frontal lobes, and ... understanding sentences with subtle syntax may
                  involve the anterior superior (front top) part of the temporal lobe."

                  "About a quarter of a second after people see a word and begin to generate
                  its past-tense form, their brains are active in the left temporal-parietal
                  regions, where presumably the word stems are recognized and memory is
                  searched for any irregular forms. About a tenth of a second later, with
                  regular verbs and only regular verbs, the activity shifts to the left
                  frontal lobe, where we suspect that the suffixing operation is carried
                  out."

                  The full text is full of weasel words like 'thought to be', 'there are
                  hints that' etc, so it sounds a bit speculative. To fill out the context,
                  the whole book is based on the differences between regular and irregular
                  forms of past tenses, and Pinker's theory that we process them differently.
                  There is a long list of references for these two quotes above, which I can
                  post if anyone wishes.

                  Pauline Ross
                • Marc Verhaegen
                  ... showing relationships between particular areas of the brain and very detailed functions such as language. Not just language but types of language such as
                  Message 8 of 10 , Jun 2, 2000
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                    >>CB: To all: Some of the new brain mapping work using PET scans etc., is
                    showing relationships between particular areas of the brain and very
                    detailed functions such as language. Not just language but types of
                    language such as SVO or linear abstract language. Apparently there is a big
                    difference in Latin based Europian language and for instance ancient
                    Egyptian, or Chinese, one type being linear, and the other more global or
                    with layers of meaning. Christina Bjornstad

                    >Not sure what 'linear' and 'global' mean in this context, or what a 'linear
                    abstract language' is. However, it would be reasonable that the brain would
                    use different areas for these different types of language if they were
                    *read* rather than merely spoken, as ancient Egyptian and Chinese both have
                    a pictorial writing system, rather than phonetic.

                    All writing systems (irrespective of the particular language) tend to evolve
                    from pictoral to syllabic to phonetic. The old Egyptian script evolved from
                    pictures to sounds. Our own alphabet is derived from pictures.

                    >But there is some evidence that different grammatical functions *are*
                    carried out in different parts of the brain. From Steven Pinker's 'Words and
                    Rules'(1999): "...in most right-handed people, language, particularly
                    grammar, is mostly in the left [hemisphere]. ... Broca's area (actually a
                    set of areas), thought to be involved in the planning of speech, in verbal
                    short-term memory, and in the comprehension of complex sentences.
                    ...Wernicke's area, thought to be involved in connecting the sounds of words
                    with their meanings. A swath of cortex ... seems to hold words and their
                    meanings, with the meanings of words in different categories (colors,
                    animals, tools, and so on) concentrated in different parts. ... some verbs
                    have links to the frontal lobes, and ... understanding sentences with subtle
                    syntax may involve the anterior superior (front top) part of the temporal
                    lobe."


                    Yes, it's very curious that verbs seem to be frontal & other words temporal.

                    >"About a quarter of a second after people see a word and begin to generate
                    its past-tense form, their brains are active in the left temporal-parietal
                    regions, where presumably the word stems are recognized and memory is
                    searched for any irregular forms. About a tenth of a second later, with
                    regular verbs and only regular verbs, the activity shifts to the left
                    frontal lobe, where we suspect that the suffixing operation is carried out."


                    Very interesting.

                    >The full text is full of weasel words like 'thought to be', 'there are
                    hints that' etc, so it sounds a bit speculative. To fill out the context,
                    the whole book is based on the differences between regular and irregular
                    forms of past tenses, and Pinker's theory that we process them differently.
                    There is a long list of references for these two quotes above, which I can
                    post if anyone wishes. Pauline Ross


                    Marc
                  • Marc Verhaegen
                    ... relationships between particular areas of the brain and very detailed functions such as language. Not just language but types of language such as SVO or
                    Message 9 of 10 , Jun 2, 2000
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                      >To all: Some of the new brain mapping work using PET scans etc., is showing
                      relationships between particular areas of the brain and very detailed
                      functions such as language. Not just language but types of language such as
                      SVO or linear abstract language. Apparently there is a big difference in
                      Latin based European language and for instance ancient Egyptian, or Chinese,
                      one type being linear, and the other more global or with layers of meaning.
                      A book by Leonard Shlain "The Alphabet vs the Goddess" asserts that the
                      anatomy of the brain influences our way of thinking, illustrated by our
                      language development, and ultimately affects our behavior. It's a very
                      interesting idea to me anyway. The more abstract and linear our language,
                      the more "left-brain dominant" we are. He goes into lots of ramafications
                      of this which I couldn't adequately reproduce. This could be written or
                      spoken language I suppose. It's a bit far from AAT, but maybe as our brains
                      enlarged for whatever reason, left brain thinking vs right brain thinking
                      influenced our behavior, tool making etc. Love to hear anyone's thoughts.
                      Tina Bjornstad


                      That sounds a bit like the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis: "...the 'real world' is
                      to a large extent unconsciously built upon the language habits of the group"
                      (I don't believe it: IMO opinion each language is an instrument that can be
                      adapted for new things or ideas). I agree that brain anatomy influences how
                      we think (but also the reverse is true: brain 'wiring' is influenced by the
                      sensory input, esp. in childhood). But your distinction between linear &
                      global languages is not clear to me.

                      Marc
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