12. QUANTITATIVE VOWEL CHANGES 1N EARLY MIDDLE ENGLISH
At the end of OE vowels underwent a number of quantitative changes which affected the employment and the phonological status of short and long vowels in the language. In OE quantity was the main basis of correlation in the vowel system: short vowels were phonemically opposed to long ones, roughly identical in quality. At that time vowel length an inherited feature: OE short vowels had developed from PG short vowels, while long ones went back to long vowels or bi-phonemic vowel sequences. In later OE and in Early ME vowel length began to depend on phonetic conditions.
The earliest of positional quantitative changes was the readjustment of quantity before some consonant clusters. (l) Short vowels were lengthened before two homorganic consonants, a sonorant and a plosive; consequently, all vowels occurring in this position remained or became long, e.g. OE wild>ME wild [wi:ld ]. (2) All other groups of two or more consonants made the preceding long vowels short, and henceforth all vowels in this position became or remained short, e.g. OE cepte>ME kepte ['kepta]. (3) Short vowels became long in open syllables. This lengthening mainly affected the more open of the short vowels [e], [a] and [o], but sometimes, though very seldom, it is also found in the close vowels, [i] and [u]. In the process of lengthening close vowels acquired a more open quality, e.g., OE open>ME open [o:]. In spite of some restrictions (e.g. no lengthening occurred in polysyllabic words and before some suffixes, OE bodi; >ME body ('bodi ] (NE body), the alteration affected many words. The changes of vowel quantity reduced the number of positions in which the opposition of long vowels to short ones could be used for phonemic contrast. Before a consonant cluster vowel quantity was now predetermined by the nature of the cluster; and in open syllables three vowels [o:], [a:], [Ë] were always long. Consequently, opposition through quantity could be used for distinction, as a phonological feature, only in the absence of those phonetic conditions, namely: in closed syllables, in polysyllabic words, or with the vowels [i ] and [u] in open syllables. Such is the contrast, e.g. in ME risen ['ri:zan ] inf. and risen ['rizan] Part. II (NE rise, risen). The limitations in the application of vowel length as a distinctive feature undermined the role of vowel quantity in the language.
^ Development of Monophthongs. Qualitative vowel changes in Early ME were less important. They affected several monophthongs and displayed considerable dialectal diversity. On the whole they were independent of phonetic environment.
The OE close labialised vowels [y ] and [y: ] disappeared in Early ME. The treatment of [y ] and [y: ] in ME can be regarded as evidence of growing dialectal divergence. At the same time it is a relatively rare instance of similar alterations of a short and a long vowel.
The vowels [y] and [y:] existed in OE dialects up to the 10th c., when they
were replaced by [e ], [e: ] in Kentish and confused with [ie ] and [ie:] or [i ], [i:]. Dialectal differences grew. In some areas OE [y], [y:l developed into [e], [e:], in others they changed to [i ], [i: ]; in the South-West and in the West Midlands the two vowels were for some time preserved as [y ], [y:] but later were moved backward and merged with [u ], [u: ]. (The
existence of [y ] as a separate vowel may have been prolonged by the borrowing of French words with this sound.
In Early ME the long OE [a: ] was narrowed to [o: ]. This was an early instance of the growing tendency of all long monophthongs to become closer; the tendency was intensified in Late ME when all lon; vowels changed in that direction. [a:] became [o:] in all the dialects except the Northern group. The resulting ME [o: ] must have been a more open vowel than the long [o:] inherited from OE. Judging by their earlier and later history the two phonemes [o:] mid [o:] were well distinguished in ME, though no distinction was made in spelling: o, and double o were used for both sounds. The short OE [æ] was replaced in ME by the back vowel [a]. In OE [æ] was either a separate phoneme or one of a group of allophones distinguished in writing [æ, a, ã, ea ]. All these sounds were reflected in ME as [a], except the nasalized a which became [o] in the West Midlands
Most of the modern words going back to the OE prototypes with the vowel [ã] have [a], e.g. NE man, sand.
One of the most important sound changes of the Early ME period was the loss of OE diphthongs and the growth of new diphthongs, with new qualitative and quantitative distinctions.
OE possessed a well developed system of diphthongs: falling diphthongs with a closer nucleus and more open glide arranged in two symmetrical sets - long and short: [ea:, eo:, ie: ] and [ea, eo, ie ]. Towards the end of OE period some of the diphthongs merged with monophthongs: all diphthongs were monophthongised before [xt, x't ] and after [sk']; the diphthongs [ie:], [ie] in Late WS fused with [y:, y] or [i:, i ]. Their further development does not differ from the development of corresponding monophthongs.
In Early ME the remaining diphthongs were also contracted to monophthongs: the long [ea: ] coalesced with the reflex of OE [æ:] - ME [£:]; the short [ea ] ceased to be distinguished from OE [æ] and became [a ] in ME; the diphthongs [eo:, eo ] - as well as their dialectal variants [io:, io] - fell together with the monophthongs [e:, e, i:, i ]. Later they shared in the development of respective monophthongs.
As a result of these changes the vowel system lost two sets of diphthongs, long and short. In the meantime a new set of diphthongs developed from some sequences of vowels and consonants due to the vocalisation of OE [j ] and [y ], that is to their change into vowels. In Early ME the sounds [j ] and [y ] between and after vowels changed into [i ] and [u] and formed diphthongs together with the preceding vowels. These changes gave rise to two sets of diphthongs: with i-glides and u-glides. The same types of diphthongs appeared also from other sources: the glide -u developed from OE [w] as in OE snaw, which became ME snow [snou ], and before lx] and [l] as in Late ME smaul (alongside smal) and taughte (NE snow, small, taught).
English consonants were on the whole far more stable than vowels. A large number of consonants have probably remained unchanged through all historical periods. Thus we can assume that the sonorants [m, n, l], the plosives [p, b, t, d] and also [k, g] in most positions have not been subjected to any noticeable changes.
The most important developments in the history of English consonants were the growth of new sets of sounds, affricates and sibilants, and the new phonological treatment of fricatives.
^ . In OE there were no affricates and no sibilants, except [s, z]. The earliest distinct sets of these sounds appeared towards the end of OE or during the Early ME period. The new type of consonants developed from OE palatal plosives [k’, g’] and also from the consonant cluster [sk' ]. The three new phonemes were [t$], [dg] and [$]. In Early ME they began to be, indicated by special letters and digraphs, which came into use mainlv under the influence of the French scribal tradition ch, tch, g, dg, sh, ssh, sch.
Another development accounting for the appearance of sibilants and affricates in the English language is connected with the phonetic assimilation of lexical borrowings. In the numerous loan-words of Romance origin the stress fell on the ultimate or penultimate syllable, e.g. ME na'cioun, plea'saunce (NE nation, pleasance). In accordance with the phonetic tendencies the stress was moved closer to the beginning of the word. The final syllables which thus became unstressed, or weakly stressed, underwent phonetic alterations: the vowels were reduced and sometimes dropped; the sounds making up the syllahle became less distinct. As a result some sequences of consonants fused into single consonants.
In Early NE the clusters [sj, zj, tj, dj ] - through reciprocal as simulation in unstressed position - regularly changed into [$, g, t$, dg]. Three of these sounds merged with the phonemes already existing in the language, while the fourth [g ], made a new phoneme. Now the four sounds formed a well-balanced system of two correlated pairs: [$, g], [t$, dg]
^ In order to understand the nature of the changes which affected the fricative consonants in ME and in Early NE we must recall some facts from their earlier history. In OE the pairs of fricative con sonants - [f ] and [v], [O] and [ð], [s] and [z] were treated as positional variants or allophones; sonority depended on phonetic conditions: in intervocal position they appeared as voiced, otherwise - as voiceless. In ME and in Early NE these allophones became independent phonemes. Phonologisation of voiced and voiceless fricatives was a slow process which lasted several hundred years. The first pair of consonants to become phonemes were [f ] and [v]. In Late ME texts they occurred in identical phonetic environment and could be used for differentiation between words, which means that they had turned into phonemes
A new, decisive alteration took place in the 16th c. The fricatives were once again subjected to voicing under certain phonetic conditions. Henceforth they were pronounced as voiced if they were preceded by an unstressed vowel and followed by a stressed one, e.g. Early NE possess Lpo'zes l - the first voiceless [s], which stood between an unstressed and a stressed vowel, had become voiced, while the second [s], which was preceded by an accented vowel, remained voiceless. Probably the effect of stress extended beyond the boundaries of the word: the endings took no accent but could be followed by other words beginning with an accented svllable. This supposition is confirmed by the voicing of consonants in many form-words: articles, pronouns, auxiliaries. On the whole the Early NE voicing of fricatives was rather inconsistent and irregular. Though it was a positional change occurring in certain phonetic conditions, these conditions were often contradictory. The voicing had many exceptions.
Loss of Consonants. Some changes led to the reduction of the consonant system and also to certain restrictions in the use of consonants.A number of consonants disappeared: they were vocalised and gave rise to diphthongal glides or made the preceding short vowels long. The vocalisation of [y ] in Early ME and of [x ] in Late ME eliminated the back lingual fricative consonants. With the disappearance of [x'] the system lost one more opposition - through palatalisation, as "hard" to "soft". Another important event was the loss of quantitative distinctions in the consonant system. In OE long consonants were opposed to short at the phonological level. In Late ME long consonants were shortened and the phonemic opposition through quantity was lost. The loss of long consonant phonemes has been attributed to a variety of reasons. Long consonants disappeared firstly because their functional load was verv low (the opposition was neutralised everv-where except intervocally), and secondly, because length was becoming a prosodic feature, that is a property of the syllable rather than of the sound. In ME the length of the syllable was regulated by the lengthening and sho,rtening of vowels; therefore the quantitative differences of the con.so4ants became irrelevant.
In addition to all these changes, which directly affected the system of phonemes, some consonants underwent positional changes which restricted their use in the language. The consonants [j ) and [r ] were vocalised under certain phonetic conditions - finally and before consonants - during the ME and NE periods, though they continued to be used in other environments, e. g. initially: ME rechen, NE reach; ME yeer, NE year. Some consonants were lost in consonant clusters, which became simpler and easier to pronounce, e.g. the initial [x] survived in ME as an aspirate [h], when followed by a vowel, but was lost when followed by a sonorant. In Early NE the aspirate[h] was lost initially before vowels though not in all the words, e.g. ME honour[ho'nu:r ]> NE honour.
The OE Gender, being a classifying feature (and not a grammatical categorv proper) disappeared together with other distinctive features of the noun declensions. In the 1lth and 12th c. the gender of nouns was deprived of its main formal support - the weakened and levelled endings of adjectives and adjective pronouns ceased to indicate gender. Semantically gender was
associated with the differentiation of sex and therefore the formal grouping into genders was smoothlv and naturally superseded by a semantic division into inanimate and animate nouns, with a further subdivision of the latter into male; and females.
The category of case underwent changes. The number of cases was reduced from 4 to 2. In the strong declension the Dat. was marked with –e in the Southern dialects, though not in the North or in the Midlands. The form without the ending soon prevailed in all areas, and Nom., Ace. and Dat. fell together. Henceforth they can be called Common case, as in present-day English. Only the Gen case was kept separate from the other forms, with more, explicit formal distinctions in the singular than in the plural. In the 14th c. the ending -es of the Gen. sg had become almost universal, there being only several exceptions -nouns which were preferably used in the uninflected form (names of relationships terminating in -r-, some proper names, and some nouns in stereotyped phrases). In the pl the Gen. case had no special marker - it was not distinguished from the Comm. case as the ending -(e)s through analogy, had extended to the Gen. either from the Com case pl or, perhaps, from the Gen. sg. The formal distinction between cases in the pl was lost, except in the nouns which did not take -(e,)s in the pl. Several nouns with a weak plural form in -en or with a vowel interchange, such as oxen or men, added the marker of the Gen. case es to these forms: oxenes, mennes. In the 17th,18thc. a new graphic marker of the Gen. case came into use: the apostrophe -e. g. man's, children's: this device could he employed only in writing; in oral speech the forms remained homonymous.
The reduction in the number of cases was linked up with a change in the meaning and functions of the surviving forms.The Comm. case, which resulted from the fusion of three OE cases assumed all the functions of the former Nom., Acc. and Dat., and also some functions of the Gen. The ME Comm. case had a very general meaning, which was made more specific by the context: prepositions, the meaning of the verb predicate, the word order. With the help of these weans it could express various meanings formerly belonging to different cases. The main function of the Ace. case -to present the direct object was fulfilled in ME by the Comm. case; the noun was placed next to the verb, or else its relations with the predicate were apparent from the meaning of the transitive verb and the noun.
The history of the Gen. Case requires special consideration. Though it survived as a distinct form, its use became more limited: it could not be employed in the function of an object to a verb or to an adjective. In ME the Gen. case is used only attributively, to modify a noun, but even in this function it has a rival -prepositional phrases, above all the phrases with the preposition of. The other grammatical category of the noun, Number proved to be the most stable of all the nominal categories. The noun preserved the formal distinction of two numbers through all the historical periods. Increased variation in Early ME did not obliterate number distinctions. On the contrary, it showed that more uniform markers of the pl spread by analogy to different morphological classes of nouns, and thus strengthened the formal differentiation of number. In Late ME the ending -es was the prevalent marker of nouns in the pl. In Early NE it extended to more nouns - to the new words of the growing English vocabulary and to many words, which built their plural in a different way in ME or employed -es as one of the variant endings. The pl ending -es (as well as the ending -es of the Gen. case) underwent several phonetic changes: the voicing of fricatives and the loss of unstressed vowels in final syllables. The ME pl ending -era, used as a variant marker with some nouns lost its former productivity, so that in Standard Mod E it is found only in oxen, brethern, and children.
Both in ME and in Early NE the pronouns were subjected to extensive grammatical changes. The category of Number was brought into conformity with the corresponding categories of nouns and verbs; the forms of the dual number of the 1st and 2nd p. went into disuse in Early ME.
The category of Case underwent profound alterations. The forms of the Dat. and the Acc. cases began to merge in OE. The results of the simplification were less drastic than in the noun morphology: two cases fell together - Dat. and Ace. -into what may be called the Obj. case but its distinction from the Nom. case was preserved. In Late ME the paradigm of personal pronouns consisted of two cases: Nom. and Obj. Cf. the following instances of the OE Dat. and Ace. cases of pronouns used as objects after the verbs sellan `give' and nemnian `call' and similar ME phrases with the verbs given and callere governing pronouns in the Obj. case. In Early NE the syncretism of cases entered a new phase: the Nom. case began to merge with the Obj. case. In, the following quotation from Shakespeare you, the Obj. case of ye, is used as the subject, while she, the Nom. case, is an object. Yet the tendency to reduce the case system of personal pronouns was not fully realised. Only two personal pronouns, you and it lost all case distinctions in NE.
The modern pronoun you comes from the ME Obj. case you; its Nom. case ye has become obsolete. The pronoun it goes back to the ME Nom. case it, OE hit; the ME Obj. case of it, him was identical with the form of the Masc. pronoun he, him, it was used in the function of object in ME as a variant of him, as a substitute of inanimate nouns; eventually it displaced him. This replacement reflects the new grouping of nouns into animate and inanimate, which had superseded the division into genders. The loss of case distinctions by these two pronouns did not break up the paradigm of personal pronouns, since the other pronouns have preserved the distinction of two cases, Nom. and Obj. (I - me, she - her, etc.): therefore the non-distinctive forms you and it are merely in
In OE there existed two words, an, a numeral, and sum, an :definite pronoun, which were often used in functions approaching those of the modern indefinite article. In early ME the indefinite pronoun an which had a five-case declension in OE lost its inflection. It is believed that the growth of articles in Early ME was caused by several internal linguistic factors. The development of the definite article is usually connected with the changes in the declension of adjectives, namely with the loss of distinctions between the strong and weak forms. Originally the weak forms of adjectives had a certain demonstrative meaning resembling that of the modern definite article. These forms were commonly used together with the demonstrative pronouns se, seo, þæt. In contrast to weak forms, the strong forms of adjectives conveyed the meaning of "indefiniteness" which was later transferred to an, a numeral and indefinite pronoun. In case the nouns were used without adjectives or the weak and strong forms coincided, the form-words an and pl,-et turned out to be the only means of expressing these meanings. Another factor which may account for the more regular use of articles was the changing function of the word order. Relative freedom in the position of words in the OE sentence made it possible to use word order for communicative purposes, e. g. to present a new thing or to refer to a familiar thing already known to the listener.
In the course of the ME period the adjective underwent greater changes than any other part of speech. It lost all its grammatical categories with the exception of the degrees of comparison.
In OE the adjective was declined to show the gender, case and number of the noun it modified; it had a five-case paradigm and two types of declension, weak and strong. By the end of the OE period the agreement of the adjective with the noun had become looser and in the course of Early ME it was practically lost. Though the grammatical categories of the adjective reflected those of the noun, most of them disappeared even before the noun lost the respective distinctions. The first category to disappear was Gender. Their number was reduced: Instr case had fused with Dat case, distinction of other cases was unsteady. In the 11 c. case could be shown only by some variable endings in the strong. The strong and weak forms of adjectives were often confused in Early ME. texts. The use of a strong form after a demonstrative pronoun was not uncommon, though according to the existing rules, this position belonged to the weak form. In the 14th c. the difference between the strong and weak form is sometimes shown in the sg with the help of the ending -e). The general tendency towards an uninflected form affected also the distinction of Number, though Number was certainly the most stable nominal category in all the periods. In the 14th c. pl forms were sometimes contrasted to the sg forms with the help of the ending -e in the strong declension. Paradigm consisted of 4 forms distinguished by an ending –e. Strong blind-blinde, weak blinde-blinde.it can be postulated for monosyllabic adj ending in a consonant. Adj ending in vowels and polysyllabic adj took no ending and could not show the difference sg-pl.
The loss of final -e in the transition to NE made the adjecfiVv= an en+irelv uninflected part of speech.
In VE the suffixes had been weakened to -er, -est and the interchange of root-vowel was less common than before. Since most adjectives with the sound alternation had parallel forms without it, the forms with an interchange soon fell into disuse. long, ienger, lengest and long, longer, longest. The alternation of root-vowels in Early NE survived in the adjective old, elder, eldest, where the difference in meaning from older, oldest, made the formal distinction essential. Other traces of the old alternation are found in the pairs farther and further and also in the modern words nigh, near and next, which go back to the old degrees of comparison of the OE adjective neah `near', but have split into separate words.
The most important innovation in the adjective system in the ME period was the growth of analytical forms of the degrees of comparison. This new system of comparisons emerged in ME, but the ground for it had already been prepared by the use of the OE adverbs ma, bet, betst, swiðor -- `more', `better', to a greater degree' with adjectives and participles. Another curious peculiarity observed in Early NE texts is the use of the so-called "double comparatives" and "double superlatives": more, worser, most unkindest.
It appears that in the course of history the adjective has lost all the dependent grammatical categories but has preserved the only specifically adjectival category - the comparison. The adjective is the only nominal part of speech which makes use of the new, analytical, way of form-building.
17. THE VERB
The morphology of the verb displayed two distinct tendencies of development: it underwent considerable simplifying changes, which affected the synthetic forms and became far more complicated owing to the growth of new, analytical forms and new grammatical categories
Number distinctions became more consistent and regular; they were neutralized in most positions. In the 13th and 14th c. the ending -en turned into the main universal marker of the pl forms of the verb: it was used in both tenses of the Indicative and Subjunctive moods. In most classes of strong verbs (except Class 6 and 7) there was an additional distinctive feature between the sg and pl forms in the Past tense of the Indicative mood: the two Past tense stems had different root-vowels. But both ways of indicating pl turned out to be very unstable. The ending -en was frequently missed out in the late 14th c. and was dropped in the 15th; the Past tense stems of the strong verbs merged into one form. All number distinctions were thus lost with the exception of the 2nd and 3rd p., Pres.. tense Indic. mood: the sg forms were marked by the endings -est and –eth/-es and were formally opposed to the forms of the pl.
The differences in the forms of Person were maintained in ME, though they became more variable. The OE endings of the 3rd p. sg -þ,-eþ,-iaþ - merged into a single ending -(e) th. The variant ending of the 3rd p. -es was a new marker first recorded in the Northern dialects. It is believed that -s was borrowed from the pl forms which commonly ended in -es in the North; it spread to the sg and began to be used as a variant in the 2nd and 3rd p., but later was restricted to the 3rd. in the early 18th c. -(e)s was more common in private letters than in official and literary texts, but by the end of the century it was the dominant inflection of the 3rd p. so in all forms of speech. The ending -(e)st of the 2nd p. sg became obsolete together with the pronoun thou. The replacement of thou by you/ye eliminated the distinction of person in the verb paradigm - with the exception of the 3i d p. of the Present tense.
Owing to the reduction of endings and leveling of forms the formal differences between the moods were also greatly obscured. In OE only a few forms of the Indicative and Subjunctive mood were homonymous: the lst p. sg of the Present Tense and the lst and 3rd p. sg of the Past. In ME the homonymy of the mood forms grew. The Indicative and Subjunctive moods could no longer be distinguished in the pl, when -en became the dominant flection of the Indicative pl in the Present and Past. The reduction and loss of this ending in Early NE took place in all the forms irrespective of mood. In the Past tense of strong verbs the difference between the moods in the sg could be shown by means of a root-vowel interchange, for the Subjunctive mood was derived from the third principal form of the verb - Past pl - while the sg forms of the Indicative mood were derived from the second principal form - Past sg. When, in the 15th c. the two Past tense stems of the strong verbs merged, all the forms of the moods in the Past tense fell together with the exception of the verb to be, which retained a distinct form of the Subjunctive in the Past sg - were as opposed to was.
The distinction of tenses was preserved in the verb paradigm through all historical periods. As before, the Past tense was shown with the help of the dental suffix in the weak verbs, and with the help of the root-vowel interchange - in the strong verbs (after the loss of the endings the functional load of the vowel interchange grewOE cunaara - cuom -- comon, differing in the root-vowels and endings, and NE come - came). The only exception was a small group of verbs which came from OE weak verbs of Class I: in these verbs the dental suffix fused with the last consonant of the root [t] and after the loss of the endings the three principal forms coincided: cf. OE setan-sette-geset, ME seten - sette – set.
20. Changes of Short Vowels in Early New English
The short vowels in Early NE were on the whole more stable than the long vowels: only two short vowels out of five underwent certain alterations: [a] and [u]. ME [a] is reflected as [æ] in NE, e.g. ME that - NE that; ME man - NE man. It has been suggested, however, that in ME the sound [æ] existed as well; it was an allophone, or variant of [a]; both allophones [a] and [æ] were indicated by the letter a in ME. In that case the development of ME [a] in Early NE was merely a replacement of one dominant allophone by another, and the difference between ME man and NE man was very slight. The more obvious change of the ME [a] came about when it was preceded by the semivowel [w]; probably under the influence of this labialized sound the vowel developed an allophone which finally merged with the phoneme [o]:OE wæs>ME was>NE was.
The other change in the set of short vowels was a case of delabialisation: ME short [u] lost its labial character and became [л], except in some dialectal forms or when preceded by some labials, e.g.ME hut [hut ]>NE hut, ME comen ['kuman ]>NE come, but ME putten ['putan]>NE put; ME pullen ['pulan ]>NE pull.
This development may have been tied up with the loss of ME [a] described above, as the new [л] in a way filled the position of ME [a], which had shifted to [æ].
Growth of Long Monophthongs and Diphthongs in Early New English due to Vocalisation of Consonants. Vocalization of some fricative consonants led to the appearance of long monophthongs and of new diphthongs - with i- and u-glides during the Early ME period. Similar processes continued in later ages. Two voiceless fricatives, [x] and [x’], were vocalised towards the end of the ME period. The glide [u] had probably developed before the velar consonant [x] even before its vocalisation; it is regularly shown in ME spellings, e.g. ME taughte, braughte.
The palatal fricative [x'] changed to [j]. it changed into the vowel [i] and together with the preceding [i] yielded a long monophthong [i:], which participated in the Great Vowel Shift. Thus, words like night, since the age of Chaucer have passed through the following stages: [nix't ]> [nijt ]> [ni:t ]> [nait].
The most important instance of vocalisation is the development of [r], which accounts for the appearance of many new long moncyhthongs and diphthongs.
The sonorant [r] began to produce a certain influence upon the preceding vowels in Late ME, long before it showed any signs of vocalization. [r] made the preceding vowel more open and retracted: the cluster [er] changed to [ar], e.g. OE deorc became Early ME derk [derk] due to the contraction of the OE diphthong [eo ] to [e ], and changed to dark [dark] in Late ME.
In Early NE [r ] was vocalized when it stood after vowels, either finally or followed by another consonant. Losing its consonantal character [r] changed into the neutral sound [∂], which was added to the preceding vowel as a glide thus forming a diphthong; e.g. ME there > NE there.
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