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|Look up vocative in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.|
The vocative case (abbreviated VOC) is the case used for a noun that identifies a person (animal, object, etc.) being addressed or, occasionally, the determiners of that noun. A vocative expression is an expression of direct address where the identity of the party spoken to is set forth expressly within a sentence. For example, in the sentence, "I don't know, John," John is a vocative expression that indicates the party being addressed—as opposed to the sentence, "I don't know John," where John is the direct object of the verb "know."
Historically, the vocative case was an element of the Indo-European system of cases, and existed in Latin, Sanskrit, and Classical Greek. Many modern Indo-European languages have lost the vocative case. Many, however, retain it, first and foremost the Baltic languages and most Slavic languages.
Some linguists[who?] argue that the vocative form is not a case but a special form of nouns not belonging to any case, since vocative expressions are not related syntactically to other words in sentences.
- 1 The vocative case in Indo-European languages
- 1.1 Comparison of Indo-European languages
- 1.2 Lithuanian
- 1.3 Celtic languages
- 1.4 Germanic languages
- 1.5 Slavic languages
- 1.6 Romance Languages
- 1.7 German Dialects
- 1.8 Kurdish
- 2 The vocative case in other languages
- 3 References
The vocative case in Indo-European languages
Comparison of Indo-European languages
Distinct vocative forms are assumed to have existed in all early Indo-European languages, and they have survived in some. Take, for example, the Indo-European word for "wolf" in various languages:
|Old Church Slavonic||вльк-ъ
Notes on notation: The elements separated with hyphens denote the stem, the so-called thematic vowel of the case and the actual suffix. In Latin, e.g., the nominative case is lupus and the vocative case is lupe, whereas the accusative case is lupum. The asterisk before the Proto-Indo-European words means that they are theoretical reconstructions, not attested in a written source. The symbol ◌̩ (vertical line below) indicates a consonant serving as a vowel (it should appear directly below the "l" or "r" in these examples, but may appear after them on some systems due to font display issues). All final consonants have been lost in Proto-Slavic so both the nominative and vocative Old Church Slavonic forms do not have true endings, only reflexes of the old thematic vowels.
Note how the vocative ending changes the stem consonant in Old Church Slavonic. This is caused by the so-called First palatalization. Most modern Slavic languages that retain the vocative case have altered the ending to avoid this change—e.g., Bulgarian вълко occurs far more frequently than вълче.
||This section needs attention from an expert in Lithuania or Linguistics. (February 2009)|
Lithuanian has not only preserved the vocative as a morphological category from Proto-Indo-European, but also developed new forms for several classes of nouns. The form that a given noun takes depends on its declension class and, sometimes, on its gender:
|feminine nouns||a-stems||tautà [sg.]||táuta!||people|
Some nouns of the e-declension (both proper ones and not) are stressed differently: "aikštė": "aikšte" (square).
In the singular there is no special form, except for first declension nouns. These are masculine nouns that end in a broad (non-palatal) consonant, which is made slender (palatal) to build the singular vocative (as well as the singular genitive and plural nominative). Adjectives are also lenited. In many cases this means that (in the singular) masculine vocative expressions resemble the genitive and feminine vocative expressions resemble the nominative.
The vocative plural is usually the same as the nominative plural except, again, for first declension nouns. In the standard language first declension nouns show the vocative plural by adding -a. In the spoken dialects the vocative plural is often has the same form as the nominative plural (as with the nouns of other declensions) or the dative plural (e.g. a fhearaibh! = Men!)
|English||the big man||the big boy||the big woman||the big girl||John||Mary|
|Sg.||Nominative||an fear mór||an buachaill mór||an bhean mhór||an cailín mór||Seán||Máire|
|Genitive||an fhir mhóir||an bhuachalla mhóir||na mná móire||an chailín mhóir||Sheáin||Mháire|
|Vocative||a fhir mhóir||a bhuachaill mhóir||a bhean mhór||a chailín mhóir||a Sheáin||a Mháire|
|Pl.||Nominative||na fir móra||na buachaillí móra||na mná móra||na cailíní móra|
|Genitive||na bhfear mór||na mbuachaillí móra||na mban mór||na gcailíní móra|
|Vocative||a fheara móra||a bhuachaillí móra||a mhná móra||a chailíní móra|
The basic pattern is as for Irish. The use of the vocative, aside from literary usage, is practically confined to personal names, where it is obligatory. The vocative case causes lenition of the initial consonant of nouns. In addition, masculine nouns are slenderized if possible (that is, in writing, an 'i' is inserted before the final consonant). Also, the particle a is placed before the noun unless it begins with a vowel (or f followed immediately by a vowel, which becomes silent when lenited). An example of the use of the vocative with Gaelic personal names (as in Irish):
|Nominative case||Vocative case|
The name “Hamish” is just the English spelling of “Sheumais”, and thus is actually a Gaelic vocative. Likewise, the name “Vairi” is an English spelling of “Mhàiri”.
The basic pattern is similar to Irish and Scottish. The vocative is confined to personal names, in which case it is common. Foreign names (not of Manx origin) are not used in the vocative. The vocative case causes lenition of the initial consonant of names. It can be used with the particle "Y".
|Nominative case||Vocative case|
The name “Voirrey” is actually the Manx vocative of Moirrey (Mary).
Welsh marks the vocative by lenition of the initial consonant of the word, with no obligatory particle. However, it is now restricted to names of historical figures and God, and it is optional (and increasingly uncommon) even in these cases. Cornish has retained the vocative case, with the particle the same as in Scottish Gaelic and Irish, a, which causes the second state mutation (lenition) in the following word. Breton seems to have lost the vocative.
Modern English lacks a formal (morphological) vocative case. English commonly uses the nominative case for vocative expressions, but sets them off from the rest of the sentences with pauses as interjections (rendered in writing as commas). Two common uses of the vocative case in English are the phrases "Mr. President" and "Madam Chairwoman".
|Look up O#Particle in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.|
Historically, or in poetic or rhetorical speech, the vocative role in English may also be shown by prefacing the noun or noun phrase with the English word O. This is often seen in the King James Version of the Bible: for example, "O ye of little faith" (in Matthew 8:26). Another well-known example is the recurrent use of the vocative phrase, O (my) Best Beloved, by Rudyard Kipling in his Just So Stories. This use of O may be considered a form of clitic, and should not be confused with the interjection Oh (The Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, section 5.197). However, as the Oxford English Dictionary points out, "O" and "Oh" were originally used interchangeably. With the advent of "Oh" as a written interjection, however, "O" is the preferred modern spelling of the vocative in English.
See also Apostrophe (figure of speech).
The vocative case generally does not appear in Icelandic, though a few words retain an archaic vocative declension from Latin, such as the word Jesús, which is in vocative Jesú. This comes from Latin, as the Latin word for Jesus is simply Jesus and the vocative of that word is Jesu.
|Look up ó#Icelandic in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.|
- Jesús (nominative) elskar þig.
- Jesus loves you.
- Ó Jesú (vocative), frelsari okkar.
- O Jesus, our saviour.
The native words sonur ("son") and vinur ("friend") also sometimes appear in the shoretened forms son and vin in vocative phrases. Additionally, adjectives in vocative phrases are always weakly declined, whereas elsewhere with proper nouns, they would usually be declined strongly.
- Kær vinur (strong adjective, full noun) er gulli betri.
- A dear friend is better than gold.
- Kæri vin (weak adjective, shortened noun), segðu mér nú sögu.
- Dear friend, tell me a story.
Unlike other Slavic languages, Bulgarian has entirely lost its noun declension. However, Bulgarian preserves its vocative case. Traditional male names usually have a vocative case.
- Иван (nominative case)
- Иване (vocative case)
More recent names and foreign names may have a vocative form but it is not used (Ричарде, instead of simply Ричард (Richard) sounds strange and funny). Vocative phrases like господин министре (Mr. Minister) have almost completely been replaced by corresponding common case forms, especially in official writing. Proper nouns usually also have vocative forms, even though they are used less frequently. The following are examples of proper nouns that are frequently used in vocative:
- бог (god)
- боже ([,] God[,])
- господ (lord)
- господи ([,] Lord[,])
- Иисус, Иисус Христос (Jesus, Jesus Christ)
- Иисусе, Иисусе Христе
- другар (comrade)
- поп (priest)
- жаба (frog)
- жабо ([,] Frog[,])
- глупак (fool)
- глупако (you, fool!)
Vocative case forms also normally exist for female given names:
Except for forms that end in -е, these are considered rude, and are normally avoided. Exception are female kinship terms, whose vocative is always used: баба/бабо (Granny), мама/мамо (Mom), леля/лельо (aunt), сестра/сестро (sister).
In Czech, the vocative (5. pád) differs from the nominative in masculine and feminine nouns in singular. Two exceptions, where Vocative and Nominative case are undistinguishable, are mentioned in the following table.
|Nominative case||Vocative case|
|paní Eva (Ms Eve)||paní Evo! (Ms Eve!)|
|pan profesor (Mr Professor)||pane profesore! (Mr Professor!)|
|Kryštof (Christoph)||Kryštofe! (Christoph!)|
|pan Dobrý||pane Dobrý!|
In informal speech, it is usual that the male surname (see also Czech name) is in nominative when addressing men, e.g., pane Novák! instead of pane Nováku! (Female surnames are adjectives, thus they are the same in the nominative as well as in the vocative—see Czech declension.) Teachers often address their pupils with the surname in nominative. However, such addressing can seem impolite. Using the appropriate vocative is strongly recommended in the official and written styles.
In Polish, the vocative (wołacz) is formed as follows: Feminine nouns usually take -o, except those that end in -sia, -cia, -nia, and -dzia, which take -u, and those that end in -ść, which take -i. Masculine nouns generally follow the complex pattern of the locative case, with the exception of a handful of words such as Bóg → Boże ("God"), ojciec → ojcze ("father") and chłopiec → chłopcze ("boy"). Neuter nouns and all plural nouns are the same as in the nominative case. Here are some examples:
|Nominative case||Vocative case|
|Pani Ewa (Mrs. Eve)||Pani Ewo! (Mrs. Eve!)|
|Ewusia (diminutive form of Ewa)||Ewusiu!|
|Pan profesor (Mr. Professor)||Panie profesorze! (Mr. Professor!)|
|Krzysztof (Christopher)||Krzysztofie! (Christopher!)|
|Krzyś (Chris)||Krzysiu! (Chris!)|
The nominative is increasingly used in place of the vocative when addressing people with their proper names. In other contexts the vocative remains prevalent. It is used:
- To address an individual using his/her function, title, other attribute, family role
- Panie doktorze (Doctor!), Panie prezesie! (Chairman!)
- Przybywasz za późno, pływaku (You arrive too late, swimmer)
- synu (son), mamo (mum), tato (dad)
- After adjectives, demonstrative pronouns, and possessive pronouns
- Nie rozumiesz mnie, moja droga Basiu! (You don't understand me, my dear Basia!)
- To address an individual in an offensive or condescending manner, e.g.
- Zamknij się, pajacu! ("Shut up, you buffoon!")
- Co się gapisz, idioto? ("What are you staring at, idiot!")
- Nie znasz się, baranie, to nie pisz ("Stop writing, idiot, you don't know what you're talking about!")
- Spadaj wieśniaku! ("Get lost, peasant!")
- After "Ty" (second person singular pronoun)
- Ty kłamczuchu! (You liar!)
- Set expressions, e.g.
- (O) Matko!, (O) Boże!, chłopie
The vocative is also often employed in affectionate and endearing contexts such as Kocham Cię, Krzysiu! ("I love you, Chris!") or Tęsknię za Tobą, moja Żono. ("I miss you, my wife.") In addition, the vocative form sometimes takes the place of the nominative in informal conversations, e.g. "Józiu przyszedł" instead of "Józio przyszedł" ("Joey's arrived").
The historical Slavic vocative has been lost in Russian, and currently can only be found in certain cases of archaic expressions. Several of those expressions, mostly of religious origin, are common in colloquial Russian: "Боже!" (Bozhe, vocative of "Бог" Bog, "God"), often also used in expression "Боже мой!" (Bozhe moy, "My God!"), and "Господи!" (Gospodi, vocative of "Господь" Gospod', "Lord"), which can also be expressed as "Господи Иисусе!" (Gospodi Iisuse!, Iisuse vocative of "Иисус" Iisus, "Jesus"), vocative is also used in prayers, e.g. "Отче наш!" (Otche nash, "Our Father!"). These expressions are used to express strong emotions (much like English "O my God!"), and are often combined ("Господи, Боже мой"). More examples of historical vocative can be found in other Biblical quotes that are sometimes used as proverbs, e.g. "Врачу, исцелися сам" (Vrachu, istselisya sam, "Physician, heal thyself", cf. nominative "врач", vrach). Vocative forms are also used in modern Church Slavonic. The patriarch and bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church are addressed as "владыко" (vladyko, hegemon, cf. nominative "владыка", vladyka). In the latter case the vocative form is often also incorrectly used as nominative to refer to bishops and the patriarchs.
In modern colloquial Russian given names and a small family of terms often take a special "shortened" form that some linguists consider a reemerging vocative case. This form is applied only to given names and nouns that end in -a and -я, which are optionally dropped in the vocative form: "Лен, где ты?" ("Lena, where are you?"). This is basically equivalent to "Лена, где ты?", the only difference being that the former version suggests a positive personal, emotional bond between the speaker and the person being addressed. Names that end in -я acquire a soft sign in this case: "Оль!" = "Оля!" ("Olga!"). In addition to given names, this form is often used with words like "мама" (mama, mom) and "папа" (papa, dad), which would be respectively "shortened" to "мам" (mam) and "пап" (pap). In plural this form is used with words such as "ребят", "девчат" (nominative: "ребята" "девчата", guys gals).
Such usage differs from historical vocative (which would be "Лено" in the example above) and is not related to such historical usage.
Until the end of the 1980s, the existence of a distinct vocative case in the Slovak language was recognised and taught at schools. Today the case is considered lost from the language, with only a few archaic examples of the original vocative remaining in religious, literary or ironic context, such as
- Boh (God) m.: Bože
- Kristus (Christ) m.: Kriste
- pán (lord) m.: pane
- otec (father) m.: otče
- človek (man, human) m.: človeče
- chlap (man) m.: chlape
- chlapec (boy) m.: chlapče
- Ježiš (Jesus) m.: Ježišu
- priateľ (friend) m.: priateľu
- brat (brother) m.: bratu, bratku
- syn (son) m.: synu, synku
- mama (mother) f.: mamo
- žena (woman) f.: ženo
In everyday use, the Czech vocative is sometimes retrofitted to certain words, such as
- majster (maestro) m.: majstre
- šéf (boss) m.: šéfe
- švagor (brother-in-law) m.: švagre
Another stamp of vernacular vocative is emerging, presumably under the influence of the Hungarian language for certain family members or proper names, such as
- otec (father) m.: oci
- mama (mother) f.: mami
- babka (grandmother, old woman) f.: babi
- Paľo (Paul, domestic form) m.: Pali
- Zuza (Susan, domestic form) f.: Zuzi
Ukrainian has retained the vocative case mostly as it was in common Slavic:
- бог [bog] (god) m.: боже [bože]
- друг [drug] (friend) m.: друже [druže]
- матуcя [matusia] (minnie) f.: матусю [matusiu]
- неня [nenia] (nanny) f.: нене [nene]
- бабця [babcia] (granny) f.: бабцю [babciu]
- батько [batko] (father) m.: батьку [batku]
- брат [brat] (brother) m.: брате [brate]
- син [syn] (son) m.: сину [synu]
- жінка [žinka] (woman) f.: жінко [žinko]
- дружина [družyna] (wife) f.: дружино [družyno]
- дівчина [divčina] (girl) f.: дівчино [divčinо]
- сестра [sestra] (sister) f.: сестро [sestro]
- людина [ludyna] (human) f.: людино [ludyno]
- чоловік [čolovik] (man) m.: чоловіче [čoloviče]
- хлопець [chlopeć] (boy) m.: хлопче [chlopče]
- святий отець [sviatyj oteć] (Holy Father) m.: святий отче [sviatyj otče]
- приятель [pryjatel] (fellow) m.: приятелю [pryjatelu]
- пан [pan] (sir, Mr.) m.: пане [pane]
With some exceptions, however:
- мати [maty] (mother) f.: мамо [mamo]
- божа матір [boža matir] (God's Mother) f.: матір божа [matir boža]
Also used for loan words and foreign names:
- Джон [Džon] (John) m.: Джоне [Džone]
- пан президент [pan presydent] (Mr. President) m.: пане президенте [pane presydente]
And obligatory for all native names:
- Володимир [Volodymyr] m.: Володимире [Volodymere]
- Святослав [Sviatoslav] m.: Святославе [Sviatoslave]
- Мирослава [Myroslava] f.: Мирославо [Myroslavо]
- Ганна [Hanna] f.: Ганно [Hanno]
In Latin the form of the vocative case of a noun is the same as the nominative, except for singular second-declension nouns that end in -us in the nominative case. An example would be the famous line from Shakespeare, "Et tu, Brute?" (commonly translated as "And you, Brutus?"), where Brute is the vocative case and Brutus would be the nominative case.
Nouns that end in -ius have distinct vocatives, but instead of the expected ending -ie they simply end with -ī. Thus, Julius becomes Julī and filius becomes filī. This shortening does not shift the accent, so the vocative of Vergilius is Vergilī, with accent on the first i, even though it is short. Nouns that end in -aius and -eius have vocatives that end in -aī or -eī even though the i is consonantal in the stem.
First and second declension adjectives also have distinct vocative forms in the masculine singular whenever the nominative ends in -us, with the ending -e. Adjectives that end in -ius have vocatives in -ie; thus the vocative of eximius is eximie.
Nouns and adjectives that end in -eus do not follow the rules above. Meus forms the vocative irregularly as mī, while deus does not have a distinct vocative, and retains the form deus. "My God!" in Latin is thus mī deus!, though Jerome's Vulgate consistently (and in deviation from classical use) uses deus meus as a vocative.
The vocative case in Romanian is partly inherited from Latin, partly borrowed from Slavic and partly developed in Romanian. Morphologically it is built using specific endings, occasionally causing other morphophonemic changes (see also the article on Romanian nouns):
- singular masculine/neuter: "-e" as in
- "om": "omule!" (man, human being),
- "băiat": "băiete!" or "băiatule!" (boy),
- "văr": "vere!" (cousin),
- "Ion": "Ioane!" (John);
- singular feminine: "-o" as in
- "soră": "soro!" (sister),
- "nebună": "nebuno!" (mad woman),
- "deşteaptă": "deşteapto!" (smart one (f), but this vocative is always used sarcastically),
- "Ileana": "Ileano!" (Helen);
Since there is no -o vocative that end for any declension type in Latin, obviously these forms have been borrowed from Slavic, see corresponding Bulgarian forms сестро (sestro), откачалко (otkachalko), Елено (Eleno).
- plural, all genders: "-lor" as in
- "fraţi": "fraţilor!" (brothers),
- "boi": "boilor!" (oxen, used toward people as an invective),
- "doamne şi domni": "doamnelor şi domnilor!" (ladies and gentlemen).
Often in formal speech the vocative simply copies the nominative/accusative form, even when it does have its own. This happens because the vocative is often perceived as very direct and thus can seem rude.
Venetian has lost all case endings, as have most Romance languages. However, with feminine proper names the role of the vocative is played by the absence of the determiner; i.e. the personal article ła / l', which usually precedes feminine names in other situations, even in predicates. Masculine names and other nouns, on the other hand, rely solely on prosody to mark forms of address:
|Case||Fem. proper name||Masc. proper name and other nouns|
|Nom./Acc.||ła Marìa ła vien qua / varda ła Marìa!
Mary comes here / look at Mary!
|Marco el vien qua / varda Marco!
Mark comes here / look at Mark!
|Vocative||Marìa vien qua! / varda, Marìa!
Mary come here! / look, Mary!
|Marco vien qua! / varda, Marco!
Mark come here! / look, Mark!
And in predicative constructions:
|Case||Fem. proper name||Masc. proper name and other nouns|
|Pred.||so' mi ła Marìa
I am Mary
|so' mi Marco / so' tornà maestra
I am Mark / I am a teacher again
|Vocative||so' mi Marìa!
It's me, Mary!
|so' mi, Marco! / so' tornà, maestra!
it's me, Mark! / I am back, teacher!
In some German dialects, e.g. in the Ripuarian dialect of Cologne, it is common to use the (gender-)appropriate article before a person's name. In the vocative phrase then the article is, as in Venetian, omitted. Thus the determiner precedes nouns in all cases but the vocative. So, any noun not preceded by an article or other determiner is in vocative case. It is most often used to address someone or some group of living beings—usually in conjunction with an imperative construct. It can also be used to address dead matter as if the matter could react; or to tell something astonishing or just realized, such as in a sentence like, "Your nose is dripping."
- Do es der Päul — Päul, kumm ens erövver!
- There is
thePaul. Paul, come over [please]!
- There is
- Och do leeven Kaffepott, do bes jo am dröppe!
- O [my] dear coffee pot, you are dripping!
- Pääde, jooht loufe! Un di Pääde jonn loufe.
- Horses, run away! And the horses are running away.
- Talking to an engine while trying to make it start: Nu schpreng ändlesch aan!
Kurdish has a vocative case. For instance, in the Kurdish dialect of Kurmanji, this case is created by adding the suffix of -o at the end of masculine words and the -ê suffix at the end of feminine ones.
|Arabic name||Kurdish vocative|
Instead of the vocative case, forms of address may be created using the grammatical particles lê (feminine) and lo (masculine):
|Azad (m)||Lo Azad!|
|Diyar (f)||Lo Diyar!|
The vocative case in other languages
|Look up يا in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.|
Properly speaking, Arabic only has three cases, the nominative, accusative and genitive. However, a meaning similar to that conveyed by the vocative case in other languages is indicated by the use of the particle yā (Arabic: يا) placed before a noun. In English translations, this is often translated literally as O instead of being omitted.
In the Beijing accent of Mandarin Chinese, when expressing strong feeling (especially negative feelings) to some one, "ei" is added to the word you address the one you are calling, and the "ei" is stressed. The most common one is adding "ei" to "孙子" (sunzi, lit. "grandson"), to form a sunzei, which meaning is like "Hey you nasty one!"
In Georgian, the vocative case is used for addressing the second singular and plural persons. For the word roots that end with a consonant, the vocative case suffix is -o, and for the words that end with a vowel the suffix for the vocative case is -v as it was in old Georgian, but for some words it is considered archaic. For example, kats- is the root for the word "man." If one addresses someone with this word, it becomes, katso!
Adjectives are also declined in the vocative case. Just like nouns, consonant final stem adjectives take the suffix -o in the vocative case, and the vowel final stems are not changed. Compare:
- lamazi kali "beautiful woman" (nominative case)
- lamazo kalo! "beautiful woman!" (vocative case)
In the second phrase, both the adjective and the noun are declined. The second singular and plural personal pronouns are also declined in the vocative case. Shen you(singular) and tkven you (plural) in the vocative case become, she! and tkve!, with the drop of the final -n. Therefore one could, for instance, say,
She lamazo kalo! "you beautiful woman!"
with the declination of all the elements.
The vocative case in Korean is commonly used with first names in casual situations. This is done by suffixing 아 (a) if the name ends in a consonant and 야 (ya) if in a vowel:
미진은 집에 가겠어? (Mijin-eun chibe kagesseo?)
"Is Mijin going home?"
미진아, 집에 가겠어? (Mijin-a, chibe kagesseo?)
"Mijin, are you going home?
동배 뭐 해? (Dongbae meo hae?)
What is Dongbae doing?
동배야, 뭐 해? (Dongbae-ya, meo hae?)
"Dongbae, what are you doing?
In formal and somewhat archaic Korean, words are suffixed with 여 (yeo) if they end in a vowel and 이여 (iyeo) if they end in a consonant. The use of these suffixes is similar to that of the Japanese よ. Thus, 少年よ、大志を抱け (a quote by William S. Clark) would be translated as
청년들이여 대망을 가져라. (Cheongnyeondeul-iyeo, taemangeul kajyeora.)
Boys, be ambitious.
- Russian: Реформатский А. А. Введение в языковедение / Под ред. В. А. Виноградова. — М.: Аспект Пресс. 1998. С. 488. ISBN 5-7567-0202-4
- Lillian A. Parrott, Université Paris 8. Vocatives and other direct address forms: a contrastive study. A. Grønn & I. Marijanovic (eds.) Russian in Contrast, Oslo Studies in Language 2(1), 2010. 211–229. (ISSN 1890-9639)
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