Scholarly article on topic 'The Distinction between Term and Word: A Translator and Interpreter Problem and the Role of Teaching Terminology'

The Distinction between Term and Word: A Translator and Interpreter Problem and the Role of Teaching Terminology Academic research paper on "Computer and information sciences"

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Abstract of research paper on Computer and information sciences, author of scientific article — Shair Ali Khan

Abstract Human Language is a complex physiological activity influencing and influenced by a vast range of systems. Therefore, fixing a word for a specific meaning and attaching a cultural meaning to words becomes challenging. Here a translator and interpreter mentally get confused. The role of teaching terminology in a translation class is visible that provides a clear image of term, word, terminology, terminologists, terminography and terminographests with a variety of examples. The article introduces the syllabus of teaching translation terminology, its contents and methodology, its effects on the terminological competencies of multilingual learners.

Academic research paper on topic "The Distinction between Term and Word: A Translator and Interpreter Problem and the Role of Teaching Terminology"

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Procedia - Social and Behavioral Sciences 232 (2016) 696 - 704

International Conference on Teaching and Learning English as an Additional Language, GlobELT 2016, 14-17 April 2016, Antalya, Turkey

The Distinction between Term and Word: A Translator and Interpreter Problem and the Role of Teaching Terminology

Shair Ali Khana*

aDepartment ofTranslation & Interpretation, Faculty of Arabic, International Islamic University, Islamabaad, Pakistan


Human Language is a complex physiological activity influencing and influenced by a vast range of systems. Therefore, fixing a word for a specific meaning and attaching a cultural meaning to words becomes challenging. Here a translator and interpreter mentally get confused. The role of teaching terminology in a translation class is visible that provides a clear image of term, word, terminology, terminologists, terminography and terminographests with a variety of examples. The article introduces the syllabus of teaching translation terminology, its contents and methodology, its effects on the terminological competencies of multilingual learners.

© 2016 The Authors.PublishedbyElsevierLtd. This is an open access article under the CC BY-NC-ND license (http://creativecommons.Org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/).

Peer-review under responsibility of the organizing committee of GlobELT 2016 Keywords: term; terminolog; terminography, semantic ambiguity

1. Introduction

The word term dates back to Medieval Latin 'terminus-term' in the meaning of "limit in time, set or appointed time", and 'end, boundary'(Dictionary Reference, 2016). Naming principles in the area of natural sciences; chemistry, zoology, botany, medicine and mathematics was started in the late nineteenth century as mentioned by Sonneveld and Loening (1993). Then industrialization is the first reason of terminology creation and standardization of technical and scientific terminology (Sonneveld and Loening, 1993). The activity concerned with the systematization and representation of concepts or with the presentation of terminologies on the basis of established principles and methods

* Corresponding author. E-mail address:

1877-0428 © 2016 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Ltd. This is an open access article under the CC BY-NC-ND license (

Peer-review under responsibility of the organizing committee of GlobELT 2016 doi:10.1016/j.sbspro.2016.10.095

is called terminology as Helmi and Kurt quoting the definition of ISO-1087 said: 'A terminology is a set of terms representing the system of concepts of a particular subject field'(Sonneveld and Loening, 1993).

Lynne Bowker mentioned the emergence of terminology resources as term bases prepared by translators, term banks produced by terminologists, electronic dictionaries, and online dictionaries of special terms in a specific discipline (Sonneveld and Loening, 1993). Bassey Eden Antia mentioned that terminology is part of elaboration in Haugen's model, an aspect of intellectualization in Garvin's language development, a part of modernization in Ferguson's scheme, and a component in Neustupny's cultivation approach, claiming that the challenges in the way of implementation or use of a selected code is the main reason of work on terminology (Gelinas-Surprenant and Hussman, 2015).

All the branches specially technology is in dire need of setting terminology, terminology banks, trees and glossaries being the essential bases for better translation as many types of term formation needs different term knowledge and techniques (Ananiadou, 199 4).

2. Term, Terminology and Terminography

The words term, terminology and terminography are interlinked conceptually. A term may constitute of words.

2.1. Word & Term

A term is a word that contains linguistic characters, and systems (Ananiadou, 1994). Carolina defined 'term' as sign closely linked to a specialized conceptual content. Modern time 'systematic terminology' is based on an idea of science because of being a well formed language (Popp, 2001). The dictionary of Linguistics and Phonetics defines it: "A unit of expression which has universal intuitive recognition by native-speakers, in both spoken and written language". Then the dictionary points out to the problems that cannot be solved by regular definitions like "units of meaning" or "idea" due to the vagueness. It can be orthographic for writing and the phonological for speech (Crystal, 2008). An influencing definition presented by Bloomfield as "minimal free form" that means the smallest unit capable to constitute a complete utterances (Crystal, 2008). Jennifer Pearson defining term according to traditional terminologists as "labels for concepts which are abstract entities isolated from text. The term which is agreed upon may be a single word or a multiword unit." (Ananiadou, 1994, p.1034).

2.2. Difference between Word and Term

The main difference between a term and a word is the nature of reference. Term is characterized as mono-referential in a very specific concept at high degree relating to a specific area or field or discipline. It involves linguistic (lexical, syntactical and semantic) as well as concepts (generic, portative and casual) restrictions. Scholars worked out and made clear the distinction between 'word' and 'term' quoting the renowned scholars of the fields. Here is a summary of their works:

2.3. Pearson Differentiation

Jennifer Pearson has quoted the traditional and pragmatic definitions of terms. She quoted Rondeau under traditional term definition that "term is basically a linguistic sign in the Saussurian sense; it has a significant and a signifie." She further quoted Rondeau who mentioned word 'label' with the title 'denomination' and the word 'notion' with the title 'concept', then she compared Rondeau with Wuster who suggested for terminologists to take start from concept then select proper label for that specific subject. She mentioned Rondeau's claim about distinction between words and terms that are used according to him in 'special subject domain' (Pearson, 1998). Pearson quoted Sager's distinctive definition between 'terms' and 'words':

"... the items which are characterized by special reference within a discipline are the 'terms' of the discipline, and collectively they form its 'terminology'; those which function in general reference over a variety of sublanguages are simply called 'words' and their totality is the 'vocabulary'" (p. 15).

Yang described 'sub-technical terms' as the words having special reference with a usage in more than one discipline as Pearson quoted. Pearson noted that 'a term may consists of one or more words (i.e. simple term) or complex term or even contains symbols', and 'a word; the smallest linguistic unit, conveys a specific meaning, capable of existing as a separate unit in a sentence', whereas 'a written word is marked off by spaces or punctuation marks before and after' (Pearson, 2008, pp.15-16).

The summary of traditional view of Jennifer's work is as follow:

Table 1. The summary of traditional view of Pearson


The notion of term can be applied to lexical items with

_special reference in a restricted subject field.( Sager)_

It can be the label or linguistic symbol for a concept. ( ISO, Felber)

It is the equivalent of de Saussure's linguistic sign i.e. the combination of signifiant and signifie. ( Rondeau) Technical Terms: used in a single subject field

_General Terms: used in more than one subject field._

Words are those where the meaning is not protected_Terms the meaning is agreed and protected_

Difficulty in deciding a lexical item as a term or general

vocabulary according to traditional view._

Enlisting all special subject fields in separate entities which is suitable for exact sciences is a problem for disciplines due to interdisciplinarity

_The meaning of term evolves according to the rise in need.

Pearson (1998, p.18) mentioned pragmatic definition of term quoting Hoffmann, Herbert, Godman & Payne, Trimble & Trimble, and Yang;

Table 2. The definitions of the terms



Three ways to answer what constitutes a term. Narrow view:

• subject specific terminology =terms

• Other words are vocabulary

Next view:

• Lexical units of LSP are highly technical category or belongs to the 'bank of technical terms'

The reason is that these words are also used in general language.

Herbert Problem: it is not clear from

Herbert's second kind that when these general language words become terms will they denote to one meaning or more than one meaning?

Divides Terms in two Categories:

• Highly technical terms contain specialized meaning= subject specific term as referred by Trimble & Trimble

• Semi-scientific or semi-technical words having whole range of meaning used frequently idiomatically. i. e. general language words contain both special domain and general meanings._

Godman & Jennifer mentioned problem Payne with the distinction of


Two types:

Technical terms: those have congruity of concept among all scientist

regardless the language characterized by the clarity of object

Non-technical terms: subdivided into two:

Terms of general language.

Terms being basic list for usage in science.

It is clear in Table 3 that Zhu quoted Roudeau making clear difference between a word and term (Yubin, 2008).

Shair Ali Khan / Procedia - Social and Behavioral Sciences 232 (2016) 696 — 704 Table 3. The definitions of 'word' and 'term'


Words meanings defined from the existing form._terms need the form( nomenclature) found for the known referent._

words pin down the meanings of the linguistic form terms start from the concept ( referent) to think about the name of the

after distinguishing a linguistic form._specified concept._

Ordinary words are often polysemous, many words terms based on singularity of meaning and uniqueness in referent where

contain the same meanings which show the richness of nomenclature and concept are uniquely matched.

linguistic expressions._for a term, nomenclature and concept are uniquely matched._

there are cases when one term has many meanings or many terms actually refer to one concept, terminologists always try their best to avoid or even erase such phenomena instead of letting them grow uncontrollable as in _the case of ordinary words"(Huang & Chen, 2001: 158)_

2.4. Kinds of Terminology and Function

Scholars working in the field of terminology mentioned the kinds of terminology:

• Classical terminology: in which terms must be univocal (monosemous), its value defined by external, non-linguistic reference points, e.g. ISOs.(e.g. Sager et al.,1980)

• Descriptive terminology: Terms can be called the special use of polysemous words defined in the dictionaries. (e.g. Cabre,1995; Temmerman, 2000)

• Socio-cognitive terminology: it discusses the cognitive aspect of terminology in domain-specific language related to verbal, situational and cognitive contexts of various discourses. (Temmerman et al., 2005.)

The function of terminology is to identify the precise association between the term and concept, while the term exists already. Jennifer Pearson mentioned two kinds of terminologists; "Traditional Terminologists" who study terms in isolation without its context, and "Modern Terminologists" who keep in view its usage determining its meaning according to textual variations (Pearson, 1998). She further added that both 'traditional and modern' terminologists shared same view that is rooted in theoretical terminology of Eugen Wuster in early 19th century (Pearson, 1998, p.2).

2.5. Terminograpy

Terminography means the science, craft of describing terminology whereas lexicography means the science, craft of describing the lexicon (Yubin, 2008). Carolina Popp mentions that terminography is the practical side of terminology. It compiles, classifies and properly organizes nomenclatures which are terms sets of a particular field (Popp, 2001). It is a practical discipline of applied science based on theoretical foundation (Popp, 2001). Its objectives and aims being a practical activity, as Carolina suggested, are to solve problems of communication (Popp, 2001). Carolina backed terminography to Plato and Aristotelian age having special place in the archaeology of knowledge (Popp, 2001). Due to advancement in automation terminographer paid attention to the business of terminographic description using the basic knowledge of linguistics, pragmatics and cognition (Popp, 2001).

3. Problems of Translators and Interpreters

Lexicographers face the answer of the question 'what does this word mean'? Whereas the terminographers / terminologists face the question 'which term adequately represent a concept in a specific domain'?, said Magner Brekke (Ananiadou, 1994). Jennifer while summarizing view points of all the traditional and pragmatic terminologist, point out the problems these views face and the users confront while reading the text for translation or comprehension. It is the toughest task to separate a term from a word. It becomes severe when synonymy, homonymy or polysemy plays their role in rendering meaning (Ananiadou, 1994).

3.1. Lexicology Relating Problems

Lexicology studies the lexicon or words or vocabulary of a language in general. It works through linguistic representation distinguishing between synonyms, polysemes, and homonyms. Synonyms are the words different in

spelling containing similar meaning. They can be noun as "baby-infant", adverb as "speedily-quickly" and an adjective as "ill-sick" (Drame, 2006).

Polysemes have the same pronunciation or spelling (or both) as another word, but a different, though related meanings. Polysemes have the same pronunciation or spelling (or both) as another word, but a different, though Homonyms have the same pronunciation or spelling (or both) with different meanings as another word, but with different and not related meaning). Homonymy starts where speakers no longer recognize the semantic relation between words/terms for example: desert = abandon, desert = arid region; waste, waist; mean = intend, mean =average (Drame, 2006).

Jason Utt and Sebastian Pado quoted renowned scholars of lexicology and semantics like Nunberg and Zaenen (1992); Copestake and Briscoe (1995); Pustejovsky(1995); Nunberg (1995) that semantic ambiguity is divided into polysemy and homonymy, explaining homonymous words that possess the same pronunciation or spelling with unrelated senses like Bank- Financial Institution; Bank- Natural Object; Bank- Side of River, whereas polysemy words have different phonemes with related senses like: animal; lamb, chickens, and Flower; lily, tulip (Utt and Pado, 2016). Utt and Pado said that the systematicity among these words is a challenge for lexical semantics while they further elaborated that distinction between polysemy and homonymy is important for removing the ambiguity.

They further mentioned that the biggest problem in the field of translation is finding out the equivalent of "abstract synonym" that contains just feeling, wishes non touchable features which differ from scientific discipline to another discipline. These examples differentiate between the simple equivalent and current sense and meaning equality: jj^l = 'aversion', wrath, but the prevailing sense is jj^l- Furry i.e. a^I^Xa^l, Rage (2000^^j-^-«).

All these lexical ambiguities are not only critical problems for lexicographers and linguists but it become the worst and disastrous for translators and interpreters when they fail to differentiate among them during their serious job of transferring the meanings of a text or speech.

3.2. Semantics Related Problems

Words contain the flexibility of accepting various meaning from place to place, from period to period and from culture to culture. In the view of Enani (2015) new categories are born according to various principles and the 'semantic rage' of every 'term' gets changes due to which some 'specific terms' might be further 'qualified' to remove confusion and other get extension to add similar categories (Enani, 2015, p. 11). The problems of abstractions, synchronic and diachronic and conceptual forms are serious hurdles in rendering the actual meaning according to the time, place, culture and discipline. Enani (2015) mentioned a range of such examples like the Arabic word " ¡^1" plural " fjl»^" both are used in the translation of UNESCO ( The United Nation Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization- fj^lj ^jjH sa^II ^Vl but now UNESCO changed the plural form into singular

form (f^l) on the bases that it denotes a specific category of physical science born in 17th century, whereas it denotes the concept of five stage method; observation, hyppthesis, experiment, theory, and law of 19th century with the term ( ( Enani, 2015, p. 13). Similarly the Arabic word ( as "judgement" but with multiple contextual meanings, as Kant's Critique of Judgement ^ ) in the meaning of "understanding, good snese, and discrimination", the word as "wisdom" and the ability to decide or determine", the word (^j^l) used by Ali bin Abi Talib in his

address in response of the matter of "attribution -^jS^jII " to the modern meaning of ( government).

4. Terminology as a Discipline

Terminology is a young profession with a bright future ahead of it as said by Gelinas-Surprenant and Hussman (2015). According to the traditional approach of terminology the purpose of terms is fixing the relationship between term and concept to facilitate communication as said by Pearson (1998). Grattidge and Westbrook (1993) elaborated a number of classical treatments of terminology as a field of study; hence on the bases of these treatments they argued that it can be prima facia evidence of terminology as "reasonable in its own right".

Lynne Bowker defined Terminology as a discipline that deals with the collection, processing, description and presentation of terms which are lexical items belonging to a specialized subject field (e.g. medicine, law, engineering, library science or art history) (Gelinas-Surprenant and Hussman, 2015). Marcel Thelen and Frieda Steurs elaborated

the vastness of terminology, its effect and importance saying that "terminology affects more than just translation", because its effects are multi-dimensional and multi-cultural due to which modern countries update their language and translation policies to meet the new demands of globalized society as translating a bio-energy, or diabetes or interpretation at an International Court of Justice, in which correct communication is not possible without a clear concept of terminology (Gelinas-Surprenant and Hussman, 2015).

Korkas, Pavlides and Rogers (2005) concluded their article that terminology studies as subject taught in the context of postgraduate translation program is rather a complex affair as the right balance between theory and practice needs to be found. Popp (2001) considered terminology closed to epistemology; the theory of knowledge. With the emergence of new linguistic branches specially relating to translation studies, terminology became a very much formulized field of research as elaborated by Korkas et al. (2005).

5. Teaching Terminology

Due to the globalized importance of translation and interpretation in the current world a critical need for teaching terminology as a subject that provides all theoretical and practical aspects for students to fill the gap and solve the problems of translators and interpreters is severely felt worldwide in all the educational institutions and the practical institutions. Zhu Yubin (2008) mentioned quoting Roudeau 1985, Dubuc (1990), Feng (1997) that since 1980s Chinese scholars have translated and compiled some introductory books on terminology. Along with this he further quoted Zheng (2003/2005) that there is a call for preparing a course on terminology in the institutions. Due to the growing need and importance of terminology China National Committee for Natural Scientific Terms was constituted in 1985 that further reframed as China National Committee for terms in sciences and technologies (CNCTST) in 1996. It published the agreed upon linguistic expressions i.e. terminology in special fields. For the coordination and exchange of scientific and technological terms Chinese scholars and institutions traced relations with the International Standardization Organization (ISO).

5.1. Role of Teaching Terminology in curbing the problems

Translation may be the world's second oldest profession, said Baer and Koby (2003). It passed through various stages of teaching starting from using it as the single tool of teaching in religious circles and then all other educational institutions. Teaching terminology in a class room with a rich syllabus and methods has far reaching affects not only in the translation circles but in all other relating fields of studies. Preparing appropriate syllabus and adopting good method for the teaching of terminology can play a vital role in curbing the problems pointed by the scholars of this field as mentioned above.

Through inducting terminology in a class room as a complete syllabus designed for multi purposes will no doubt enrich the translators and interpreters to cope with the terminological problems in their practical life. It will enable them to play double role as a translator cum terminologist while confronting new terms in the source language text or speech. Teaching terminology creates the ability of coining new terms among the learners in such a critical position where dictionaries fail to provide any suitable equivalent.

5.2. Teaching Terminology at BS Translation & Interpretation Level

Keeping in view the growing need and importance of terminology, the department of translation & interpretation, International Islamic University, inducted terminology as a subject in its ever first four years academic program "BS Translation & Interpretation" started in 2006. The title of this course is "Translation of Variety of Terminology" under the Course Code TI (C)-139, with three credit hours per week in its 8th academic semester. The Course aims at equipping the students with various terms used in current translation world, full comprehension of translation rules, strategies and its various usages according to various contextual, disciplinary and cultural variants.

5.3. Course Contents

The course contents are divided into parts; first part contain theoretical background, importance, and rules of translating terminology, clarifying the difference between a term and a word, their meanings, definition of terminology, and the introduction of its new area terminography. The second part consists of 35 academic disciplines. Every student is supposed to practice, comprehend and memorize at least 50 terms from every disciplines. The following are the discipline contents: Accounting, Advertising/Public Relations; Business/Commerce (general); Certificates, Diplomas, Licenses, CVs; Cinema, Film, TV, Drama; Computers (general); Computers: Hardware; Computers Software; Computers Systems, Networks; Economics; Education / Pedagogy; Electronics/Elect Eng; Finance (general); Human Resources; IT (Information Technology); Idioms / Maxims/Sayings, International Org/Dev/Coop ; Internet; e-Commerce; Law (general); Law: Contract(s); Law: Patents, Trademarks, Copyright; Law: Taxation & Customs; Linguistics, Media / Multimedia; Medical (general); Medical: Cardiology; Medical: Dentistry; Medical: Health Care; Medical: Instruments; Medical: Pharmaceuticals; Poetry & Literature; Telecom(munications); Tourism & Travel; Transport / Transportation / Shipping.

5.4. Methodology

The syllabus of this course contains thirty five disciplines. Various teaching strategies and mixed teaching methodology have been applied to teach these contents within a period of four months; 16 weeks; 32 periods; each period of one and half hour. This class consists of multilingual students from Pakistan, China, Saudi Arabia, Thai Land, Nepal, Maldip, Somal, Sudan, Jordan, and other African countries. Due to these multicultural lingual varieties of students, various teaching strategies are applied to maintain the interest of students mentioned below:

• Terminologies of modern Arabic and English languages, in short, long sentences and paragraphs are discussed in the class according to the titles prescribed in the syllabus.

• In the First period of every week the class teacher teaches the terminologies of the academic disciplines listed in the syllabus; the rules of translating terms explaining various connotation of a terms occurred in a text.

• The students are assigned topics from the listed disciplines for self preparation and then presentation in every second class of the week.

• The students are assigned assignments about various aspects of terminologies; new researches in the field of terminologies, collecting books about various fields, getting information about various online resources of terminologies: banks, data or services. They prepare all their assignments according to the guidelines outlined by the class teacher for them.

• Applying motivational principles all the class and outclass activities contain specific marks.

• Students have been provided a "Term Book" that contains a sufficient number of terms, phrases relating to the course outline. Every student is directed to memorize, write and translate the term into their mother tongue for better comprehension from Arabic-English by phrasing new conceptual sentences.

• All the assignments and student presentations are electronically shared among the whole class. Class Representative remains responsible for reminding and streamlining all such learning activities.

• Every student is supposed to evaluate at least a book or term dictionary of a specific discipline and present the summary of his/her analysis in the class.

6. Some Examples of Terms Meaning

We can easily observe the problems of a translator or interpreter while specifying the meanings of terms to a specific discipline (Al-Dahdah, 1998; Lectric Law Library, 2015):

Table 4. Problems with the specifications of the meanings of the terms

Term Meaning Problem

• • Poem Community (group of people having the same religion, race or interest) The word is a patient noun or passive participle from the root letters 'N. Z. M.' Grammatically it means "the words arranged in a poetical style" which in other words means a poetical piece of work i.e. a poem. In Sociology it means a group of people.

• System In Computer science it means a system of languages.

• Suit In case of attribution its meanings varies to a large extant.

In Education it means a system of rules of teaching.

The word is an Augmented Original (gerund) from the root letters 'N- F- R'. that originally means :" mutually aversion, repulsion, disagreement, conflict". In different sciences its meanings vary:

Semantics: ----

Rhetoric: --Law: Variance that means: A disagreement or difference between two parts of the same legal proceeding, which ought to agree together. Variances are between the writ and the declaration, and between the declaration and the evidence.

a*** Stove -An apparatus for cooking or heating that operates by burning fuel or using electricity - treat (an object) by heating it in a stove in order to apply a desired surface coating. - raise (plants) in a hothouse.

Table 5. Translation from Arabic to English (art, arts& crafts, painting)

term translation Original meaning

^Ift'^l ij^ Plastic art Art of forms that involve modeling or molding, such art, arts& crafts, painting as sculpture and ceramics, or art involving the representation of solid objects, with three-dimensional effects.

Graphic art Tourism

7. Conclusion

In the light of above points the article can be concluded into the following points:

• Terminology has been recognized as an academic discipline to be taught in academic institution due to its importance in determining the actual meaning comprehending the distinction between a word and a term with specific concept, domain and discipline.

• Terminology, being the science of creating terms and putting them in use, play a key role in the life of a translator and interpreter.

• It is evident from the above discussion that term is different from a word as term contains a concept in a specific domain.

• Teaching terminology in the department of translation & Interpretation at BS level is a new academic experience. Department of Translation & Interpretation, International Islamic University, Islamabad , deserves to claim except China the credit of being the only department feeling the importance of the discipline and putting it inside the syllabus for teaching at BS Level with thirty five important academic disciplines.

• The teaching of terminology provided the students clear sense of ' word', 'term', 'terminology', 'terminography', 'semantic & lexical ambiguities', ' their kinds, usages in various field, with similar and different meaning'.

• The variety of disciplines, practicing their terminologies during searching various sources, provided the students better chances to learn, understand, create, translate and cope with terminological problems during practical life.

• The course gave the students a sense of importance that a single word containing a range of semantic senses and concepts how it exploits the beautiful face of meaningful source text that often causes serious misunderstanding, political debates, financial crises and religious clashes leaving sad demises and destruction.

• The students have brought fruitful results while studying , practicing , preparing their presentations and assignments, reading books, news papers and trying to make the difference between a word and a term.









• This extensive practice gave the students a sense of recognition while having a just eye bird view of a text and they can easily recognize the text genre, types and discipline.

• Teaching terminology covers lexical, semantic problems and ambiguities and helps the students to grasp them and consequently it helps the students to transfer the clear image in the target language.

• The last result of teaching terminology in a BS T &I class is the production of quality translation in all fields mentioned in the syllabus.


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