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Which variety to learn?

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Which variety to learn?

Postby Jacobus » Mon Feb 23, 2009 7:38 pm

Hello,

I am new to this forum, and relatively new to the Classics in general. I am learning Latin through Lingua Latina and am finding that very rewarding, and would now like to at least start to look into Ancient Greek, however I am not sure which I should look into. Pehaps if I explain the reasons for my wanting to learn a form of Ancient Greek in the first place, you would have a better idea on how to advise me. So, here are my reasons:

1. Greek along with Latin was one of the main languages spoken throughout the Roman Empire. I want to read about the Romans in Greek sometime, as I am a big fan of literature as well as the history of the ancient world. Perhaps once you learn one form, the others will come more naturally to you? Of course, I may be entirely wrong...

2. I have a fascination for inflected languages, and so would find it incredibly rewarding (after the challenging part) to understand and be able to use all the inflections and declinations involved with Ancient Greek. The more inflected the variation, the better, in my opinion.

3. Someday I want to learn Modern Greek, although I want to do Ancient Greek first. Perhaps there is a form of Ancient Greek which is closely related to the Greek of the modern world?

4. Part of the reason I enjoy looking into the Classics at all is because they enhance my English vocabulary. Which variant has given the most words to the English language?

I know that's a lot to ask about, but I would greatly appreciate your considering your answers around those points. I have learned the Cyrillic alphabet, and due to this, the Greek alphabet does not look half as scary as it might have done. Of course, I have Saint Cyril to thank for that.

Thank you very much for any help you can give.

Jack
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Re: Which variety to learn?

Postby edonnelly » Mon Feb 23, 2009 8:41 pm

Will Annis, our uber-moderator here, has written an excellent article at his site (aoidoi.org) which can help you decide which dialect is best for you:

http://aoidoi.org/articles/dialects.html

I would advise reading that article, then choosing epic, then choosing the Pharr book from which to learn epic.

Welcome to the forum and I hope you find it as useful as I have over the past several years!
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Re: Which variety to learn?

Postby Lex » Mon Feb 23, 2009 9:54 pm

edonnelly wrote:Will Annis, our uber-moderator here, has written an excellent article at his site (aoidoi.org) which can help you decide which dialect is best for you:

http://aoidoi.org/articles/dialects.html

I would advise reading that article, then choosing epic, then choosing the Pharr book from which to learn epic.


:lol: What he said!
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Re: Which variety to learn?

Postby IreneY » Tue Feb 24, 2009 12:33 pm

Hello there :)

Well, I personally am not such a big fan of Epic and would personally recommend Attic but let's look at your reasons for wanting to learn Ancient Greek:

1. Greek along with Latin was one of the main languages spoken throughout the Roman Empire. I want to read about the Romans in Greek sometime, as I am a big fan of literature as well as the history of the ancient world. Perhaps once you learn one form, the others will come more naturally to you? Of course, I may be entirely wrong...


For reading in Greek about the Romans Attic. For one that helps you understand the other go with the older (although artificial) Epic and then Attic then Koine.


2. I have a fascination for inflected languages, and so would find it incredibly rewarding (after the challenging part) to understand and be able to use all the inflections and declinations involved with Ancient Greek. The more inflected the variation, the better, in my opinion.


That would be Epic closely followed by Attic.

3. Someday I want to learn Modern Greek, although I want to do Ancient Greek first. Perhaps there is a form of Ancient Greek which is closely related to the Greek of the modern world?


Koine is, but any form (well, Epic less than the others) will help you in a lot of things. Pronunciation-wise only Koine.

4. Part of the reason I enjoy looking into the Classics at all is because they enhance my English vocabulary. Which variant has given the most words to the English language?

All of them with Koine contributing the least I think (and Attic the most).
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Re: Which variety to learn?

Postby Jacobus » Tue Feb 24, 2009 1:15 pm

Thank you for your opinions, everyone. I have read the article you suggested, edonnelly, and admit that after reading the article, I was still undecided which form to learn. They all sound fascinating to me, although it is clear that only one of either Epic, Attic or Koine will do, as there are very little resources by which we can effectively learn the other dialects which were mentioned.

I am inclined toward either Epic or Attic, at least to start with, for the simple reason that going backward in terms of complexity will only make it more difficult for me if I should then choose to learn an earlier, more complex form than Koine later on. Are there are good instructional texts for the Epic dialect? I am learning Latin through Lingua Latina, so I would much prefer something that uses the direct or natural method, as Ørberg calls it. Some may hate it, but I spent primary and secondary school learning languages by just copying out essentially meaningless phrases with no context, or endless declination tables. That served to kill my experience of German, until I decided to try it a different way on my own. I am vaguely aware that there is something like Lingua Latina for Attic Greek - I believe it to be called "Athenaze" - but is there anything like this for Epic? Which variant are you learning, and why? It may help to hear the opinions of people who are studying some form of it.

Thank you for your help.

Jack
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Re: Which variety to learn?

Postby edonnelly » Tue Feb 24, 2009 1:29 pm

Jack,
You ask good questions. My main source for learning was the Pharr's Homeric Greek text, of which there is a free older pdf version at this site as well as in-print versions that you can buy from places like Amazon. It is certainly not like the Lingua Latina series. However, it does get you reading pure Iliad text by chapter 13 (there are 70-some chapters, I believe), so it was pretty ahead-of-its-time for when it was written (1920's).

I do have the Athenaze book and personally I like it, but it is much more like Wheelock's Latin text (a standard text, which, by the way, I like) than it is like Ørberg's (which I also like quite a bit). I believe I recall from some prior discussions here that those claiming it to be like Lingua Latina were using the Italian version, not the English one. You might search the discussions here, but I'm pretty sure it was Lucus Eques who first proposed this idea, but he was using the Italian version and was quite shocked and disappointed when he saw how different and non-Ørberg-like the English version was. That being said, there was at least one person here who then tracked down the Italian version, but I don't recall how that turned out.

Good luck with it. I think it ultimately matters little whether you choose Attic or Epic, and it probably matters more that you find a book and method that works for you. At one time there were groups of people from this forum getting together to go through texts. In fact, that's how I got through the Pharr text was as part of textkit group with one of our very generous members leading and the rest of us working through and asking questions. As it seems that activity on the forum has been increasing somewhat lately, it might be useful to look into getting a group together, though it is a massive time commitment.

Ed
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Re: Which variety to learn?

Postby paulusnb » Tue Feb 24, 2009 3:29 pm

Here is the Greek Lingua Latina discussion. viewtopic.php?f=2&t=9125
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Re: Which variety to learn?

Postby Jacobus » Wed Feb 25, 2009 12:10 am

Thanks once again for your replies. I have decided that actually, it is not absolutely essential that I have a text like Lingua Latina, however nice that may be. My reasoning for this is fairly simple, I think. I am a visual learner, which in the case of Latin and Greek is a very good thing as there is not nearly as much listening material in these two languages as there are in the modern ones, of course. My main concern with starting an ancient language without a text like Lingua Latina, is I presume I will not be able to get enough immediately accessible reading practice with Greek - completely aside from the fact that I am not quite perfect with the alphabet yet - we can ignore that entirely for the purpose of this post. The text in Lingua Latina is graded, so it's not so much of a problem due to the way in which Ørberg has written it. Without either a text like that, or dual-language readers, accompanied by as comprehensive a grammar as possible, perhaps it would be difficult for me to progress quickly without constant reference to a dictionary - which to me, is not the point of language learning, and it's not any fun attempting to learn a language with your head constantly in a dictionary, either, is it? You'd probably end up spending more time reading the dictionary than the actual text!

Having said all of that, I am hoping that most of what I have just said has a simple answer which I've just overlooked. Are there lots of dual-language texts around? I would have ordered a copy of the Italian Athenaze immediately, but unfortunately I fear that I would not understand the Italian in it - I have never studied Italian and I highly doubt that the French and Spanish I know would get me through it - especially since my French is heaps better than my Spanish. Any dual-language texts would have to be either English-Epic/Attic (don't mind at the moment) or German-Epic/Attic. Or at a push, French-Epic/Attic.

edonnelly wrote:Jack,
You ask good questions.


Thank you, Ed. The fact that I am apparently capable of asking good questions would imply some degree of intelligence on my part, though, which is contrary to my apparent complete inability to use the "search" tool properly. :lol:

In an attempt to get my decision made a little quicker, it seems I would need to ask two further questions, albeit hopefully short ones, in the interest of not driving you to madness with my constant questions:

Firstly: If I were to choose Attic Greek, which is the variant I am leaning toward at the moment, what kind of literature would become inaccessible to me for having left out Epic Greek? Although I am mainly talking about historical documents and accounts, I am also talking about poetry and literature, although to a lesser extent. It may even be that Epic Greek is somehow comprehensible to a student of Attic and has never studied Epic in his life, but I doubt it's that simple somehow, knowing how language tends to work...

Secondly, as I am somewhat of a grammar enthusiast, what grammatical features of Epic Greek are lost in Attic that I would indeed lament not experiencing? Although I don't know what period of Greek they exist in, I have heard about one or two interesting sounding elements which I have not had the pleasure of encountering before. If I've missed any out, then I'd hear to hear about them, as grammar is fascinating stimulation for my over-eager mind!

Firstly, I have heard the term "aorist verb" being mentioned once or twice - mainly in the context of Athenaze, I think. Is it just another verb tense or something? How difficult is it? I have looked it up on wikipedia, but it only talks about its formation and such - it doesn't actually say what they are.

Aspect - Russian, Ukranian, Polish and Slovene all have verbal aspect. I don't fully understand verbal aspect in Russian or Slovene, which are both languages have some experience in. I assume that the concept transfers, and learning Ancient Greek will give me more opportunity to get used to the concept of it, which will be good for my degree and for my curiosity of the Classics. Forming the "imperfective" and "perfective", as they are called in the Slavonic languages, is fairly easy in Russian. I struggle with usage, though. I will enjoy grappling with that in Greek, once I understand the basics first, of course.

Dual - Slovene has dual, although I have not got onto that in class yet, so don't really know what it is. Do all dialects of Ancient Greek have it, or does it die out at some point? I assume that if the Dative dies between the time of Classical Greek and Modern Greek, essentially superfluous forms such as the dual will have disappeared in Modern Greek, too, right?

Thank you for reading this post - I realise that once again I have asked a lot of you very kind people.

I await any replies with great enthusiasm! Gratias maximas and спасибо большое!

Jack
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Re: Which variety to learn?

Postby Lex » Wed Feb 25, 2009 12:28 am

Jack,

If you decide to go with Pharr, then consider getting an electronic copy of the Iliad from http://www.logos.com. It has the morphological info and the lexical form for every word, with an interlinear translation.

I believe dual phased out after Epic, for the most part.

In a nutshell, the aorist is a past tense that describes momentary or completed action in the past ("I ran"), whereas the imperfect describes continuous or incomplete action in the past ("I was running"). I'm sure there a lot of subtleties I'm not aware of yet.

I understand from a long past thread with William that some words that are uncontracted in Epic are later contracted. So, understanding the original Epic forms is helpful in understanding the later, contracted, morphology. That's why I decided to try Homer rather than a more traditional Attic-based course. I figured it was easier to learn going forward in time and contracting verbs, rather than going backwards and uncontracting them, since in the contracted form some information has been destroyed.
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Re: Which variety to learn?

Postby Jacobus » Wed Feb 25, 2009 12:50 am

Thanks for the information, Lex. The information on Epic was particularly useful. Ed says that he used the Homeric Greek text to learn it - and it sounds like you use it, too, as your knowledge of it seems to suggest that. Can you shed any light on what I would now obviously lose access to if I were to not choose Epic, but Attic instead? Is there anything historical that I need to be aware of? Granted, my main interest is in Roman history, which IreneY so kindly told me is written in Attic Greek, but I am eager to be able to understand as much material of historical and literary importance as possible. After all, I do have a lot of time in which to accomplish as much of this as possible :D

Thanks

Jack
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Re: Which variety to learn?

Postby Lex » Wed Feb 25, 2009 12:58 am

Jacobus wrote:Can you shed any light on what I would now obviously lose access to if I were to not choose Epic, but Attic instead?


Grammatically speaking, not really. :oops: I don't know enough about Attic (or Homeric, for that matter) to have a good handle on the differences.

Jacobus wrote:Is there anything historical that I need to be aware of?


I would say cultural more than historical. The Homeric opus is more or less the Bible of the ancient Greeks, so there might be some allusions you wouldn't get. Of course, you could ask here!
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Re: Which variety to learn?

Postby modus.irrealis » Wed Feb 25, 2009 4:35 am

Jacobus wrote:Having said all of that, I am hoping that most of what I have just said has a simple answer which I've just overlooked. Are there lots of dual-language texts around? I would have ordered a copy of the Italian Athenaze immediately, but unfortunately I fear that I would not understand the Italian in it - I have never studied Italian and I highly doubt that the French and Spanish I know would get me through it - especially since my French is heaps better than my Spanish. Any dual-language texts would have to be either English-Epic/Attic (don't mind at the moment) or German-Epic/Attic. Or at a push, French-Epic/Attic.

Do you mean actual Greek texts? In that case, there's the Loeb series, which has the Greek and an English translation on facing pages and is generally very good.

Firstly: If I were to choose Attic Greek, which is the variant I am leaning toward at the moment, what kind of literature would become inaccessible to me for having left out Epic Greek? Although I am mainly talking about historical documents and accounts, I am also talking about poetry and literature, although to a lesser extent. It may even be that Epic Greek is somehow comprehensible to a student of Attic and has never studied Epic in his life, but I doubt it's that simple somehow, knowing how language tends to work...

I don't think it's that hard to go from Attic to the other varieties -- I mean you could start out with Attic and learn the other varieties just by learning the differences from Attic. I've seen lots of little guides of that sort. Even then, once you learn the differences in morphology between a variety you can pick up a lot of the differences in syntax by osmosis. I think the best variety is to learn the variety that will keep you motivated -- so if you want to read history (even if it's a later writer like Polybius) learn Attic, if you want to read Homer right away learn Epic. Once you learn one, it won't be too bad to learn another.

Secondly, as I am somewhat of a grammar enthusiast, what grammatical features of Epic Greek are lost in Attic that I would indeed lament not experiencing? Although I don't know what period of Greek they exist in, I have heard about one or two interesting sounding elements which I have not had the pleasure of encountering before. If I've missed any out, then I'd hear to hear about them, as grammar is fascinating stimulation for my over-eager mind!

One thing about Epic is it has a lot of alternative forms in its morphology, so you get a bewildering number of forms (I looked it up and there are five ways to form the present infinitive of "to be") which were used, I assume, to make it easier to fit things into the poetic metre. But when it comes to syntax, I'd say Epic Greek is very similar to Attic (the base for Epic Greek belongs to the same dialect group as Attic) and is probably simpler in terms of the grammatical constructions you'll face -- I don't think, for example, Homer has many long periodic sentences with subordinate and participle clauses galore (although it is poetry so word order, among other things, can cause confusion).

One thing that Epic does that's interesting though is tmesis, where the prefix of a prefixed verb splits from its verb and does its own thing (that's not correct historically, since they weren't prefixes yet, but that's what it looks like from the point of view of later Greek) and it can be tricky to recognize them. There's also a lot of stuff to find interesting if you're into the history of Greek and Indo-European languages -- for example, there are some lines that fit the metre only if you interpret it as having a syllabic r, or there are signs of /w/.

Firstly, I have heard the term "aorist verb" being mentioned once or twice - mainly in the context of Athenaze, I think. Is it just another verb tense or something? How difficult is it? I have looked it up on wikipedia, but it only talks about its formation and such - it doesn't actually say what they are.

Usually "aorist" on its own refers to the "aorist indicative" which is more or less the "simple past" of Greek. But in most cases, "aorist" means the perfective aspect.

Aspect - Russian, Ukranian, Polish and Slovene all have verbal aspect. I don't fully understand verbal aspect in Russian or Slovene, which are both languages have some experience in. I assume that the concept transfers, and learning Ancient Greek will give me more opportunity to get used to the concept of it, which will be good for my degree and for my curiosity of the Classics. Forming the "imperfective" and "perfective", as they are called in the Slavonic languages, is fairly easy in Russian. I struggle with usage, though. I will enjoy grappling with that in Greek, once I understand the basics first, of course.

English also relies heavily on aspect as well -- the difference between "I watch" and "I'm watching" is technically one of aspect. Greek aspect is more like the one in Russian, although how it's marked is very different, but Greek has "perfective" vs. "imperfective" vs. "perfect" (it's horrible terminology but it's standard). Actually, aspect is one of the things I like best in grammar since it's so hard to pin down, and it can be tricky in some cases to see what nuance an author intended when choosing one aspect over another. (Modern Greek also has the same three-way distinction, although the ancient perfect was lost and a new one created.)

Dual - Slovene has dual, although I have not got onto that in class yet, so don't really know what it is. Do all dialects of Ancient Greek have it, or does it die out at some point? I assume that if the Dative dies between the time of Classical Greek and Modern Greek, essentially superfluous forms such as the dual will have disappeared in Modern Greek, too, right?

No dual in Modern Greek, but it was still there in Attic, but I guess it's rare enough that many textbooks don't seem to teach it. Mastronarde's book (which is great if you like the traditional learn-grammar-then-read-example-sentences way of learning a language), though, does teach it from the start.
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Re: Which variety to learn?

Postby paulusnb » Wed Feb 25, 2009 5:26 am

jacobus wrote:I would have ordered a copy of the Italian Athenaze immediately, but unfortunately I fear that I would not understand the Italian in it -


My understanding is that there is little to no Italian in it, just like the English Lingua Latina. Thesaurus can say; he has a copy.
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Re: Which variety to learn?

Postby Jacobus » Wed Feb 25, 2009 11:37 am

Thanks for all your answers, guys.

paulusnb wrote:My understanding is that there is little to no Italian in it, just like the English Lingua Latina. Thesaurus can say; he has a copy.


Oh brilliant, thanks. I will ask Thesaurus, then. I had heard that the Italian version was much better than the English version because there is apparently a lot more Greek reading material in it, which, due to my preferred learning method, is absolutely ideal. Thanks for your answer :)

modus.irrealis wrote:Do you mean actual Greek texts? In that case, there's the Loeb series, which has the Greek and an English translation on facing pages and is generally very good.


I mean anything that will enable me to read a lot of Greek - as I said, Epic or Attic, although I am leaning toward Attic now. Lingua Latina teaches grammar through context which leaves plenty of room to concentrate on a good working vocabulary. I will look into the Loeb series after I have looked a little more into Athenaze. Thanks for the suggestion :)

modus.irrealis wrote:I don't think it's that hard to go from Attic to the other varieties -- I mean you could start out with Attic and learn the other varieties just by learning the differences from Attic.

I think the best variety is to learn the variety that will keep you motivated -- so if you want to read history (even if it's a later writer like Polybius) learn Attic


From a motivational perspective, I have much more reason to learn Attic than Epic at the moment. Most of the grammatical features I find intriguing are still intact in Attic, and reading Attic will allow me to read about the Romans in yet another classical language! Perhaps as my appreciation for Ancient Greek in general grows, I will go back to Epic. Actually, it doesn't matter even if it is difficult to go backward; none of us here can be afraid of a challenge, or else we wouldn't have embarked on a journey to learn the Classics anyway! I think I've made up my mind while writing this, actually :D

modus.irrealis wrote:I'd say Epic Greek is very similar to Attic (the base for Epic Greek belongs to the same dialect group as Attic) and is probably simpler in terms of the grammatical constructions you'll face -- I don't think, for example, Homer has many long periodic sentences with subordinate and participle clauses galore (although it is poetry so word order, among other things, can cause confusion).


By that you mean that Epic grammatical constructions are simpler than Attic? By that do you solely mean because of the absence of so many subordinate and participle clauses? Also, is the term "participle clause" unique to the Classics? I doubt, but I have never heard that term in any other language I've ever studied. Any, even short, clarification would be very helpful. Thanks.

modus.irrealis wrote:Usually "aorist" on its own refers to the "aorist indicative" which is more or less the "simple past" of Greek. But in most cases, "aorist" means the perfective aspect.


Thanks for the explanation. I shall enjoy getting to grips with that.

As one last question, with any luck, I would like to know a little about which dialect you are all learning, and why you chose it? I like to find out a little about others' interests and motivations.

Thanks very much, yet again :D. You have all been helpful beyond measure.

Jack
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Re: Which variety to learn?

Postby Essorant » Wed Feb 25, 2009 8:22 pm

Sometimes I think the grammarians teach Homeric and Attic seperately, not because it is necessarily more helpful, but because they may sell more books that way.
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Re: Which variety to learn?

Postby Lex » Wed Feb 25, 2009 10:06 pm

Essorant wrote:Sometimes I think the grammarians teach Homeric and Attic seperately, not because it is necessarily more helpful, but because they may sell more books that way.


I'm actually glad they do it that way; at least in textbooks, not necessarily grammars. My mind is overloaded enough trying to learn the peculiarities of one dialect, much less two at the same time.
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Re: Which variety to learn?

Postby modus.irrealis » Thu Feb 26, 2009 7:59 pm

Jacobus wrote:By that you mean that Epic grammatical constructions are simpler than Attic? By that do you solely mean because of the absence of so many subordinate and participle clauses?

Yes -- I guess technically it's more a matter of style than strictly grammar, but Attic prose has more examples of complex, involved sentences. In terms of grammar, there are minor differences in usage, but not anything that's substantially different (they are the same language after all), and there's nothing I can think of where the syntax in Epic Greek is more complicated -- inflection may be more more complicated because Epic uses forms from different dialects so there are simply more forms.

Also, is the term "participle clause" unique to the Classics? I doubt, but I have never heard that term in any other language I've ever studied. Any, even short, clarification would be very helpful. Thanks.

Google only finds a few uses, but it is used in the English grammar by Quirk et al. which is a very good book. Maybe it's a traditional term. I can't really tell because my linguistic vocabulary (and thinking) is very eclectic, having been formed by a weird combination of 100-year-old Greek grammars and some modern linguistic books. But it seems like a useful one.

As one last question, with any luck, I would like to know a little about which dialect you are all learning, and why you chose it? I like to find out a little about others' interests and motivations.

When I started learning Ancient Greek, I had a wide range of goals (I wanted to read Plato, Sophocles, Homer, the Bible, the Church Fathers, and be able to understand services I heard at church). Attic Greek was just the best place to start in order to work towards all of those goals at the same time, and of the resources that were available to me at the time, it was the ones for Attic Greek that seemed to be the highest quality. But it's not like I spent that much time considering this. To me back then, Ancient Greek was Attic Greek, which was a term I learned only after starting to learn Ancient Greek.
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Re: Which variety to learn?

Postby Jacobus » Fri Feb 27, 2009 10:54 am

modus.irrealis wrote:To me back then, Ancient Greek was Attic Greek, which was a term I learned only after starting to learn Ancient Greek.


Until I discovered this forum, I thought something along those lines, too. It is settled, then. After a long time deliberating it, I am going to settle for Attic like so many others :D

Thanks for all your help, everyone. I am sure to look into Epic or Koine at some point along the way, too, but not until much later down the line.

Jack
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