Looking for advice on which dialects to concern myself with

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Ioseph
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Looking for advice on which dialects to concern myself with

Post by Ioseph » Tue Oct 30, 2018 12:49 am

Very similarly (I imagine) to many other Textkit users with less than five posts, I have noticed this page on Aoidoi: http://www.aoidoi.org/articles/dialects.html, which ultimately recommends starting with Homeric if the student is interested in any pre-Koine Greek.

However, my most important use for Greek would be Koine texts, with at most some Attic authors. I'm comfortable with starting with Attic and going to Koine, since I want to prepare myself for pursuing sight-reading proficiency of Aristotle as much as the Greek New Testament and Greek Fathers.

This being the case, is there actually a linguistic utility in learning Epic/Homeric Greek? Would starting with Homeric Greek give me a background that would help with Attic and Koine, or is the situation as obvious as it seems, in that anyone who will only need Attic and Koine should only study Attic and Koine?

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Re: Looking for advice on which dialects to concern myself w

Post by ἑκηβόλος » Tue Oct 30, 2018 1:39 am

Aristotle is a lot less ornate than Plato. Plato is both philosophy and the highest expressive use of the language. Aristotle is less perplexing and uses less "nuanced" language. If you are going to read the more theological fathersfrom a philosophical point of view, Porphyry is an authour with a rather straightforward style expressing himself directly and clearly - as clearly as philosophers do.

The early fathers from the age when the Church did not hold social status wrote in the venacular, the later fathers wrote in Atticising style. You could just learn Koine to read the early fathers, but you will need to read Attic to understand the Greek of the golden age of the church. To understand and appreciate something like Christus Patiens, going to Homer and the Epic and other verse traditions of Greek is a must.
τί δὲ ἀγαθὸν τῇ πομφόλυγι συνεστώσῃ ἢ κακὸν διαλυθείσῃ;

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Re: Looking for advice on which dialects to concern myself w

Post by scotistic » Tue Oct 30, 2018 5:37 pm

If you want to sight-read both Aristotle and the Greek Fathers, you need to learn Greek really well. That means gaining a much higher level of proficiency than those who are content to struggle through the New Testament with their word-studies and concordances and knowledge of translations. There's only one way to gain that kind of proficiency, and that is to read a vast quantity of material that is a) representative of the range of the language and b) not too difficult to profit from.

That means reading Homer and Attic. Aristotle and the Greek Fathers are a very worthy goal but neither is great for learning from initially. Their vocabulary is vast and idiosyncratic - you'll be dealing with too many new words all the time to ever get a decent handle on the nuts and bolts of the language. Aristotle's prose doesn't represent typical Greek style, and the Fathers are all over the place, ranging from the semitic koine of the NT to atticizing to the baroque complexity of learned Byzantine Greek.

You need a baseline, and that means Homer and Attic. If you can sightread Homer, Plato, Xenophon, you'll know enough to be able to make a good start on any later authors, with some additional work to get used to their peculiarities. If you aim at one unrepresentative particular later author you risk hampering your grasp of the language as a whole.

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Re: Looking for advice on which dialects to concern myself w

Post by scotistic » Tue Oct 30, 2018 5:45 pm

I should clarify why I put Homer in there along with Attic. Not only do later authors quote and imitate Homer for the next thousand years, so that a lack of acquaintance with him would be like a lack of acquaintance with Shakespeare when reading later English literature (might be tolerable for reading the newspapers, but would be a handicap for reading, say, Victorian novels), but Homer is syntactically easier to read than any other classical Greek author. The forms are less standardized and there are more of them, and the vocabulary is large, but the sentences are pretty much all short and straightforward, and when you're new to a language it's difficult to puzzle your way clause by clause through a long and complex sentence of the sort that Greek loves. The New Testament is very easy in the respect but very unrepresentative of what most Greek is like, while Homer is foundational Greek but easier to follow even than an easier Attic author like Xenophon. Learning Homeric Greek therefore makes it possible to actually read a large amount of Greek with intelligence and profit earlier on in your studies which will vastly aid your sightreading abilities.

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Re: Looking for advice on which dialects to concern myself w

Post by Hylander » Wed Oct 31, 2018 6:45 pm

I would suggest learning Attic first, but not neglecting Homeric/epic. While Attic syntax is harder than Homeric, Homeric morphology and vocabulary are very idiosyncratic and combine words and forms from several dialects and different historical (or pre-historic) phases of the language. In my view, it would be easier to pick up on the Homeric forms and vocabulary, in all their luxuriant variety after having acquired a foundation in Attic, at least to the point of having mastered the morphological forms and some basic vocabulary, than to learn which Attic from a background in Homeric Greek, and I think it's a mistake to start with Homeric Greek. Koine -- if that's what you're after -- is essentially Attic with some changes which are mostly simplifications.

But, as I said, it's important to have a reading knowledge of Homeric Greek, too, and to begin reading the Homeric poems early in your study, not only because of their pervasive importance throughout the later history of the Greek language and literature, but also because much other Greek poetry is composed in Homeric Greek, even down to the end of antiquity and beyond. You can start reading the Homeric poems even before you tackle more complex Attic prose, and, because the syntax is easier, you can work up some fluency once you get the hang of it. There is no prose written in Homeric Greek, however: Homeric Greek can't be abstracted from its metrical context.

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Re: Looking for advice on which dialects to concern myself w

Post by C. S. Bartholomew » Wed Oct 31, 2018 7:10 pm

ἑκηβόλος wrote: The early fathers from the age when the Church did not hold social status wrote in the venacular, the later fathers wrote in Atticising style. You could just learn Koine to read the early fathers, but you will need to read Attic to understand the Greek of the golden age of the church. To understand and appreciate something like Christus Patiens, going to Homer and the Epic and other verse traditions of Greek is a must.
For example, the syntax of Athanasius is more difficult then most of the New Testament.
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Re: Looking for advice on which dialects to concern myself w

Post by SamParkinson » Thu Nov 01, 2018 7:42 pm

C. S. Bartholomew wrote:
ἑκηβόλος wrote: The early fathers from the age when the Church did not hold social status wrote in the venacular, the later fathers wrote in Atticising style. You could just learn Koine to read the early fathers, but you will need to read Attic to understand the Greek of the golden age of the church. To understand and appreciate something like Christus Patiens, going to Homer and the Epic and other verse traditions of Greek is a must.
For example, the syntax of Athanasius is more difficult then most of the New Testament.
I seem to recall comments from various places (including CS Lewis's introduction to On the Incarnation) that Athansius is relatively easy Greek. How would it compare with the tougher parts of the NT - Hebrews, for instance? And how does it compare to Plato or Lysias?

Athanasius isn't too far away on my reading list, and it's nice to be prepared.

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Re: Looking for advice on which dialects to concern myself w

Post by Barry Hofstetter » Thu Nov 01, 2018 10:11 pm

SamParkinson wrote:
C. S. Bartholomew wrote: I seem to recall comments from various places (including CS Lewis's introduction to On the Incarnation) that Athansius is relatively easy Greek. How would it compare with the tougher parts of the NT - Hebrews, for instance? And how does it compare to Plato or Lysias?

Athanasius isn't too far away on my reading list, and it's nice to be prepared.
Difficulty can be rather subjective, and depends on your reading experience. If all you have is the NT, you might find Athanasius challenging. If you have broader reading experience, not as much. I personally find Athanasius quite straightforward. It's almost as though he said to himself prior to writing "How can I make this difficult subject matter as understandable as possible?" Syntactically easier than either Plato or Lysias, I would say, but more syntactically complicated than the gospels or Paul but not "as bad" as Hebrews. Again, my subjective experience.
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Re: Looking for advice on which dialects to concern myself w

Post by ἑκηβόλος » Fri Nov 02, 2018 4:24 am

ἑκηβόλος wrote:Aristotle is a lot less ornate than Plato.
scotistic wrote:Aristotle's prose doesn't represent typical Greek style, ...
Because you have signaled out Aristotle as your target, let me make a simple observation. As a general tendency, Classical Greek conveys the majority of the meaning (the greater weight of meaning), or at least the most important parts of the meaning in the verbs. Aristotle puts the most important meanings into the nominal elements. The difference between things like "dine" and "take / have dinner" is familiar to us from English, but in Aristotle's case proportion of meaning conveyed by verbs vs. nouns is different from other authours.

In Aristotle, the grammatical cases of the nouns is dependent on the verbs, as in Classical and Koine Greek generally, but the meaning is more dependent on the nouns. I'm not suggesting you learn it for this reason, but let me mention that Modern Greek carries a lot more types of meaning through nominal elements than Classical and Koine typically do.
τί δὲ ἀγαθὸν τῇ πομφόλυγι συνεστώσῃ ἢ κακὸν διαλυθείσῃ;

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Re: Looking for advice on which dialects to concern myself w

Post by Ioseph » Sun Nov 04, 2018 12:10 am

Great thanks for all the enlightening responses, I'm definitely satisfied that Attic is necessary, and that if nothing else, it would be better to cover everything and do more than might have been necessary than to leave any holes in my knowledge.

Hylander wrote:I would suggest learning Attic first, but not neglecting Homeric/epic. While Attic syntax is harder than Homeric, Homeric morphology and vocabulary are very idiosyncratic and combine words and forms from several dialects and different historical (or pre-historic) phases of the language. In my view, it would be easier to pick up on the Homeric forms and vocabulary, in all their luxuriant variety after having acquired a foundation in Attic, at least to the point of having mastered the morphological forms and some basic vocabulary, than to learn which Attic from a background in Homeric Greek, and I think it's a mistake to start with Homeric Greek.
So when would you suggest that Homeric be started? Maybe after the first Attic textbook was finished?

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Re: Looking for advice on which dialects to concern myself w

Post by Hylander » Sun Nov 04, 2018 4:03 am

My suggestion would be to read some of Xenophon's Anabasis as the first Greek text other than selections found in the textbook, to cement what was learned in the textbook, and then proceed to Homer. Maybe Odyssey 9 or Iliad 6, which are more or less self-contained. After that, then proceed to follow your specific interests. Use relatively literal translations to check your understanding of the Greek and to help out when you get stumped.

I see that there is a relatively elementary student edition of the Odyssey, with vocabulary on the facing page, aimed at adult beginners:

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/09065 ... 6VKMBD3ZW6

I haven't seen the actual book itself, but it looks like it would be a good way to get into Homer. Make sure you master the meter (it isn't as hard as it's made out to be) and try to read metrically.

I think that most people who have worked through the basics of Attic Greek are surprised to find that they adapt to Homeric Greek much more quickly than they expected. When you get the hang of it, you can move along rapidly -- as has been mentioned, the syntax is much easier than Attic prose. The difficulties lie in the weird vocabulary and the many forms, but beginners' texts and translations can help with these.

The best part is that the Iliad and the Odyssey are really fun and enjoyable to read in Greek!

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Re: Looking for advice on which dialects to concern myself w

Post by RandyGibbons » Sun Nov 04, 2018 8:53 am

I ditto everything Hylander said (and the previous responses regarding the importance of Attic and Homer for your long-term purposes). I might have recommended Book 1 of the Iliad as your starting point for Homer, but that's simply a matter of your interests and of finding a textbook that looks good to you.

I'm writing to mention that if, following Hylander's recommendation, you dip into Xenophon's Anabasis at some point (which is a time-honored approach to learning Greek), an advantage is that you you can accompany your study with an excellent recording of the Anabasis, a work in progress on LibriVox, by Textkit's own Bedwere, being proofread as it proceeds by Textkit's own Joel.

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Re: Looking for advice on which dialects to concern myself w

Post by Hylander » Sun Nov 04, 2018 4:58 pm

One more point I would add. If you come to Greek, as it appears, from a Christian background (personally I don't), the Greek New Testament is another good place to start your reading of extended Greek texts once you've acquired the basics. Much of it is not difficult Greek, and, consciously or unconsciously, you probably know most of it by heart in English. The individual books are written in varieties of Koine Greek, and your grounding in Attic Greek will serve you well.

The only word of caution: the optative mood began to disappear after the classical period (5th-4th centuries, ending more or less with the death of Alexander in 323), so you won't have much exposure to constructions using the optative in the New Testament, though they are quite frequent in Attic. (There are also some other trivial differences from Attic Greek.) I believe that Athanasius and certain other Church Fathers tended towards Atticism (as did other Greek authors, pagan and Christian alike, well after the classical period and even through the Byzantine era), though I can't say I know for certain.

Iliad 1 would also be a good starting place for Homeric Greek. I believe there are editions aimed at beginners.

You should bear in mind that "koine" is a catch-all term that refers to various types of Greek written after the death of Alexander reflecting developments in the spoken language after the classical period, not to a single type or dialect of Greek. And after the classical period, the prestige of Attic Greek remained so powerful that many educated Greek writers (Christians included) down into the Byzantine era strove to conform their writing to the canons of Attic, some of them, for example, snobbishly eliminating any vocabulary that could not be found in the classical models. Learning to write pure Attic Greek (and probably to speak it, too) continued to be a large part of elite education. But the foundation of Greek education was learning to read Homer with some degree of understanding.

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Re: Looking for advice on which dialects to concern myself w

Post by Aetos » Sun Nov 04, 2018 8:42 pm

Hylander wrote:Iliad 1 would also be a good starting place for Homeric Greek. I believe there are editions aimed at beginners.
Having just finished Pharr, I can expand a little on Hylander's suggestion: I found "Homeric Greek: A Book For Beginners" by Clyde Pharr to be a great textbook, well organized with plenty of exercises and of course, Book 1 of the Iliad in its entirety, which you start reading in Lesson XIII. Most of the Lessons are short, so that vocabulary, morphology and syntax are given in manageable chunks and you read between 5 to 10 lines of the poem with each lesson. As your knowledge of the language grows, you start getting bigger "chunks" of the poem, so that toward the end of the book you're reading 10-20 lines per lesson. There is a newer edition out there,the 4th, I believe, that has a lot of online support material available. My edition (1959) does not have an official answer key, but the 4th edition has most of the exercises online, along with the answers. It's a fantastic site with links to flash card decks, scansion exercises, Mastronarde's tutorials, audio/visual presentations. Here's the URL:
https://commons.mtholyoke.edu/hrgs/
I don't know if Paula Debnar (who put this all together) included Pharr's old exercises or not. Hers work just as well. There is one exercise that Pharr includes though that I heartily recommend:
memorize 1 line of the Iliad each day, up to at least the first 21 lines. This means reading (singing?) it metrically and reciting it from memory. You'll find that it's like learning the lyrics to a song, only instead of rhymes to help you, your knowledge of the meter (dactylic hexameter) keeps the words in order (you'll start saying things to yourself like "that can't be right-it doesn't fit metrically!"
I also don't know if she kept Pharr's notes, but if she did, you'll find he likes to draw a lot of parallels with the Old Testament. Anyway, enough from me - try it, you'll like it!

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Re: Looking for advice on which dialects to concern myself w

Post by jeidsath » Sun Nov 04, 2018 9:08 pm

I think that Homeric Greek probably works better if you have a lot of Latin first. If you don't, then the irregularities of the verbs and nouns make it very hard to pick up a sense for declensions, tenses, moods, and the use of infinitives and participles.

Attic prose is the best way to pick all of that up. But I think that even New Testament Greek, with its more regularized forms, is a better way to start than with Homer. If the simple syntax and story of Homer is the advantage, then Gaza's paraphrase of the Iliad is well worth looking into.

The real danger of New Testament Greek is that there are large chunks that are very simple indeed and long sections without a participle or mood in sight. (Some of this is obviously and traditionally authored by Greek-as-a-second-language speakers.) People get good at this easy Greek, sweat through the "hard" stuff, which is a good deal closer to real idiomatic Greek, and associate classical Greek with being "hard."

EDIT: You can't really use the LSJ efficiently until you've read Homer.
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Re: Looking for advice on which dialects to concern myself w

Post by Hylander » Mon Nov 05, 2018 12:05 am

If the simple syntax and story of Homer is the advantage, then Gaza's paraphrase of the Iliad is well worth looking into.
No, the point of reading Homer is to read Homer and to absorb Homeric Greek. A Byzantine paraphrase won't do that for you. Homer is foundational for all Greek writing that came after, with the possible exception of the New Testament.
Attic prose is the best way to pick all of that up a sense for declensions, tenses, moods, and the use of infinitives and participles.
[Sllightly edited]

That's why you work through a textbook before you begin reading longer bits of Greek, and most good textbooks, in addition to presenting the grammar, will start you off on extended bits of Greek.

When I took first-year Greek in school, we completed the grammar sometime after the middle of the first year, and we read Odyssey 9 at the end of the first year. Much of the second year was devoted to the Iliad. So it's far from impossible, and, as I mentioned, you pick it up much more rapidly than you expect at first.

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Re: Looking for advice on which dialects to concern myself w

Post by scotistic » Mon Nov 05, 2018 5:24 pm

"I think that most people who have worked through the basics of Attic Greek are surprised to find that they adapt to Homeric Greek much more quickly than they expected."

I think in this respect moving from Attic to Homer is like moving from Shakespeare to Chaucer. Surprisingly doable, and once you get used to the oddities due to its being further away from modern English, you find that Chaucer is actually easier even if less regular.

Attic ought to be the first thing you look at but Homer the first really long text you read. A number of courses are oriented this way, for instance the excellent Thrasymachus.

I didn't care for Pharr very much; I much preferred Schoder and Horrigan's Reading Course in Homeric Greek: https://www.amazon.com/Reading-Course-H ... 1585101753

My recommendation would be to use the above, plus the Thrasymachus I mentioned: https://www.amazon.com/Thrasymachus-Gre ... rasymachus

The two of these would help ground you in both Attic and Homeric Greek without making a big deal of their differences. Then I would suggest getting both volumes of the Italian Athenaze, if you can find them, and reading them through several times. After that you can move to some of Geoffrey Steadman's glossed texts, or the similar ones from Faenum Press (I enjoyed all the Lucian volumes). At this point the New Testament will be quite easy, and you'll be able to see how it relates to more standard forms of Greek.
Last edited by scotistic on Mon Nov 05, 2018 5:29 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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Re: Looking for advice on which dialects to concern myself w

Post by scotistic » Mon Nov 05, 2018 5:27 pm

"When I took first-year Greek in school, we completed the grammar sometime after the middle of the first year, and we read Odyssey 9 at the end of the first year. Much of the second year was devoted to the Iliad."

I had three semesters of Greek in college. It was essentially one semester of grammar and snippets, one semester of grammar clean-up and a read-through of Plato's Meno, and one semester of Homer.

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Re: Looking for advice on which dialects to concern myself w

Post by scotistic » Mon Nov 05, 2018 5:37 pm

RandyGibbons wrote:if, following Hylander's recommendation, you dip into Xenophon's Anabasis at some point (which is a time-honored approach to learning Greek), an advantage is that you you can accompany your study with an excellent recording of the Anabasis, a work in progress on LibriVox, by Textkit's own Bedwere, being proofread as it proceeds by Textkit's own Joel.
I'm looking forward to this very much, as well as Bedwere's De Civitate Dei recording, whose progress I've been following for over a year. His other recordings are great!

Latin recordings are fairly plentiful and easy to find these days, good ancient Greek ones not so much. The best resource I know is one pointed out on this forum a while ago, the recordings by philosopher Julius Tomin: http://www.juliustomin.org/

I've listened to most of his recordings over the last several months, while following along with the texts, and found them very helpful.

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Re: Looking for advice on which dialects to concern myself w

Post by Hylander » Mon Nov 05, 2018 6:53 pm

Come to think of it, I think we may have read the Apology in first-year Greek before embarking on Odyssey 9. Or maybe we read the Apology in 2d year Greek. (The end of the second semester of the first year and the first semester of the second year would have been in 1961.)

The Apology is a good text to sink your teeth into relatively early in your study because it's not too difficult -- not as difficult as other Plato, in my experience; it's not too long and it's self-contained; but it will confront you with more complicated Attic prose syntax than the Anabasis. The Apology (unlike the Anabasis) is also a text that everyone should read at some time or other.

So why not tackle it right away?

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Re: Looking for advice on which dialects to concern myself w

Post by jeidsath » Mon Nov 05, 2018 9:52 pm

The Apology is where I first started to see Greek really click into place for me.
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Re: Looking for advice on which dialects to concern myself w

Post by Ioseph » Wed Nov 07, 2018 9:41 pm

Thank you for any and all additional help/good advice, everybody.

Hylander wrote:My suggestion would be to read some of Xenophon's Anabasis as the first Greek text other than selections found in the textbook, to cement what was learned in the textbook, and then proceed to Homer. Maybe Odyssey 9 or Iliad 6, which are more or less self-contained. After that, then proceed to follow your specific interests. Use relatively literal translations to check your understanding of the Greek and to help out when you get stumped.
So would you think that after working through an Attic textbook and an easier text or two (e.g. Anabasis and The Apology) that a Homeric textbook is necessary for anything other than reference in order for the student to start reading Homer?

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Re: Looking for advice on which dialects to concern myself w

Post by Hylander » Wed Nov 07, 2018 11:26 pm

Most annotated texts of Homer aimed at beginners will include a brief introduction explaining the Homeric language and the differences from Attic, and the notes will typically explain the forms that are likely to cause problems. After learning Attic Greek, it's not necessary, in order to read Homer, to work through another textbook specifically dedicated to Homeric Greek. Just plunge right in.

For anyone intending to read more than just a book or two, I would recommend acquiring Cunliffe's Lexicon of the Homeric Language, available soft covers.

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Re: Looking for advice on which dialects to concern myself w

Post by SamParkinson » Mon Nov 12, 2018 1:01 pm

Barry Hofstetter wrote:
SamParkinson wrote:
C. S. Bartholomew wrote: I seem to recall comments from various places (including CS Lewis's introduction to On the Incarnation) that Athansius is relatively easy Greek. How would it compare with the tougher parts of the NT - Hebrews, for instance? And how does it compare to Plato or Lysias?

Athanasius isn't too far away on my reading list, and it's nice to be prepared.
Difficulty can be rather subjective, and depends on your reading experience. If all you have is the NT, you might find Athanasius challenging. If you have broader reading experience, not as much. I personally find Athanasius quite straightforward. It's almost as though he said to himself prior to writing "How can I make this difficult subject matter as understandable as possible?" Syntactically easier than either Plato or Lysias, I would say, but more syntactically complicated than the gospels or Paul but not "as bad" as Hebrews. Again, my subjective experience.
Thanks, that's really helpful. I shall work a little more on my attic and then plunge in!

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