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How popular is “V” sound?

healer

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I’ve come across loan words that have “V” sound, such as “service” and “Valentine’s Day”. Japanese dictionaries do provide alternative words with the “V” sound. A few Japanese people say they’re still not really acceptable in Japan. I wonder why the dictionaries still mention them?

サーヴィス (sāvisu)
ヴァレンタインデー (varentaindē)
 

Buntaro

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Healer,

It is easier for Japanese people to pronounce ビ rather than ヴィ. It is easier to say サービス than サーヴィス. It is also customary to use the サービス pronunciation and spelling rather than サーヴィス. A person who uses the サーヴィス pronunciation and spelling is going against what is commonly used in Japanese, and runs the risk of not being understood. (“サービス” has become such a common word in Japanese that using anything else would be unexpected, strange, and may not be understood.)

Now to your question.

Some loan words just work better when using something like ヴィ, and trying to get around this and use ビ renders the katakana word quite strange. For example, rendering the English name “Irving” into Japanese gives us アーヴィング. To try to use アービング gives us a name that is much more different than the original English name.

Another example is the English name “Vivian”, which just works better as ヴィヴィアン than as ビビアン.

Another example is the Italian opera composer “Verdi”, rendered as ヴェルディ. Using ベルディ just sounds strange (in my opinion).

So, some words and names function just fine when using something like ビ, but others sound much better and sound much closer to the original when using something like ヴィ. It just depends on each individual word.

(It must also be said that some Japanese people struggle greatly to pronounce something like ヴェ, always avoid such a pronunciation, and always say ベ instead.)
 
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Majestic

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The Foreign Ministry recently decreed that country names with V in them would no longer be spelled using ヴ,
This article gives the reasoning, and also a nice history of the use of ヴ
 

healer

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It must also be said that some Japanese people struggle greatly to pronounce something like ヴェ, always avoid such a pronunciation, and always say ベ instead.
How can one avoid if those foreign names have to be transliterate with the V sound? Since Japanese people have already got used to say B for V sound, it may be not a bad idea to keep going that way. Seeing new foreign name.s adopting V sound when transliterated, are they in the process of adopting the V sound in the Japanese languae too?
 

Buntaro

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are they in the process of adopting the V sound in the Japanese language too?

I am not sure which in direction the Japanese language is evolving at present. Majestic's quote seems to be saying more B and less V. (But I wonder if that is just one government agency's opinion.)
 

Majestic

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Yes, the Foreign Ministry says they are doing away with the ヴ spelling because of Japanese peoples' "unfamiliarity" (馴染みのない) with that sound, and to correct the difference in usages between the nation and the Foreign Ministry ( 国民の感覚とずれている部分は直していこう). In other words, according to the Foreign Ministry, V as ヴ is unnatural to Japanese, hence the government's push to unify all V spellings as バビブベボ, etc.

ヴ wasn't originally part of the Japanese inventory of sounds. When foreign languages, words, sounds started flooding into the country during the Meiji Restoration, there was no uniformity of dealing with these sounds. Eventually ヴ gained traction as an expedient way to handle V sounds (the article claims scholar/author/philosopher Fukuzawa Yukichi is the one who originally promoted this). So I'm skeptical of the claim that Japanese are unfamiliar with the ヴ transliteration. In fact, I would guess that most young people, and for sure anyone who uses the internet, would be very familiar with it. But for sure they are also quite comfortable transposing V sounds into the バビブベボ line. But forcing the public to adopt this convention feels to me like a step backwards, making katakana less useful in reproducing sounds of foreign languages. Its as if, despite about a hundred years of using, and getting used to the V sound by using ヴ, the government has now said, "V is too difficult for Japanese people, and so we will therefore only use B".
 

healer

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Thanks guys! It’s a very informative. I wonder what the government is going to do with those names already transliterated with the V sound. Perhaps they’re going to be gradually replaced.
 

Toritoribe

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I believe almost all (or most likely all) native Japanese speakers pronounce ヴ as "bu" for all the words, whether it's commonly used in daily life or not, (except bilinguals, of course), so it's reasonable to use バビブベボ instead of ヴァヴィヴヴェヴォ in the perspective of pronunciation, like historical kana orthography was changed to modern kana usage in accordance with the pronunciation (e.g. けふかのじよとあふ --> きょう、かのじょとあう). Probably this is the government's intention.
 

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Some bilingual people pronounce "v" sound in loan words as "v", not as "b".
 

Buntaro

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Healer,

There is something here that needs to be said here, and it is that the vast majority of Japanese people prefer to speak ‘katakana English’ and do not want to learn proper English pronunciation. I have taught thousands of Japanese students over the years. I have developed very effective ways of teaching the R-sound and the L-sound to Japanese students, but to no avail.

I used to take time in class to teach them how to pronounce, among other sounds, the R-sound and L-sound. At the end of class I was always very successful in having my students pronounce the R-sound and the L-sound correctly. But when they would come back for another class later in the week, they would always revert back to speaking ‘katakana English’. 100% guaranteed.

It has been my experience that, unless a Japanese person already speaks English fluently, quite frankly, they want to speak ‘katakana English’ and do not want to speak with proper English pronunciation. As painful as it is for me to admit, I have given up trying to force my Japanese students to stop using ‘katakana English’. It is just a waste of time.

What Toritoribe is alluding to is, Japanese people who speak English fluently worry about pronouncing B and V correctly. All other Japanese people don’t worry about it and just say B.

(By the way, neither the R-sound nor L-sound exist in Japanese, as you probably already know.)
 
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Toritoribe

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I was talking about "v" in loan words, and I believe that's the topic of this thread. Native Japanese speakers pronounce a loan word as a Japanese word. Even if "v" is used in the original word, and katakana ヴ is used for the loan word, it's a Japanese word after all. It's pronounced in the Japanese way, similar to ラジオ is never pronounced as the English pronunciation of "radio", or any Chinese origin words are never pronounced in the accurate Chinese way.

This phenomenon is also applied to the pronunciation of loan words in other languages. Even among English speakers, "fu" in "Fujiyama" is almost always not the same as ふ in Japanese (voiceless labiodental fricative [f] vs. voiceless bilabial fricative [ɸ]), since [ɸ] sound usually doesn't exist in English.

It's true that Japanese people tend to use "katakana English", but that's another story.
 

healer

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I think it’s too difficult for them to pronounce the English words properly where there are corresponding loan words in the Japanese language because they’re too close. For starters I think when Japanese people created the Japanese words for their English or American counterparts they tried their best to transliterate as close as possible. When they’re in the Japanese environment speaking mostly in Japanese language it’s understandably they tend to speak close to the sound of the Japanese words. Chinese language would have no influence at all on their Japanese pronunciation. First of all, I believe there’s hardly any Japanese who would be interested to speak Chinese as a second language unless they’re scholars or diplomats. Secondly nearly all onyomi are different from contemporary Chinese. Moreover if I’m not wrong most pronunciation in Japanese language is of kunyomi.

Like Toritoribe-san said I did try to say V sound when I sawヴand I supposed that was what I should do. Upon his advice I shall from now onwards forget about V sound in Japanese language which makes life easier and simpler for me.

I can’t blame them while they live in the Japanese environment. I for one am living in an English speaking environment, I guess English-speaking people could have pronunciation problem in Japanese language too. If I haven’t heard a Japanese loanword derived from the English language spoken by native Japanese people before I tend to have the Japanese pitch accent coincide with the stress in the English word.

I still have problems with the Japanese R sound and F or H sound and even the Z sound. The R sound in Japanese is closer to English L sound though not identical. I was told once the Japanese F or H sound is the same as F sound in English except the lips aren’t closed at the end. I’ve also found the Japanese R sound is different between りand ろas well as りょas far as the consonant part is concerned. The same applies to じand ぞas well as ひand ほ. Perhaps something is wrong with my hearing. I can’t do anything about it at the moment apart from listening to the recorded Japanese conversations as much as possible.
 

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I believe there’s hardly any Japanese who would be interested to speak Chinese as a second language unless they’re scholars or diplomats.


为什么这样想?在中国有日本商人。

…nearly all onyomi are different from contemporary Chinese.


In addition, nearly all kanji usages are different from contemporary Chinese. Look at a few differences.

English — Japanese — Chinese

is — です — 是
go — 行く — 去
see — 見る — 看
do — する — 做
here — ここ — 这边
like — 好き — 喜欢
sometimes — 時々 — 有时
read — 読む — 读
have lunch — 昼ご飯を食べる — 吃午饭
bookstore — 本屋 — 书店
hometown — 故郷 — 家乡

It is a challenge to find similar kanji that are pronounced similarly in Japanese and Chinese:

go for a walk — 散歩する (sampo suru) — 散步 (sànbù)
 
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healer

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Your Chinese language is very good. I think you would have attained certain level. Does it help you in learning Japanese. I find it helps with learning kanji or at least recognising them. Though they are not identical, I find it easier for me to identify them. The pronunciations are different even in 音読み but quite close. Of course one can’t speak the language just close but has to be exact. Also there is 当て字 using kanji for the sound which is way off from Chinese usage.

At one time we had a Chinese lady wanted to get baptised at our church. Her English was no good. In fact she can’t really communicate. One of the lady in the team who helped her with the catechism was a Japanese lady who married an Australian living here for years. She communicated with the Chinese lady in simple English and every now and then some kanji in addition. Voila they finished the course and the Chinese lady got baptised.
 

healer

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Yes I’m aware they are the same. The dictionary I use imiwa? even tells me how it is pronounced in Chinese.

I guess the reason that they are different because both the Chinese language and Japanese language have been morphing all the time on their own.

Those days when Japan took the Chinese characters over I believe China hadn’t unified the characters and designated an official language yet. Depending what Chinese dialect it was modelled on the resultant Japanese pronunciations were bound to be different from the modern-day Chinese. Moreover Japanese syllabary has a limited number of sound to accommodate a closer transliteration. Just like how a lot of different English sounds have been translated into the same Japanese sound.
 

Buntaro

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Does it help you in learning Japanese.

I actually learned Japanese first, but yes, my knowledge of Japanese kanji has been a big help in learning Chinese kanji. When I first started learning Chinese I knew about 500 Japanese kanji, and it helped me a lot to learn Chinese kanji.

By the way, in Chinese, certain kanji are used only for their sound, in a way that Japanese kana are only used for their sound. For example, the Chinese kanji 尼 is used for the sound “ní”, most Chinese people use it for the sound only, and are not aware it means “Buddhist nun”. (But just by looking at Chinese, you cannot tell which kanji are used for meaning and which are used only for sound.)

Those days when Japan took the Chinese characters over I believe China hadn’t unified the characters and designated an official language yet.

Regarding written kanji, they have evolved for thousands of years, and finally reached their final forms (the way they are written) about a thousand years ago.

Regarding spoken Chinese, there are over thousand dialects of Chinese! In addition…

“Some form of Mandarin has served as a national lingua franca since the 14th century. In the early 20th century, a standard form based on the Beijing dialect, with elements from other Mandarin dialects, was adopted as the national language.”



But the only government which has effectively designated one national language has been the communist government. There have been about 24 Chinese dynasties, and some of them like the Ming Dynasty were huge, but none of them truly united China into one country with one official spoken language until the communist government came along. You may enjoy watching this animated video of the rise and fall of Chinese dynasties from 717 BC to today. (The video lasts seven minutes.)



Another thing is that vast majority of Chinese people do NOT speak Standard Mandarin, and school children must learn Mandarin as a foreign language in school. Because of this, lectures in Chinese universities are given in Mandarin, and college students have no problem communicating with their teachers and fellow students in Mandarin. (This was NOT true about 40 years ago.) Another thing about the large number of Chinese people who do not speak Standard Mandarin, TV shows and TV commercials always have Chinese character subtitles, so everyone can read them and understand what is going on.

Depending what Chinese dialect it was modeled on the resultant Japanese pronunciations were bound to be different from the modern-day Chinese.

My Japanese professor in college could actually tell you which part of China a pronunciation of a Japanese kanji came from and what year it came to Japan. (Chinese kanji were brought over by Chinese Buddhist missionaries, who were very successful in spreading Buddhism to Japan.) That was very impressive. One of the reasons Japanese kanji have so many pronunciations is because every time a new Chinese Buddhist missionary would come to Japan, he would speak in his own dialect, and Japanese people learned his dialectical pronunciation for a particular kanji, causing that kanji to have one more new pronunciation in Japanese.

Did you know the Japanese kanji 生 has something like 40 pronunciations, and there are something like 20 ways to say I in Japanese?
 
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healer

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it helped me a lot to learn Chinese kanji.
Are you considered yourself trilingual now, English, Japanese and Chinese? I can’t fault the Chinese sentence you wrote the other day?

in Chinese, certain kanji are used only for their sound
Yes certain, not many.

Chinese kanji 尼 is used for the sound “ní”, most Chinese people use it for the sound only, and are not aware it means “Buddhist nun”.
Chinese educated people should know this word means nun. The complete expression should be 尼姑. The capital of the state of New South Wales of Australia is Sydney which is rendered in Chinese 悉尼. Before China overtook Taiwan, Sydney was called in Chinese 雪梨 which also means snow pear.

Some form of Mandarin has served as a national lingua franca since the 14th century.
You’re correct. Mandarin or similar has been the language used by the China imperial court for some time but had never been designated as national language until after the Second World War. Coincidentally Taiwan being the enemy of the mainland Chinese also has adopted mandarin as the official language. Only recently have some of the Taiwanese advocate independence of China they started sort of promoted their local dialect as Taiwanese language.

By now all educated Chinese people should speak and understand Mandarin.

causing that kanji to have one more new pronunciation in Japanese.
I think Japanese government should unify the reading of every kanji making it easy for people to learn, just like taking out the V sound. China government simplify Chinese characters so that students would not need to spend too much time learning how the characters are written. By the way I take writing kanji as art and no longer for communication now. No matter what language one wants to write there’s always a computer program to do the job. Learning to recognise a character is easier than to write it. The other camp like Taiwanese keeping the traditional form they want to preserve the culture. Are they right? I don’t know. Busy world probably need time-saving strategy.

Chinese Buddhist missionary would come to Japan
By the way what is the main difference between Shinto and Buddhism!?

Japanese kanji 生 has something like 40 pronunciations,
This is what my dictionary shows. By the way, what is nanori?
9858F4F1-6CE8-42DF-9BF4-9E37669ECE61.png
 

Buntaro

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Are you considered yourself trilingual now, English, Japanese and Chinese?


My Chinese speaking ability is very low. I am just like our students, my writing ability is better than my speaking ability!

Chinese educated people should know this word means nun.


I should add that when I mention 尼 to Chinese people, they do not know the word “nun” in English. Surprisingly, many Chinese people do not know the word “Buddhist” in English. (The communists have been very successful in stamping out religion in modern-day China.

I think Japanese government should unify the reading of every kanji making it easy for people to learn, just like taking out the V sound.


I think it’s a bad idea. Which one pronunciation would you use for 生? Nama? If so, we would be asking where a person was born by asking, “どこで なまれましたか?” which sounds funny to me, and I doubt Japanese people would use it.

“…what is the main difference between Shinto and Buddhism!?”


There is no similarity between the two religious traditions. What do you know of Shinto or Buddhism?

This is what my dictionary shows. By the way, what is nanori?


My go-to online dictionary, Weblio, says it is used for the name-readings of kanji. (For westerners who cannot read kanji, Weblio is probably too difficult to use.)

 
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healer

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my writing ability is better than my speaking ability!
I would be going the same direction as far as Japanese language is concerned.

when I mention 尼 to Chinese people, they do not know the word “nun” in English.
Do you mean they don’t know the Chinese word 尼 or the English word “nun”? First of all we don’t usually use the single word 尼 in our daily conversation for nun. We say 尼姑. The single word 尼 if used to mean “nun” would be in poems or literary works. Chinese people of which country did you ask, China, Taiwan, Hong Kong or USA?

What do you know of Shinto or Buddhism?
I know nothing about Shinto. I understand Shinto is only practised in Japan.

it is used for the name-readings of kanji
So kanji used in names are pronounced differently. Thanks!

By the way, where did you learn your Chinese language?
 

Buntaro

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Do you mean they don’t know the Chinese word 尼 or the English word “nun”?


I think they don’t know the word in English. (It is not a word that Chinese people use often!)

First of all we don’t usually use the single word 尼 in our daily conversation for nun.

Are you Chinese? From Hong Kong?

Chinese people of which country did you ask, China, Taiwan, Hong Kong or USA?


I asked Mainland Chinese people. I used to teach at a university there.

I know nothing about Shinto. I understand Shinto is only practised in Japan.


What do you know of Buddhism?

So kanji used in names are pronounced differently. Thanks!


By the way, there are certain kanji that Japanese children are required to learn in school. These 2,136 kanji are called Jōyō kanji (常用漢字). But it is my understanding that some kanji used in people’s names are not in this list.

By the way, where did you learn your Chinese language?

To some extent, I am self-taught. I did a lot of learning from my students while I was teaching in China. I have my own method of how I want to learn Chinese. The best way for me to learn is to sit down with a Chinese person, ask them questions, then practice saying what I have just learned. (As you may know, many foreigners in China do not like the way Mainland Chinese people teach Chinese.)
 
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healer

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Are you Chinese? From Hong Kong?
I’m of Chinese decent, never lived in China or Taiwan. I grew up in the British colony Hong Kong. We have been bilingual since kindergarten. I left for university and lived in Australia since. I have lived here much longer than I lived in Hong Kong. I’m interested in language. I taught myself Mandarin after some basics with a teacher from Beijing. You might know that Hong Kong people have been educated with Mandarin textbooks but in Cantonese pronunciation. After the basic I just keep looking up dictionary just like how I improve my English language and learn Japanese language. I actually started learning Japanese language from Taiwanese textbooks. You know Taiwan had been under Japanese rule before. Though I can read and speak Chinese but I found learning Japanese language from the English medium is better. With the Chinese medium sometimes I’m not sure whether I’m reading Chinese or Japanese. Of course one can tell if they are sentences. There’s no way to tell if only a term or a phrase is available. Just like your title it is the same as in Chinese. Are you lack of exercises?🤣 Sometimes I found the onyomi in Japanese is closer to Cantonese than Mandarin. You know the Japanese はい is pronounced the same as the Cantonese “yes”.

I forgot to respond to you yesterday about rationalising the Japanese language. I think it would be nice if every Japanese word had fewer versions of Kanji. If they can’t do anything with many different sounds for every single word, perhaps they can do something about writing.

I had supposed you are living in Japan but you’ve got an American flag on your profile. So where are you teaching Japanese students the English language?

my understanding that some kanji used in people’s names are not in this list.
I believe there is separate dictionary for Japanese names.

many foreigners in China do not like the way Mainland Chinese people teach Chinese
So you have been teaching English language in China? I’m interested to know what’s wrong with their way of teaching Chinese. Certainly there have to be different ways between teaching foreigners and local, adults and children.
 

Buntaro

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I actually started learning Japanese language from Taiwanese textbooks. You know Taiwan had been under Japanese rule before.


This is true in the Philippines and Korea too. I have heard that you can still find old people in these two countries who speak a little Japanese due to the Japanese occupations. There is also a number of people in the Philippines today of Japanese descent (probably descendants of Japanese occupation troops).

You might know that Hong Kong people have been educated with Mandarin textbooks but in Cantonese pronunciation.


That sounds confusing. Is it? Is the kanji-usage in Cantonese-only textbooks different?

After the basic I just keep looking up dictionary just like how I improve my English language and learn Japanese language.


If you can, find a Japanese person and do a language exchange (study spoken Japanese for 30 minutes, then teach spoken Cantonese for 30 minutes). Perhaps you can find a Japanese person interested in learning Cantonese? It is important to start doing spoken communication in Japanese (and help someone start doing spoken communication in Cantonese at the same time). If you need some ideas on what to do during such exchanges, please do not hesitate to ask.

Just like your title it is the same as in Chinese. Are you lack of exercises?


Unfortunately, yes.

You know the Japanese はい is pronounced the same as the Cantonese “yes”.


I didn’t know that!

…perhaps they can do something about writing.


Do you mean use simplified characters?

…where are you teaching Japanese students the English language?


I presently teach English online.

I believe there is separate dictionary for Japanese names.


Maybe someone on this forum can provide a link to such a resource online.

So you have been teaching English language in China? I’m interested to know what’s wrong with their way of teaching Chinese.


In Mainland China, English is usually taught in a lecture format, with the teaching talking and the students listening. I do not like how this robs the students of chances to practice speaking. In my classes in China, I had the students speak English half of the time (and my fellow Chinese faculty members were not happy with me).

Let us know when you have your first language exchange!

What questions do you have about the Japanese language? 暇の時、何をしますか?
 
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healer

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That sounds confusing. Is it? Is the kanji-usage in Cantonese-only textbooks different?
In the olden days every town every village had students taught with their own dialects but most written educational materials are the same.

help someone start doing spoken communication in Cantonese at the same time
I don’t actually speak Cantonese now but Mandarin. You can say Cantonese is my mother tongue but my preferred and current Chinese language is Mandarin. Anyway the importance of Cantonese is fading fast. I don’t think there’s a need or much interest in it.

Do you mean use simplified characters?
When you look up Japanese words in a dictionary, a lot of them have so many version of kanji. Sometimes It is very difficult for a beginner to know which to use. By default I just use the first one if I don’t know better. For example 見る 観る 診る 視る 看る. I know in this case there is some difference in usage depending what object it is. However some words that come with so many versions but no difference as to which to use.

this robs the students of chances to practice speaking
I’m sure you would have plenty of chances practising in the real world while you’re physically in the country.

What questions do you have about the Japanese language? 暇の時、何をしますか?
Not too sure what you’re asking here. I dedicate all my free time to learning Japanese. I post every question I have and I appreciate very much how Toritoribe-san helps me. I’m planning going through the textbooks and a few language websites again and again until everything sticks in my memory, until I no longer have question. At the moment I still have questions when I go through them. That’s how I learn languages.

Thanks for your time. Have a good day!
 
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