Zhyler Noun Cases

I've put it off for a long time, but I think it's about time I put up a page detailing each of the fifty-seven noun cases of Zhyler. In the following table, I'll give the noun class suffix (using the unidentified vowels specified in the vowel harmony section), and discuss the situations in which the suffix is used. This table will take a long time to put up, so be patient. In the end, all will be revealed.

Below is a navigatable list of the noun cases of Zhyler. You can click on any one and jump right to that spot in the table below. Once there, there'll be a "back to the top" link, so you can jump right back again. Yay! (Note: I know these case names aren't great. I did my best.)

[P.S.: If you're wondering something along the lines of, "Why are there so many cases?", I entreat you to go to the very bottom of the page, where I'll attempt to explain.]

Nominative Allative Enessive Postlative Discriminatory (In.)
Accusative Inessive Enlative Translative Discriminatory (Ex.)
Dative Illative Dessive Topical Monoexclusive
Genitive Abessive Delative Purposive Exclusive
Instrumental Ablative Subessive Focus/Oblique Durative
Caritive Exessive Sublative Authoritative Equative
Benefactive Elative Supressive Contrative Inequative
Malefactive Rexessive Suplative Adverbial/Exhortative Comparative
Vocative Rexlative Proessive Possessive Contrastive
Comitative Linksessive Prolative Interrogative Comprisative
Privative Linkslative Postessive Conjunctive Superlative
Locative       Distributive

The Noun Cases of Zhyler

(1) Nominative:

The nominative case is the case the subject of the sentence is in, unless the verb specifies otherwise (and it does, every so often).

The nominative is also used with nouns that are the subjects of locative sentences without verbs. So, for example, in the sentence Sexa ezjez, the first word, "man", is in the nominative, while the second noun, "house", is in the inessive. The meaning, then, is "The man is in the house".

The foregoing are fairly simple. The nominative, however, has two more specialized uses. To say something something like, "The man has a house" in Zhyler, you use no verb, but rather, two cases. In this sentence, "the man" would be in the possessive case, and "the house" would be in the nominative case. This sentence would look like this: Sexaya ezje.

The final specialized case the nominative is used in is that of indefinite genitive constructions. Though it's a bit confusing to explain from the nominative point of view, when a possessed object is indefinite (i.e. would be preceded by "a" or "an" in English) or is a mass noun (e.g. "grass", where you can't say *"a grass"), then the possessor is in the nominative case, and the possessed is in the genitive case. Two examples would be: (a) Yÿnkÿ ezjef, "The owner of a house"; and (b) Memka išwif, "A drinker of water".

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(2) Accusative: -(A)r

The accusative case is used to mark the direct object of a verb. Zhyler, however, allows double and even triple case marking, so the accusative case can also mark an embedded direct object (I'll show you what I mean by that in a minute.) First, here's an example of how it works with a single direct object: Pettir sayaslarum, "I killed the king". In this example, the word petti already ends in a vowel, so the underspecified vowel isn't necessary (which is why it's in parentheses above). Here's an example where it is necessary: Balakfener matum, "I see the gorilla".

Now I'll show you an example of double accusative marking. In Zhyler, you can add a causative suffix to a verb as many times as you want. Each time you add a causative suffix, though, you add another round of accusative cases. So, for example, Pettir sayaslarum is "I killed the king", but if I hired someone to kill the king, then I'd say, Sayastÿr pettirez sayasaslarum. In this example, the first word means "assassin", and it gets a single accusative tag (the -r). The second word, "the king", though, gets two accusative tags: One from the first causative suffix, -as, and one from the second causative suffix, -as. One thing to note in this example is that the newest direct object (i.e. the one with the fewest accusative tags) is the one that comes first in the sentence.

[Note: An alternation is present here between r and z. For information on this alternation, read rule (5) in the phonology section.]

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(3) Dative: -s/-lRs

The dative is generally used to mark the indirect object of a verb. Of the two forms, you use the first when adding the suffix to a vowel-final word, and the second when adding the suffix to a consonant-final word. An example of the normal use of the dative is: Sexa čelvenles püššur eller, "The man gave a collar to the dog" ("the man" is in the nominative case, and "a collar" is in the accusative case).

The dative is also used to express the object of one's emotion. So, for example, if you want to say that you're angry at something, or in love with someone, or bewildered by something, or happy for someone, in Zhyler, you have to use the verb izel, which means something like "to emote" (if such a word is still usable in English). The emotion, then, is expressed with the accusative, leaving the one you're emoting about to be expressed by the dative. An example of this would be: Sexa pettis döjðer iz, "The man is angry at the king".

Another use of the dative is to express the questionee in a question verb, such as čelen, "to question". An example of this would be: Sexa pettis čeller, "The man questioned the king."

The dative can also be used with a causative verb to indicate that the subject (or causer) has a less-than-direct influence over the object (or causee). An example will help to clarify: Sexa pettis sayaslar, "The man let the king die" (compare to the following sentence where the direct object is marked with the accusative case: Sexa pettir sayaslar, "The man killed the king").

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(4) Genitive: -(U)v

The genitive is used differently than it is in a language like Latin. Though it can be used to express possession of a kind, it can only do so in a very limited way, or with help from another case. Here's how the genitive is used.

It's ordinary use (i.e. when it's used by itself) renders a kind of possessive meaning. This strategy is achieved by placing the noun that is the possessor in the genitive case, and putting it before another noun in any case. When used with count nouns, the meaning rendered is something like, "The X of a Y", or "a Y's X", where Y is always indefinite. An example would be: Ezjef yÿnkÿ, "The owner of a house", or "a house's owner", or "a house owner", where the house is indefinite (it could be any house). This strategy is also used with all mass nouns, whether they're definite or indefinite. An example of this would be: Išwif memka, "A drinker of water", or "a water drinker", where "water" is a mass noun, and could be definite or indefinite.

The genitive can also be used in conjunction with the possessive, where the possessed item is a definite count noun. In this case, the noun in the genitive (which is the possessor) comes first, and the noun in the possessive (which is the possessed noun) comes second. An example of this would be: Sexaf čelvenyer matlarum, "I saw the dog of the man" (where "dog" is in the possessive, followed by the accusative).

The genitive is also used with the question word oyaða, which means something like, "How much?" or "How many?". In these cases, the thing that you ask about is put in the genitive. Here's an example: Čelvenüf oyaða belvet?, "How many dogs are there?" (Notice that the noun asked about is singular, not plural.)

The genitive is also used in compounds. The most common kind of compound in Zhyler is the Combinatory Adjective, which is a noun (generally) added to a verb to form an adjective. Ordinarily, you just stick the two together. If, however, the noun ends in a vowel and the verb begins with a vowel, the v from the genitive is tacked onto the end of the noun (it never devoices in this situation). So, an example of a combinatory adjective that does this would be rašwÿv-ÿšnusal, which is a combination of rašwÿ, "wind", and ÿšnusal, "to be blown". When these two are combined, the genitive suffix is inserted to prevent hiatus, and so you get rašwÿv-ÿšnusal, "wind-blown", or "bisexual".

Another very specialized use of the genitive is as the subject of the verb toral. This verb is used to mean "there isn't" or "there aren't". So, for example, if you wanted to say there aren't any dogs here, you'd say: Lese čelvenüf tor.

The genitive is also used in dates, much the way it is in English. So, if you want to say the 24th of April, you say, "24 Yeswÿğüf", where April is in the genitive.

[Note: In most of these examples, the final v of the genitive has devoiced and become f. This is a regular sound change of Zhyler (non-strident obstruent-final devoicing). For more information on this rule, go to the phonology section.]

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(5) Instrumental: -(A)t

The instrumental is most often used to express the instrument with which an action is accomplished. A simple example of this would be: Vembener vayšat uslarum, "I ate the meat with a fork" (where "meat" is in the accusative).

Another common use is with the verb mexel, which is the Zhyler equivalent of "to be". When the "object" of mexel is a noun, that noun is expressed by means of the instrumental. Here's an example: Vestit mexüm, "I am a professional writer".

The instrumental's also used to express the name in naming verbs (e.g. "to name", "to call", "to entitle", etc.). Here's an example: Wervendit ženler, "She named him Wervendi."

The rest of the time, the instrumental is used in situations that are more or less understandable, even if via metaphorical extension.

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(6) Caritive: -rAt

The caritive can be thought of as the opposite of the instrumental case. Its main use is to indicate that an action is accomplished without something. So, the cannonical example would be: Pettir sayaššarat sayaslarum, "I killed the king without a weapon (or bare-handed)" (where "king" is in the accusative).

The most common use of the caritive, though, is to indicate a lack of something. Here's an example: Welšarat mexüm, "I am without a shirt", or "I don't have a shirt (on)". [Note: In this example, the verb is often omitted.]

The caritive is also used to mark the direct object of a verb of desire or necessity. For example: Welšarat lemüm, "I need a shirt".

[Note: The initial r of this suffix is subject to rule 5 listed in the phonology section.]

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(7) Benefactive: -(E)š

The benefactive is used for nouns that are the beneficiary of some action. The cannonical example would be as follows: Lis amšar wervendiš ellerüm, "I gave you a book for Wervendi" (where "book" is in the accusative and "you" is in the dative) [note: This sentence is ambiguous in English. It is ambiguous in the same way in Zhyler].

It's also used with "fighting" words, to indicate the cause one's fighting for. So, for example: Liš werlerüm, "I fought for you".

It's also used with verbs relating to "allowance". Here's an example: Amšar liš žarlarum, "I allowed you the book", or "I let you have the book" (where "book" is in the accusative).

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(8) Malefactive: -r(X)š

The malefactive is used for nouns that are affected negatively by some action. One example would be as follows: Rujvinüm mareš saylar, "My horse died on me" (where "my horse" is in the nominative). A possible scenario where this sentence might be uttered would be when the speaker is recounting a tale in which he was riding through the desert, and suddenly his horse died, forcing him to walk the rest of the way.

It's also used with "fighting" words, to indicate the cause or person one's fighting against. So, for example: Pettiriš werlerüm, "I fought against the king".

It's also used with verbs relating to "denial". Here's an example: Amšar liriš žarrezlerüm, "I denied you the book", or "I didn't let you have the book" (where "book" is in the accusative).

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(9) Vocative: -(((y)J)y)A

Before explaining this case, the form might seem a bit confusing. What I meant to say (assuming I got the parentheses right) is that if you attach the vocative to a noun ending in a consonant with an odd number of syllables, the suffix is -A. If this word ends in a vowel, the suffix is -yA. If, however, you attach the vocative to a noun with an even number of syllables that ends in a consonant, the suffix is -JyA (where the value of A will always be a). If the vocative gets attached to a word with an even number of syllables that ends in a vowel, then the form of the suffix will be -yJyA (and the same is true of the value of A again).

Now then, the vocative is used mainly when addressing someone. The reason is fairly simple. A lot of nouns in Zhyler end in consonants. If you're calling to someone from far away, you can't project a consonant the way you can a vowel, and so you get the vocative ending. So, for example, if I wanted to call for my mother, I'd yell, ŸMKŸYA!!!, "MOTHER!!!", where "mother" is in the vocative case. This would be unnecessary in this circumstance, though, because "mother" already ends in a vowel. This is because this is the practical use of the vocative. The practical usage is only found when necessary (e.g. when yelling from far away), and it only surfaces when the noun in the vocative ends in a consonant (thus, there's only -A and -JyA).

Another use of the vocative, though, is in polite conversation. So, when someone wants to get someone's attention, but doesn't want to say, "Hey, you!", or simply state the person's name (since that would be rude), the vocative is added to the name. In the polite form, all four versions of the vocative suffix are found.

The vocative has another usage which I've come to refer to as the invocative, misnomer though it may be. Essentially, the invocative is used when a noun is used in a sentence simply as a follow-up to another noun—a further specification. So, for example, both in Latin and in English, the title of Jim Morrison's favorite Greek tragedy has a construction which, in Zhyler, would warrant the invocative. The play is, of course, Oedipus Rex, which means Oedipus the King. In the English version, "the King" isn't really anything. It's not an object, it's not a possessed thing (the king doesn't belong to Oedipus), and it's not a possessor (Oedipus doesn't belong to the king). What it is is a spellout of Oedipus. So it's not just any old Oedipus, like Oedipus Jones down on Belmont Street, it's the Oedipus that happens to also be the king. This is where you'd use the invocative. So, the title of that incestuous play in Zhyler would be, Oydipus Pettiyÿya, where "king" is in the invocative.

Another common use of the invocative is in naming lands. So, for example, if you wanted to say, "Here we are on the island of Hawai'i!", "Hawai'i" would be in the invocative. This is because the island doesn't belong to Hawai'i: The island is Hawai'i.

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(10) Comitative: -(A(y)E)n

Yet again, these parentheses look awful. Here's the breakdown: If a noun with an even number of syllables ends in a vowel, it gets -n. If it ends in a consonant, it gets -AyEn (the E, in this case, will always be A). If a noun with an odd number of syllables ends in a vowel, it'll take -yEn. If it ends in a consonant, it'll take -En.

The comitative is basically the case you use to say "with", in the sense of companionship, not instrumentation. So, if you want to say, "I ate with Dave", you say, Deven uslarum, where I'm in the comitative case.

The comitative case also has some specialized uses. So, for example, when you want to talk about two things getting stuck together physically, no matter what the verb is, you use the comitative to express the second object. In other words, if you stick a paper to a wall, the paper will be getting stuck accusatively, whereas the wall will be getting stuck comitatively. Here's an example: Veššar solwÿt rumšun sollarum, "I stuck the pencil to the coffee table with glue" (in this example, "pencil" is in the accusative case, and "glue" is in the instrumental case).

Another specialized use of the comitative is that a noun that's the object of a verb of similitude is put into the comitative case. (Note: Most of the time, this is handled by a case, but verbs of similitude are perfectly cromulent.) Here's a simple example: Vešša vesčen löž, "The pencil is like the pen" (in this example, "pencil" is in the nominative case).

The comitative case is also used to express the thematic argument of the verb tamal. This verb is just like the English verb "to leave", but only in the sense of leaving something in some specific state or condition. The state or condition, in Zhyler, is expressed with the nominative case, and the object (that is, the one who's left in that state) is expressed with the comitative. Here's an example: Döjðe mayan tamlar, "I was left angry" (in this example, "anger" is a noun, and is in the nominative case).

Finally, the comitative case is also used for emphasis. In order to emphasize an NP, a pronoun matching the noun case of the emphasized NP is put after the NP in question and declined in the comitative case. Here's an example: Sexa kajan res, "The man (and not anyone else) is lonely" (in this example, "man" is still in the nominative case). The actual pronoun in the comitative, in this case, doesn't refer to anything in the English translation (well, except, possibly, the italics, but I can't underline the italic tags...).

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(11) Privative: -lRm

The privative is used to express the idea of "without"-ness, with respect to people, not instruments. So, not, "I attacked my food without utencils", but, "I left this world without my favorite cat" (to express the former, you'd use the caritive case). Here's an example: Devlem uslarum, "I ate without Dave" (where I'm in the privative).

[Note: The initial l of this suffix is subject to rule 5 listed in the phonology section.]

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(12) Locative: -(I)k

The locative case is used to express an indefinite location. There are lots of locational cases to express specific locations, but the locative is used specifically to express some kind of a nonspecific spatial relation. It can kind of be translated by "at" or "near" or "around". Sometimes it can have very specific translations. Here's an example of such a one: Def vešpölük, "Dave's in the tree" (where I'm in the nominative case). In this example, there's really only one salient place one can be with respect to a tree, and that's in it. Thus, the locative is translated as "in". However, if we were playing tag, or something, and the tree was home base, someone might say that I was "at" the tree using the locative case. It would simply depend on context.

[Note: The mighty v in my name in the example above got devoiced on account of rule 1 listed in the phonology section.]

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(13) Allative: -(Q)w

The allative case is used to indicate motion towards something. It's a kind of counterpart to the locative case because it's an indefinite towardsness, if you can picture that. You use this to say that something is going towards something else, but what they do when they get there is left to the imagination. Here's an example: Čelven ezjew evler, "The dog went to(wards) the house" (where the dog is in the nominative case). This sense of the allative is almost always used in conjunction with a verb of motion.

The allative can also be used in a metaphorical sense. It's used to indicate untilness, as it were. It's idiomatically used with (usually) a verbal noun to tell when an action was done until. (Is that grammatical?) Here's an example which will explain much better: Böjðew uslar, "He ate until (he was) full" (literally, "He ate towards satiety").

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(14) Inessive: -(B)z

The inessive case is used to indicate that X is located within Y, physically. The "in" here is very much like the English "in", in that the inessive is used with "in a coffin" as well as "in the back of a flat-bed pick-up truck". A common example would be something like Sexa čelvener ezjez matlar, "The man saw the dog in the house" (where "man" is in the nominative case, and "dog" is in the accusative case). [Note: This sentence is not ambiguous in Zhyler, because the phrase ezjez is used before the verb. In order for it to modify the dog, it would need to appear before čelvener.]

In addition to its primary locative function, the inessive is used to pick out specific points in time (something like "at" in English). Here's an example: Sexa čelvener kamÿžlirÿz matlar, "The man saw the dog at sunset" (where, again, "man" is in the nominative case, and "dog" is in the accusative case).

[Note: For related temporal cases, see the illative and the elative.]

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(15) Illative: -(B)ž

The illative case is used to indicate motion into something. A common example would be something like Sexa ezjež müsalar, "The man walked into the house" (where "man" is in the nominative case).

In addition to its primary locative function, the illative is used to indicate the endpoint of an action that occurs over a set period of time. Here's an example: Sexa ügrallergam lejetþež vonlar, "The man sang from morning to night" (where, again, "man" is in the nominative case, and "morning" is in the elative case).

[Note: For related temporal cases, see the inessive and the elative.]

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(16) Abessive: -(I)d

The abessive case has a variety of uses. It's basic meaning is that X is not near Y, or, perhaps, that X is not done near Y. For example, Šÿnkÿyaya jimšÿt orovlar, "The children played (far) away from the fire" (where "children" is in the nominative case).

Though the example above illustrates the primary locative function of the abessive case, it's most commonly used to express a lack of something. As opposed to the caritive case, which is used with instruments that an action is completed without, and the privative case, which is used with individuals that an action is completed without, the abessive is used for possessions or persons (e.g. relatives) that one doesn't have. In this way, it's really the complement of the possessive case. The basic use of the case can be shown without a verb: Z'üykÿt talka, "That girl has no sister" (where "sister" is in the nominative case). In sentences such as this one, the possessee is the head: Z'üykÿt talkar matlarum, "I saw the sister that girl doesn't have" (where "sister" is in the accusative case).

The abessive is also used for verbs of motion with non-volitional objects. In other words, if X is moving Y from Z to A, Z will be in the abessive case (the ablative case is used when nouns are moving themselves from somewhere to somewhere else). Here's an example: Detčer manðat usþak noğenlerüm, "I took the bowl from the kitchen to the dining room" (where "bowl" is in the accusative case, and "dining room" is in the locative case).

[Note: The d of the abessive case gets devoiced on account of rule 1 listed in the phonology section. Also, the demonstrative za is elided to z' before words beginning with a vowel.]

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(17) Ablative: -(I)ð

The ablative case is used to indicate motion away from something. It's only used when the body in motion is enacting the movement volitionally. Here's an example: Naredðeþ zinlerüm, "I've come from the sea". It's also used in certain last names referring to places, e.g. Itwindi Memkaðaþ, "Itwindi Memkaðaþ (or Itwindi of Memkaða)".

[Note: The ð of the ablative case gets devoiced on account of rule 1 listed in the phonology section.]

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(18) Exessive: -g(B)

The exessive case is used to indicate that X is outside of Y. It has limited uses. The phonological form of the suffix indicates that when added to a word that ends with a vowel, the form is -g; when added to a form that ends in a consonant, the form is -gB. Here are a couple examples: (1) Šÿnkÿyaya ezjek orof, "The children are playing outside of the house" (where "children" is in the nominative case); and (2) Šÿnkÿyaya ezjelepka orof, "The children are playing outside of the cottage" (where, again, "children" is in the nominative case).

[Note: The g of the exessive case gets devoiced in example (1) on account of rule 1 listed in the phonology section. The g of the exessive case gets devoiced in example (2), on the other hand, on account of rule 7a listed in the phonology section.]

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The Very Bottom of the Page

One might scratch one's head on pondering these two facts in Zhyler:

(1) Zhyler has an unusually large number of noun cases.
(2) Zhyler has an unusually small number of adpositions (namely, zero).

I'll now attempt to give a brief explanation for these two facts.

The simple answer to item (2) is that there used to be adpositions in Zhyler—specifically, postpositions. How many? There were about (let me count...) thirty. (Maybe thirty-three.) The original cases were: The nominative, accusative, dative, genitive, instrumental, vocative, and locative. Then, if you look at the table, everything from the Contrative on down was either a clitic or conjunction of some kind. Everything else up there was a postposition. I'll call this stage of the language Old Zhyler.

Old Zhyler, unlike present Zhyler, had no vowel harmony. Further, though it was an eight vowel system, the three vowels ÿ, ü, and ö were the central vowels [ɨ], [ʉ] and [ə], respectively. Then, something akin to the Great Vowel Shift happened that made Old Zhyler into present day Zhyler. Several steps were involved in this change. This is a summary of them:

  1. All the clitics and postpositions discussed above fused to the nouns they modified, evidenced by the shift in stress (stress is generally word final in Zhyler. In old Zhyler, then, a postpositional phrase such as rumjo vay, "under the table", would have one main phrasal stress on the final o in rumjo. When the postpositions fused and became cases, the resulting word, rumjovay, caused a shift in stress from the o in rumjo to the a in the new case suffix -vay).

  2. The central vowels polarized, such that /ɨ/ became [ɯ]; /ʉ/ became [y]; and /ə/ became [ø].

  3. Vowel harmony happened when the postpositions fused. It occurred in all suffixes, even the clitics and cases. The vowel harmony changes were based on: (a) the original vowel, and (b) the surrounding consonants. The result was that a single suffix vowel resulted in multiple underspecified vowels. Below is a table of the underspecified vowels that each original suffix vowel became.

This is how Zhyler came to have so many "cases". As you can see, they're not all really cases, but they all act the same way in present day Zhyler, so, for functional reasons, I call the lot of them noun cases.


The Historical Underspecified Vowel Chart

Below is a table that shows which suffix vowels from old Zhyler turned into which underspecified vowels in present day Zhyler, and the environment that conditioned the change.

Original Suffix Vowel Underspecified Vowel Environment
a B C [+velar]_
A elsewhere
o O C [+labial]_
Q elsewhere
e R C [+liquid]_
E C [+palatal]_
F elsewhere
ə E C [+palatal]_
X elsewhere
u U C [+labial, -lab.velar]_
W C [+lab.velar]_
J C [+palatal]_
Q elsewhere
i W C [+lab.velar]_
J C [+palatal]_
Y C [+labial, -lab.velar]_
R C [+liquid]_
I elsewhere
ɨ J C [+palatal]_
N elsewhere
ʉ J C [+palatal]_
N elsewhere

For further information on the current vowel harmony system, go to the vowel harmony section.

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