Language Attitude toward Gulf Pidgin Arabic

Posted: May 15, 2018

Language Attitude toward Gulf Pidgin Arabic




Language attitude toward GPA

Section 1. Attitude definition and comparison to similar concepts

This section contains discussion on the definition of attitudes in general and of language attitudes in particular. In addition, it includes a comparison of attitude with a number of similar concepts existing in social psychology and other social disciplines.

The word “attitude” has Latin and Italian roots (“aptitude”+“atto”) that can be translated as "aptitude for action". Therefore, the word “attitude” means, “having a tendency towards certain actions” (Baker, 1992). Historically the meaning of the word has been related to the art, where the attitude is "a posture or pose in painting or drama” (Baker, 1992). By Cambridge Dictionary, literally the word means “a position of the body” (Cambridge Dictionary), this meaning is related to the historical one, but still, has usage in modern English.

Today in British and American English, word “attitude” has addition senses sometimes with a negative connotation. For example, the word applicable in everyday speech in the meaning close to “confidence”: “If you say that someone has attitude, you mean that they are very confident and want people to notice them” (Cambridge Dictionary). In particular, in American English, the word application in informal speech represent a negative evaluation of the person: “If you say that someone has an attitude, you mean that the person seems unwilling to be helpful or polite” (Cambridge Dictionary). For both meanings, the common feature is an existence of strong believes, feelings, some core opinions in person mind that affect an action, in particular making it more egoistic, concentrated on its personal outcomes, constructing the very individual way of action. The scientific meaning of the term is neutral and has no negative or positive connotations like one in a common speech, but in the literature show the same important relation between individual meanings and actions.

As Baker writes in his book Attitudes and Language (1992), attitude is abstract hypothetical structure, construct, or a model. Social psychologists use it for an explanation of "the direction and persistence of human behavior” (Baker, 1992). One of the specific characteristics of attitude is a reflection of dispositions that are enduring and stable, they can change during the life, but only in a long-term perspective (Baker, 1992). The other feature of attitude is its latent nature, as its direct observation is almost impossible. The only way scientists can study it is through observation of persistent external behavior and direction this behavior has (Baker, 1992).

Scientists in humanitarian disciplines have constructed a number of formal definitions for the term; the classical one is the definition by Allport (1935). In his opinion, attitude is "a mental or neural state of readiness, organized through experience, exerting a directive or dynamic influence upon the individual’s response to all objects and situations with which it is related" (Baker, 1992). This definition pays special attention to the latent nature of attitude, as it is an invisible mental state, however showing itself through human action.

Bem (1968) has characterized attitudes as “self-descriptions or self-perceptions” (Baker, 1992), this variant requires by subject conscious recognition of its attitudes while Allport’s does not. By definition of McGuire (1985), an attitude is a location of "objects of thought on dimensions of judgment” (Baker, 1992). This variant of definition focuses on the scale and therefore opens a new area of research methodology, leads to techniques of measurement of attitudes. The other definition by Ajzen (1988) tells that attitude is "a disposition to respond favorable or unfavorable to an object, person, institution or event" (Baker, 1992). This one assumes only a positive/ negative variant of attitudes, therefore does not suppose measurement as McGuire's one.

While definitions above focus on human, the positioning of attitude in his mind, and external expressions of attitude, the hierarchical model of attitude provides the analysis of the internal structure of the “attitude” concept itself. By this model (following Plato's ideas), an attitude includes three parts: cognitive, affective, and readiness for action (Baker, 1992). The cognitive part includes beliefs and thoughts about the object; the affective part includes feelings to the object. This model allows differentiating attitude from many other concepts that may include one-two components, but the attitude is all three parts in their integrity.

The word “attitude” has a wide usage in common English in meaning “a feeling or opinion about something or someone, or a way of behaving that is caused by this” (Cambridge Dictionary). This sense applicable in everyday speech is close to specific scientific one; however, for this research, it is not strict enough, as mix attitude, opinion, feeling, and way of behaving. In comparison to the hierarchical model, it contains all its parts, but does not provide details on their integrity and required the presence of three parts (use “or” operator instead of “and”).

Next is an illustration of the model by the attitude toward a language (for example, Arabic) as an object. In this case, cognitive part of favorable attitude may include recognition of Arabic value as the source of religion tradition continuation (the language of Koran), the measure for Arabic world integration and unification. The affective component of attitude includes feelings that may be love to tongue bounded with love to the God, or that may be a passion to some cultural artifacts such as poetry or songs. The third component shows itself through subject's affirmations and real actions, for example, active usage of the speech, passionate studying, and aspiration to teach and share this tongue with others.

Therefore, the language attitude is an attitude toward the speech that has an outcome in the form of such actions as its usage, studying, and proselytism. It is important to notice that attitudes toward studying and its results produce a cycle. Positive attitudes to learning a dialect make it more successful that makes attitudes to studying even more positive (Baker, 1992).

The attitude differs from such concepts as opinion, motive, ideology, and personal trait. The difference between attitude and opinion relates to three-component model, where attitude includes an affective reaction, while opinion is a belief only with a cognitive component in its structure. The other important feature of opinion is a required verbalization, while attitude may be both non-verbal and verbal. Methodologies of attitude and opinion surveys are also different, what is important for social psychology. In a case of attitude survey, the research seeks for the relationship of attitudes to many variables, while in opinion survey only for population viewpoints itself (Baker, 1992).

Attitude and ideology also differ by the factor of their roots, relation to traditions in social psychology and sociology. Ideology is “an elaborate cognitive system rationalizing forms of behavior”; therefore, it operates on more abstract and global level than attitude directed just to objects (Baker, 1992).

Between personality trait and attitude, there is a common characteristic of stability; however, traits are less open to modification and change, while attitudes are relatively flexible. In addition, personality trait does not have a target, as attitude does (Baker, 1992).

Attitudes and motives have in common the latent nature and effect on behavior direction. Among main differences, there is a relation to drives (drives production vs. existing drive state), and specification (object vs. goal). As well, these conceptions come from different traditions in social psychology (Baker, 1992). This last pair is the hardest for differentiation in practice.

Section 2. Attitude/Motivation Test Battery (AMTB) validity for language contact research

One of the main instruments in current studies of language attitudes is a Gardener’s attitude/motivation test battery (AMTB) that initially intended for “use with secondary school students studying English as a foreign language” in Canada (Gardner, 2004). Scientists apply this test translated into other languages in such countries as Poland, Japan, Spain, Romania, Brazil, and Croatia (Gardner, 2004).

The basement for the test battery is Gardner’s socio-educational model of second language acquisition. This model has a 30-year history of development, during this period Gardner and colleagues have been studying "the role of various individual difference characteristics of the student in the learning of a second language” (Gardner, 1993). Among variables that they have found significant in the studies, there is motivation to language learning, proficiency in this language, and attitudes toward the group of native speakers. Main classes of variables embedded by Gardner in the model are situational anxiety and motivation (integrative motive) (Gardner, 1993), as well as integrative orientation, instrumental orientation, attitudes toward the learning situation, and some other (Masgoret & Gardner, 2003).

Gardener proves the validity of initial model and AMTB in his article on the measurement of affective variables in second language learning (1993). To test the concordance between presumed attributes of measurement and the real ones for all battery subtests he uses three methods of analysis, all of the show a positive result. An empirical study based on factor analysis confirms the quality of the relationship between subtests and higher orders constructs of the model (such as Attitudes toward the Learning Situation, Motivation, Language Anxiety, and Integrativeness). Among the other issues, that Gardner resolves through tests and studies is the influence of the method of affective variables measurement on their correlation with measures of achievement. Finally, Gardner mentions in this paper as resolved issue the correlation between instrumental and integrative measurements (Gardner, 1993).

Examples of AMTB application in language attitudes studies include works in French and English as a second tongue for children and adults. Meanwhile, authors encourage users of the test to modify it for the other context of study conduction, as questions are context specific (Gardner, 1994). This way AMTB becomes useful for studies of Yoruba and Portuguese as well as for many other dialects. However, in all these studies the object of attitude is a second tongue, not a pidgin.

The main difference between language and pidgin lays in the sphere of their application and functionality as well as formal classification and interests of particular social groups in the communication status. Pidgin like in Nigeria (NP) may have the highest population of speakers in the community, but still, find no place in the education system and have no official recognition (Igboanusi, 2008). Pidgin variety of speech originates in the areas of active language contact and used just for limited communication, its marginal status, therefore, comes from limited usage in comparison to other tongues of community and usually weak academic interest or administrative issues (Akande &Salami, 2010).

In this context, the second speech and pidgin have not that serious difference for the purposes of language attitudes research. The pidgin status is comparable to others marginalized minority dialects. Thus, Akande and Salami in their research of Nigerian Pidgin apply the same general theoretical frameworks that could be possible for second tongues. They point that for studying of language attitudes are applicable the behaviorist approach and the mentalist approach and choose one of the frameworks (Akande &Salami, 2010).

The other argument for application of AMTB is a lack of alternative methods developed specially for studying of attitudes toward pidgins. In such situation, AMTB is a well-developed system that after required modification to the context is applicable to pidgin studies, therefore it is valid in a context of this research.

Section 3. Design of interview

I have consolidated the data for analysis in this research through an interview with laborers using GPA in their everyday life and at work. The interviews aimed at looking at two main issues: the social factors that led to the emergence of Gulf Pidgin Arabic (GPA) as well as the attitudes towards GPA from the unskilled/semi-skilled migrant laborers’ viewpoint.

In the one-to-one semi-structured interviews, I have used the next list of questions (10 in total):

Question #1: How did you learn Arabic in Saudi Arabia? Was it difficult or easy? Have the local people helped you? (Probe for any difficult, bad or good experiences.)

Question #2: Do you feel that most of the locals here are friendly, kind and easy to get along with? Do you have Saudi friends? Why?

Question #3: Do you live with Saudis or in a neighborhood densely populated by Saudis? Or do you live with other expats or expat densely-populated neighborhoods?

Question #4: Do you have any issues/problems with interacting with the locals or with the locals in general? (Have any issues arisen from your interactions?)

Question #5: Have you ever been subjected to racism/discrimination or bad treatment or degraded by the local people? What kinds of racist remarks or acts have you witnessed, if any?

Question #6: Do you like or feel satisfied with your Arabic? Or do you wish to speak more like the local people? Is it important?

Question #7: Do you use/speak Arabic only with local people or do you use it also when communicating with other foreigners?

Question #8: What do the Saudi people think of your Arabic? Do you have problems in communicating with them? (Probe for any positive or negative experience in understanding.)

Question #9: Do you feel that the local people here help you to learn/understand their language? Or to speak more like them? Do they speak to you the same way they speak to other locals? Or is there a difference and why?

Question #10: Do you see a difference between the Arabic you know/speak the language spoken by local people? What is the difference? Why?

The interview questions looked at two primary issues. The first one is speakers' attitude towards the local people, and the second one focused on finding out the speakers' attitudes towards GPA. This list of questions is based on AMTB methodology.

In interview participated 21 laborers; their names have been coded by the first letter of the name and the index number of the interview. To record a transcript of the interview, in addition to tagging in a notebook, I used a dictaphone with a permission of interviewees. That technology provided a better quality of material in comparison to just tagging in a notebook. The original interview takes place in GPA. My colleague with a knowledge of GPA validated decoded materials by comparing my version and dictaphone tape.

After decoding and validation of materials, I translated them to English to make next analysis faster and to be able to share this material with people without GPA understanding. For analysis, I use the other structure of materials. I group answers to every question by different respondents (coded with letter and figure) rather than answers of every person to different questions. For some questions with very similar and simple answers by all participants, I make a generalization. There are no keywords identified in advance.

The chosen method of interview analysis is a thematic content analysis (TCA). This method provides a presentation of qualitative data in a descriptive form. Initial data for analysis may be presented in the form of interview transcripts (like in case of this paper), as well as other identified texts on the particular topic, images, video, and other forms. The TCA of a proper quality gives a portrait of the thematic content of research materials based on common themes identification within these texts. Thematic content analysis lies in the core of analytic procedures and methods of qualitative research that makes it relevant in the context of this qualitative study.

The process of analysis requires by researcher objective approach and detailed work with data. Main operations are distilling and grouping common themes in the textual materials, making lists of such themes. The main purpose of these actions is to express common opinions of interview participants.

It is recommended to construct for themes names made of participants' words. Themes grouping should directly reflect the whole text and has integrity. Within processes of naming and sorting themes recommended a minimum level of author interpretation. However, interpretation of themes meaning by researcher may be provided in Discussion.

The negative characteristic of TCA is its incompleteness as analysis and descriptive nature. That makes the method "not an analysis" in the opinion of some qualitative researchers (Anderson, 2007, p.2). However, the procedure of situating “identified meaning units in relationship to context” (Anderson, 2007) and structuring them for particular participant and set of participants making the TCA close to “Case Study, Discourse Analysis, Ethnography, Grounded Theory, Heuristic Research, Intuitive Inquiry, Narrative Methods and variant derivative methods” (Anderson, 2007).

At the same time, TCA may be a part of Heuristic Research or Intuitive Inquiry, methods that incorporate subjective and objective data and give as outcome inter-subjective interpretations based on the intuition of researcher. In the method of Intuitive Inquiry, TCA may be used for the objective part of analysis while inter-subjective meanings and interpretations added later in the Discussion (Anderson, 2007). Therefore, TCA is a method optimal for work with objective data and is applicable to the material of interviews within this study.

Among programs useful for TCA there are specific applications for automating grouping and labeling of texts, however, in this study, I use Microsoft Word as a main technical instrument. As well, I actively work with paper documents, as they are easy to edit and highlight.

The procedure of TCA, in this case, includes next stages:

1. Preparation where I produce the number of paper or electronic copies of working materials (in the case of this study interview transcripts).

2. Highlighting relevant descriptions on the study topic using specific criteria of relevance.

3.  Marking within these areas distinct units of meaning varying in text length. Criteria for separation is a change in meaning or break. Keeping a balance between including all relevant information and overproducing of units.

4. Cutting or copying units out and putting similar ones together. This operation is easier to do in a new Word document. Coding of units.

5. Adding to piles of similar units themes produced from phrases/ keywords original for highlighted materials. Generating categories that do not have roots in the text is not recommended. On the other stages, this categories may be revised.

6. Identifying missing categories based on obvious information that is not presented in materials.

7. The process of units’ identification, grouping and labeling piles of units should be repeated until all materials are checked. The same rule of preference for labeling words original for text over researcher’s own categories working here.

8. Next part of editing includes redistributing of units within categories, subdividing, collapsing and relabeling of categories.

9. After some brake, (2-3 days) TCA requires rereading of original interview undependably of ready categories and units.

10. Reconsidering existing categories and units with a special attention to their moderate size, redistribution, subdivision/ collapsing, relabeling.

11. Evaluation of a total number of categories, in a case of their overproduction, step back to the stage 10.

12. Repeating 11 stages for every additional material, in case of this study an interview transcript.

13. Reading TCA of all transcripts separately and construction of a common list of themes and categories for material as a whole. Subdividing, collapsing, relabeling, and controlling the number of resulting categories.

14. Rereading list of resulting categories after 2-3 days break, evaluation of their quantity and covering the overall sense of study materials.

15. First 14 stages should be repeated until the quality of categories is satisfying (Anderson, 2007).

Section 4. The findings emerging from the data

Social gap

Local people are helpful in studying language especially in the working sphere where they have a direct interest in efficient communication with laborers. Sometimes the studying happens by children. These speakers have no other alternatives but to speak Arabic with laborers.

However, the easier way to study speech gradually is by "bilingual" people of the same origin as they can give better descriptions with an intermediation of their native tongue and better understand problems of newbies.

As contacts of laborers mostly limited by their national community and only purpose to study Arabic comes from work, the highest possible level of language proficiency limited by communicative tasks laborers has at work (sometimes it is one phrase for verification of standard action).

From this preference of studying the language by non-native speakers by people of the same origin comes application of pidgin variation instead of standard Arabic.” I spoke to them without knowing if it is right or wrong, they just speak that way.”

Laborers point that most of the people are good in the meaning of their honest and law-abiding behavior, they see fewer burglars in Saudi Arabia than at home countries, most of the people are not aggressive toward foreigners. The communication between locals (employers) and foreigners (laborers) goes mostly smooth; however, some of the locals may be more conflict that is dependable on particular characters. The higher is the level of language proficiency the easier is the understanding and fewer conflicts on this base are possible.

The social gap between local people and laborers exist as laborers mostly serving locals and has a submissive position. “Some Saudis are arrogant and do not think that those foreigners are equal human beings.” However, most of Saudis, by interviewees’ opinion are friendly on the distance the laborers use with them.

It is important to notice that contacts of laborers with Saudis are superficial. From position, “I am only here to work" comes limitation of contacts with locals; laborers do not make friends around them. Exclusion is close friendly relations at work, but they have no continuation outside the work. Foreigners do not visit Saudi's homes; they may have phone contacts and get some help by locals or just exchange greetings, talk a bit, but no more. In some special cases, Saudis invite foreigners to their weddings.

Among reasons for limited communication, respondents name lack of time and money, as well as the priority of earning money over spending them with friends. The other respondent points to separation within society by nationality, income or strong influence of cultural difference: “Here foreigners and Saudis are separated. There is no problem, but he is a Saudi, and I am a foreigner, how can we be friends?”; “Saudis are with Saudis.”; “No, making friends with Saudis does not happen here, they think I am poor.“; “There is a difference between a foreigner and a Saudi. Just a difference that is why I do not make any friends.” One more reason is an issue with differentiation within the other culture good and bad people, especially when you do not have a long contact with them by some natural way (work, sponsorship).

Laborers live often in families they work for; others more often live with foreigners only then with Saudis (separation by the rent price). Their opinions on the existence of discrimination or racism in the country divided, some see it when others not. In addition, the foreigner's behavior (active work, few social life) prevent them from meeting racism and discrimination personally.

In total, two main reasons of social gap existence is an arrogance of some Saudis and cultural difference with foreigners and the difference in income level and related lifestyle.

Social factors for pidgin emergence

In pidgin and creole studies, scientists point two main groups of factors for language varieties emergence, social and structural. Winford divides social factors in contact languages into ones working on macro and micro (individual) levels. Factors of macro level: demography, socio-cultural homogeneity/ differentiation of the bilingual group, its size, the existence of sub-groups in the community with different native languages, political and social relations between sub-groups, in several sub-groups dominance of bilinguals with specific speech behavior, stereotyped attitudes toward languages of sub-groups, attachment of special status.

Factors of micro level: an ability to divide tongues in speech, do not mix them, skills of verbal expression, proficiency in communication, assignment of specific speech to some interlocutors and topics, ways to learn tongues, stereotypes, and attitudes toward languages (Winford, 2013).

On example of GPA, this factors and conditions are next. The size of the bilingual group is great, that is 50-95% of labor force in the Gulf region. The community is clearly divided by an application of original Arabic and GPA variety of a language or some other Asian native language in internal communication within the group. Demographic facts that support GPA formation are a low level of foreigners' education and a high number of female laborers (comparatively worse education than for the male population) (Avram, 2014).

Social relations between subgroups are very limited; the group of foreign laborers has a submissive position. Within groups of Bangladeshis, Indians, Pakistanis, and other national groups there is a prevalence of bilingual individuals having specific speech dependently in their native tongue. Stereotyped attitudes toward GPA and Arabic are for first like to speech for work only, the language of poor immigrants not understanding real Arabic, and the second the tongue for natives, the one giving opportunities, however irrelevant for immigrants social status.

On the micro level, most of the foreign speakers have problems with keeping two dialects apart, as result, they use grammar constructions or sounds from their native tongue in their variety of Arabic. Relative proficiency in Arabic is in average low and in the native language is high. Application of Arabic (GPA) limits by work and small talks, while native tongues can be applied to their ethnic group for many topics. Learning native speech is a natural process in early child development while learning Arabic (GPA) is artificial, it happens mostly through friends from the same ethnic group or through the process of work. Attitude toward real Arabic is as to the language irrelevant for work, toward GPA as a required minimum that makes life in the country comfortable enough and allows to make money here.

Social attitude toward pidgin

Laborers think on the required level of the Arabic language that it can be medium or low. They understand and speak well enough to work that is the most important. "To know the words that are related to your work is enough. It is not necessary to learn everything, just knowing the language of my job is enough.” They find unnecessary speaking like Saudis.

Main situations they need Arabic is work and grocery store, ability to understand is more important than speak for many of them working at homes. Others learn limited vocabulary related to professional functions: “I have worked as a ‘barber’ for 12 years, how can I know the Arabic for other jobs?”, “I do not know Arabic, but now I know so then I know the way. It is not a problem to know only a little Arabic.”, “For example, a taxi driver knows how to go this way, or the traffic or go to a certain road or left and right, but not much.”, “My Arabic is good and enough to speak/understand a doctor or a nurse”.

On the other hand, there are respondents who find learning more Arabic having sense and reasonable for them personally:

Speaking more like Saudis is better though, I do not know how to speak well, but if I knew it would be great.”

“If someone likes the language, he should learn to speak like Saudi people”,

“Yes, it is not too bad, I wish that I could speak more like Saudis, I want to learn how to speak well, but now it’s okay.”,

“But it is not enough, if I learn more, I would know more.”

However, this variant of attitude toward Arabic of Saudis is rare. Most of the respondents find pidgin enough for their work, live in the country, and do not have a reason learn more. They use this variant of language both with locals and with foreigners.

The pidgin variety is understandable for locals, on their side they prefer to talk to foreigners on simplifies and very clear Arabic, not the same way as between each other. That way both sides have almost no problem in communication. Difficulties may relate to the speed of talking, but locals ready to adapt and simplify until foreigners will not understand them. Therefore, locals do not help foreigners much with original variant of the language, only with simple forms required for work operations and basic communication. Usually, they do not make special efforts to teach, just talk about work. A productive form of learning by locals is dialogs about work and items presented there.

Laborers understand the difference between their variant of Arabic and the language Saudis speak between each other. However, they find it normal, inevitable, because “I am a Bangladeshi, they are Saudis, we cannot speak the same way.

Language indexicality and identity formation

Under language indexicality in linguistic anthropology, scientists understand a type of semiotic relationships (other ones are iconicity and symbolism) where a sign (index by terminology) links to an object. The method of such connection is "pointing or being contiguous to it" (Besnier and Philips, 2014), in addition, a context plays important role in capability of the index to mean. In theory, "any aspect of language and interaction is potentially related to context indexically, and is thus potentially involved in meaning-making" (Besnier and Philips, 2014). Scientists divide indexes of different levels in dependence on the length of chains of meanings bonding index and object. For example, some specific characteristics of interaction and language use may index an aspect of context. That context may index aspect of agents' identity and so on.

The range of contexts where respondents typically use GPA is limited to next situations:

  • In family where they work: with sponsors, their children,
  • At work with customers and “friends”,
  • At shop, some other basic communicative situations with Saudis,
  • With other immigrants, (not clear if they use it with people of the same ethnicity for everyday speech).

Saudis use GPA or simplified Arabic in any communication with migrants having other native languages.

Therefore, the main association between signs and objects here is an application of GPA variation by Saudis by occupational and ethnic categories (in communication with immigrant laborers). For the application of GPA by respondents, there is an association between GPA and work. They find relevant to use this variety first for the income purpose, while for other purposes they can use the native language. Therefore, when respondent use GPA he probably speaks with colleague or client, or neighbor of the other ethnicity.

Among characteristics typical for first-order indexicals there is highly objective or presupposing character, they reflect pre-existing social arrangements. For GPA it is an immigrant laborer status. This way index of the first-order type "can easily be reconstructed and modeled by external observers or by language users themselves, as they did in the questionnaire” (Büscher, D'hondt, & Meeuwis, 2013).

By GPA or simplified Arabic application, Saudis can demonstrate their position in the hierarchy as this way they also show their domination in Arabic language usage, indirectly their income status, and their special right to citizenship. Usage of GPA instead of Arabic by laborers shows their priority of practical needs, work, and making money for a family in their own country. Informal relations with locals, integration in Saudis culture in comparison have low priority. By usage of GPA, variants related to their ethnicity laborers may show as well an importance of their community in Saudi Arabia and their roots.

One of the important functions of pidgins is to be a social marker. This way GPA could become in the future an identity carrier for its speakers. By the features of language variety, they can easily identify not only laborer by Saudis but through thinner distinctions laborers from specific ethnical groups. However, the main difference in social structure between speakers Arabic and GPA is in their income and social status (rich locals and owners/ sponsors living full life vs. poor immigrants living in the country just to make money, work). Therefore, GPA could mark its speakers in Saudi Arabia like people coming from abroad, working most of the time and rarely going out, having no close friends in Saudi community, using Arabic (GPA) language for mercantile purposes mostly. Through this way, GPA speakers could identify you as a community with common lifestyle and interests in opposition to Saudis.


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