Orthographic Transparency and the Ottoman Abjad

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Orthographic Transparency and the Ottoman Abjad
Jais, Maithili Prashant
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The Ottoman abjad is being debated recently in Turkey, with some arguing it is more suitable to Turkish. Though there were definitely some political motivations to switching to Latin, Ataturk's employment of linguists in the development of the new script is also interesting. This thesis explores aspects of orthographic transparency and whether and how the Ottoman abjad was adapted to Turkish. ( en )
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Awarded Bachelor of Arts, summa cum laude, Major: International Studies, and Bachelor of Arts, magna cum laude, Major: Linguistics-Emphasis/Concentration: Europe, on May 8, 2018.
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College or School: College of Liberal Arts and Sciences
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Advisor: Jules Gliesche. Advisor Department or School: Linguistics

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University of Florida
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Copyright Maithili Prashant Jais. Permission granted to the University of Florida to digitize, archive and distribute this item for non-profit research and educational purposes. Any reuse of this item in excess of fair use or other copyright exemptions requires permission of the copyright holder.

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Orthographic Transparency and the Ottoman Abjad Maithili Jais University of Florida Spring 2018


I. Introduction In 2014, the debate over whether Ottoman Turkish was to be taught in schools or not was once again brought to the forefront of Turkish society and the Turkish conscience, as Erdogan began to push for Ottoman Turkish to be taught in all high schools across the country (Yeginsu, 2014) This became an obsession of a news topic for media in the West as well as in Turkey. Turkish in all high schools to become a hotbed of controversy and debate. For all those who are perfectly contented to let bygones be bygones, there are many who assert that the Ottoman Turkish alphabet is still relevant and important. In fact, though this may be a personal anecdote, there are still certainly people who believe that the Ottoman script is, or was, superior to the Latin alphabet with which modern Turkish is written. This thesis does not aim to undertake a task so grand as sussing out which of the two was more appropriate for Turkish. No, such a task would be a behemo th for this paper. Instead, it inherent judgement of value, but of the f ew claims seen circulating Facebook on the efficacy of the Ottoman script, it seems some believe that it represented Turkish more accurately and efficiently. However, this paper will not even attempt to address the issues relating the comparative efficacy of one script to another. Instead, this paper intends to only look at the Ottoman script alone. The particular way in which this thesis will explore the aforementioned question will be through the lens of orthographic transparency. Specifically, this pap er will explore two aspects of orthographic transparency and how they are manifested in the Ottoman abjad. These two


properties are consistency and neighbourhood density. These two have been chosen specifically as they are both well studied aspects of orth ographic transparency, have been shown to be especially relevant in reading comprehension and orthography processing, and finally are the most immediately relevant to address upon a simple examination of the Ottoman script itself. This last point being per haps a bit mundane, it is still evident that the role of history in creating the Ottoman script cannot be ignored and indeed history had left its mark on the script in a way that, without knowing of it, one might presume that the script itself must be rand om, the assignment of phoneme to character relatively arbitrary. However, such an analysis could not be further from the truth. In fact, the complicated nature of the script hints at the part which had borne it, and no doubt, still echoes in the debates of modern Turks over alphabet or abjad. As such, no understanding on the insistence on the Ottoman abjad or the reluctance to learn it can be informed without first understanding the script itself and its origins. I. A Few Moments in History In many ways, be fore one can begin to understand the modern insistence on the efficacy of the previous abjad system, one must first understand how the Ottoman abjad came into being, and therefore arises the question of how the Ottomans arose to an empire from their nomadi c based on the identity bequeathed the young Turkish Republic following the fall of the Ottoman Empire, so too are the demands to return to the abjad steeped in a sense of identity that is inseparable from the experience of the Empire, and then, the Republic.


That is, to understand why some modern Turks still insist on the superiority of the Ottoman abjad to the modern Turkish alphabet, one must first begin by tu rning to history to understand how the abjad came into being and the world in which it existed and was used, and though it is admittedly beyond the scope of this paper to analyse the opacity of the modified Latin script currently in use for Turkish, it is still relevant to understand the process by which the script arose as it sheds light on a number of challenges and strengths of adapting a pre existing script to an unrelated language. 2.1 Geopolitical Context The world in the era leading to and of the T urkish expansion was one characterised by a landscape of power and the efforts to grow or, at the very least, maintain it, but even more strikingly it was an era marked by the rise of religious unity in the Middle East. This was the era in which Islam was spreading with great gusto and enthusiasm, and it would be with the help of this expansion that migrating Oghuz Turks would come to find first a home, then an empire, in Anatolia. Following the unification of Arabia under the Prophet Muhammed (c. 570 63 2), Arab armies conquered Transoxania and the Umayyad Caliphate rose to replace the Sassanid Empire. Following this, the Abbasid Caliphate came to power in 750 and replaced the Ummayad Caliphate (McCarthy, 1997) This caliphate was a massive empire, spanning the course of all of Central Asia to India and in the opposite direction, to the Atlantic Ocean itself and would come to be one of the most expansive and far reaching empires the world has ever seen (McCarthy, 1997) Of course, as the Turks would begin their migrations south and west, their contact with Islam is hardly surprising.


Additionally, though today the role of religion may be somewhat diminished in our politics, it is imp ortant to remember that the world in which the Turks travelled, warred, and ruled was a devout one. Where Islam was spreading throughout the Middle East and Central Asia, in the West was Christendom. While the fall of Constantinople to the Turks would fall in 1453, until then Anatolia was occupied by the Byzantine Empire, a devout Christian empire Beyond this, there was the presence and power of the Roman Catholic Church in continental Europe. (Bisaha, 2004) 2.2 Entering Anatolia The story of the mass migrations of the Turkic peoples into Central Asia, and then, their conversion to Islam, first begins in the Altai Mountains in Mongolia. Though there were many Turkish peoples occupying this area at the time, the dominant po wer in these lands were the Oghuz until AD 745, when this dominance was passed over to the Uyghurs (Hostler, 1993) This would lead to an almost cascade like migration of the Oghuz west and south into Central Asia, making them among the most important players in Ottoman history (Frye, 1996) Early Turkic history can be characterised in many ways by the constant rise and dissolution of vast networks of tribal power. That is, while the domination of Turks in the lands they conquered may not be able to described as a traditional empire, it can ce rtainly be described describes. However, during the sixth century, two major Turk khanates can be seen to rise and then dissolve. Firstly, in the west, Turkish k hagan Ishtemi established the power of the Turkish khanate in the beginning of the sixth century. In the east, the rise of the Sui dynasty led to the dissolution of a previous eastern khanate under Taspar Khagan (Golden, Central Asi a in World History, 2011)


(Golden, An Introduction to the History of Turkish Peoples, 1992) He would come to be the las t ruler of a unified Turkish empire in the region, enjoying enormous influence and affluence in China, as China feared an invasion or attack, offering him many riches and treating Turks in the capital extremely well in an effort to appease the Turkish Khag an (Golden, An Introduction to the History of Turkish Peoples, 1992) However, following Taspar, while khanate of his own in the ho ly lands of the Ashina (the heavenly order from which the Turk elites were said to originate) and came to be referred to as Isbara Khagan. Finally in 742 the Oghuz would be defeated by a branch of the Ashina led by Isbara Khagan, who would soon after that themselves be replaced by the Uyghurs (Golden, Central Asia in World History, 2011) discussed by Frye (1996). Following this, the Turks, and especially the Oghuz, would come to inhabit large swaths of land in Central Asia by the tenth century, when another Turkish clan would find itself slowly rising to power again. This clan in particular was that of the Seljuks, a branch of Oghuz Turks which migrated to Tra nsoxania in the eleventh century (McCarthy, 1997) They would have taken over all of Iran by 1054, following the defeat of other Turkic clans to their south by 1040 (McCarthy, 1997) The Seljuks wo uld prove to be especially significant in their role in restoring an orthodox entering Baghdad in 1055, the Abbasid Empire had not only weakened but had come t o be encompassing religion, such a divide threatened not only the sanctity of the religious power of the Caliph, but


additionally introduced the threat of political upheava l. It was to this end that the Caliph looked to the oncoming Seljuk Turks as their hope at maintaining power. (McCarthy, 1997) However, upon entering Baghdad and being named sultan, Tugrul and the Seljuks would end up relegatin g the Caliph to a role of power restricted to the religious, coming to call themselves rulers in all the secular matters of the empire. They would greatly expand the empire, especially to the West, taking over beyliks in Azerbaijan and then eventually mana ging to push into Anatolia through these loose networks of Turkish settlements that had come to be interspersed throughout the region. However, upon entering Anatolia, the Byzantine emperor would not find these incursions made on behalf of the Turks to be most unpleasant and quite contrary to his taste. As such, he would go to war with them, though he would not come to be victorious. Instead the Seljuks would defeat him in the Battle of Manzikert and thus find themselves at the threshold of Anatolia, free f or their conquest. (McCarthy, 1997) 2.3 Becoming the Ottomans As this paper does concern itself with the Ottoman abjad, it is perhaps fruitful to understand how the Ottomans themselves came to be seated on the throne in Anatoli a when in the eleventh century, the doors to Anatolia were opened by the Seljuks. As a result of the disorganized and complicated structures by which nomadic leaders maintained power in the Turkic nomadic culture, the Seljuk Empire was short lived and frau ght with conflict (McCarthy, 1997) However, the legacy of the Seljuk Empire would inform the actions of other nomadic tribes for centuries. Following the dissolution of the Seljuk Empire, the rise and fall of another Turk power and that of the Mongols would lead ultimately to the rise of the Ottomans. As the delicate network of centralized authority that had been formed by Seljuks over the Tur ks (which had


really been a bureaucracy the Seljuks themselves had borrowed from the Abbasids), the remaining tribes in the region were left to infighting over land and money. It would be the Ottomans, a small and relatively weak Turkic tribe on the border of Christendom that would lead the onslaught into and against Europe and would as a result eventually come to power. It would be this clan that would come to be the Ottomans of the Ottoman Empire. 2.4 Islam Islam, from the very beginning of the incepti on of the Ottoman State, played a key role in gaining power and in maintaining it. The Seljuks before the Ottomans had adopted much of the bureaucracy of the Abbasids, and it would be exactly this same system (with a few minor adjustments) that the Ottoman s would employ in their own empire (McCarthy, 1997) Additionally, the role the Seljuks played in cultivating an appearance of being frightful gazis would prove to be useful to the Turks not only as an effective marketing strat egy but additionally as an example to future Turks who were particularly illustrious in their expansion efforts. The manner by which the Ottomans pushed into the West, and the reason for picking westward expansion itself, was rooted in Islam, even if not in the principles of the faith, in the principles of the faithful. That is, the Ottomans, who were on the edge of Christendom, came to understand quickly that there was little in the way of profit or progress by fighting against other Turkic tribes. Addit ionally, their being Muslim made it difficult to justify war against other Muslim principalities and empires surrounding them. As a result, the rather small beylik invested in recruiting other Muslim Turks for holy wa r or jihad, against the already well e stablished and quite wealthy western Christendom. (McCarthy, 1997)


Additionally, the success of the Ottoman Empire, upon its establishment, and in fact its resilience can also be traced to Islam. Where the successful expansio n of the Turks into Christian lands and then also the surrounding Muslim areas was justified through religion, the surrounding empires found themselves in a more volatile position for it. But this is a tale that requires one revisit the methods by which Is lam was first spread. The Turks first came into contact with Islam via their many incursions west and especially through trade. Turkic tribes from the very beginning were quite interested in monetary enrichment, coming to gain either power or influence i n many cities along the Silk Road (Frye, 1996) Trade was lively along these routes and as a result, of course the Turks came into contact with merchants and traders of all backgrounds. As a result, it is likely that Turks were first introduced to Islam through trade, coming into contact with it first through their business partners (Golden, Central Asia in World History, 2011) In fact, the conversion to Islam was not one that came with particular difficulty for the Turks. There are many reasons for this, including but not limited to the fact that the Turks had already come into contact with Christianity and other Abrahamic faiths and that their own shamanistic beliefs were not entirely unlike Islam (McCarthy, 1997) Additionally, as mentioned before, because of the Silk Road and the ongoing trade at the time, Turks had already come into contact with the Arabs in Central Asia and also with the Christians of Byzantium prio r. In fact, in 563 itself the Turks had come into contact with Byzantium with regards to trade, when a Turkish ruler Ishtemi approached the Byzantines with the possibility of an alliance that would circumvent involvement with the Sassanians (Frye, 1996) Only a few years following that, there would even be Byzantine embassies that would seek conference with the Turk Khagans of the East (Golden, Central Asia in World History, 2011)


Furthermore, as a result of the ongoing slow but steady travels of the Turks west and south from the fifth century and onwards, Turks had come into contact with more and more differing religions, some Turks converting to a variety of faiths, including Judaism, Buddhism, a nd Christianity (McCarthy, 1997) As such, the Turks were not unfamiliar with monotheistic religions and in fact, historically had even come to rely on these partners for trade. Especially following the rise and expansion of the Abbasid Caliphate, Turks found themselves increasingly in c ontact with Muslim communities, armies, and missionaries, especially as their travels took them further into Central Asia and towards the Middle East. This familiarity with many different religions likely made them more apt to adopt Islam when it was intro duced as a choice, especially as pragmatically it would to be increasingly practical, if from no other than a business perspective (though this is not to say that converted Turks did not necessarily believe). An important point to note is that as Islam, like Christianity at the time, was a highly structured religion which outlined specific laws and seemingly valued orthodoxy where it might have been hard for the Turks to convert, the Turks did so quite willingly not only due to the resemblance of their ow n beliefs with those of Islam but additionally due to the flexibility which Islam allowed new converts (McCarthy, 1997) Frye (1996) points out that the rapid expansion of Islam and the Abbasid Caliphate was likely one of the r easons why in the eyes of the Europe, Islam came to be associated with a ruthless violence in its tactics to convert non Muslims even though this is an inaccurate representation of the policy of Muslim missionaries abroad. Instead, for egalitarianism was a major reason for the Turks to adopt it in the first place. Following their conversion, the Turks did not face a complex hierarchy that othered converts, but rather they found themselves to be accepted among a community much large r than


simply their own nomadic company (Hostler, 1993) Converts were not looked upon as second class citizens of the ummah but were rather looked upon as brothers in what was a community of faith. Additionally, though the Mus lim traders through which the Turks were first introduced to Islam were quite keen on the converts converting, they were not themselves fundamentalists or overly orthodox, allowing that there were certainly going to be some minor differences in practice fr om converts (Frye, 1996) It can however be said that these differences were not always looked upon kindly (Lindholm, 2002) Ultimately, however, it would be this liberal, lax attitude of merchants a nd traders that would lead to the destabilization of other Islamic states in the region surrounding the Ottomans and Anatolia, leading to an overall weakening of the orthodox political systems that the Ottomans expanded against or into (Lindholm, 2002) A final note on Islam and the Turks is that much of the influence of Islam on the Ottomans specifically is rooted not only in the manner by which they were introduced to it, but in addition by whom they had been introduced. The Turks, as a result of travelling east to west rather that easterly from the west, first confronted Islam on the Silk Road from Persian speaking peoples (Golden, Central Asia in World History, 2011) Of course, this would affect their future decisions, but it is no stretch to suggest that perhaps the reason the Turks adopted the Arabic abjad was because they encountered it before they encountered Latin, or other scripts, at least not before they found somewhere they were willing to settle. This paired with the fact that much of the Ottoman system was borrowed from the previous Seljuk Empire, which had itself borrowed from the Abbasids before them, leads to there being no surprise that the script that is ultimately used in the emp ire is the Arabic abjad, no matter how reshaped to fit the Turkish language. Furthermore, the importance of Arabic as a language in and or itself in Islam is crucial to understanding the role a script might play in a


devout, religious empire. Not only had Islam been an effective method of expansion and maintaining control, it was also still very much a religion and additionally, very much a religion which was practiced and observed. Islam by doctrine is meant to be all encompassing, and so it was very much at the centre of the lives of the Ottoman subjects (Lindholm, 2002) As such, the script was given importance not only as the script of bureaucracy, trade, and government, but Islamic nation, an Islamic people. II. Literatur e Review Though the modern Turkish alphabet is transparent, it has certainly not always been this way. Today, Turkish uses an adapted version of the Latin script with a few extra letters. However, urkish was orthographically represented by an adapted version of the Arabic abjad, much like Persian. Many modifications were made in order to accommodate the drastic differences between the Turkish and Arabic phonological and morphological systems. This t hesis will be an examination of these differences and their effects on the depth of Ottoman Turkish orthography as well as the ways in which the abjad was adapted to account for the aforementioned differences. Orthographies can either be defined as shallow or deep, where the depth of the orthography is the ease of predictability of the pronunciation of words based on their corresponding graphemes (Besner and Smith 1992). Simply put, according to Besner and Smith (1992), orthographies can be described as shallow if words are spelt as they sound in an unambiguous way. While this book does a good job of addressing the orthographic depth hypothesis and its limitations, it does not actually take into account the many ways in which ambiguity in orthographic representation can increase cognitive load in processing.


Coltheart et al. (1977) discuss a number of factors that can contribute to ambiguity in orthography, such as, for example, neighborhood density, which is the number of words that are spelt or written similarly to each other. While Besner and Smith (1992) do address the concept of the relationship between orthographic semantic access and orthographic phonological mapping, they do not address these other aspects of orthographic depth that have come to be so widely studied in the field. This being said, it is not the scope of this paper to decide which orthography, Latin or Arabic, is more or less demanding cognitively when applied to Turkish. Rather, it is the so le aim of this paper to understand the ways in which the orthographies differed in aspects of their transparency and to what extent this depth may have brought more or less challenges in their adaptations to Turkish. There is a variety of literature on or thographic transparency and reading performance, many trying to ascertain whether a shallow script can aid literacy acquisition. Juel et al. (1986) propose that one of the key factors in understanding early literacy acquisition is phonological awareness describing it to be the metalinguistic ability to manipulate phonological segments of speech. Other studies since conducted have corroborated this, showing that phonological awareness can predict accuracy in word recognition in even adults (Byrne and Led ez 1983; Oney and Durgunoglu 2009). Ziegler et al. (2010) also found evidence that the most consistent predictor for reading accuracy across three languages of varying degrees of orthographic transparency was in fact phonological awareness, though they poi nt out that this is influenced by the orthographic transparency itself. This particular study is especially notable in its wide variety of languages covered (Finnish, Hungarian, Dutch, Portuguese, and French), and as such included in its range an


agglutina tive language as well as a number of other fusional ones, making it especially relevant to this thesis as Turkish is agglutinative and Arabic is root and pattern. In other words, both the language which borrowed the abjad orthography and the language for which the orthography was developed are not only both non fusional languages, but are additionally languages that each have completely different morphological systems altogether, therefore demanding the wider scope of this study for it to be relevant to be gin with. The fact that this study does have such a wide breadth in its languages means that its conclusions are not restricted to being accurate only to a specific family of languages that all share the same morphology, especially as this study includes t wo languages that are Uralic, or rather, non Indo European. Furthermore, as there is a wide variety of literature affirming this claim that phonological awareness plays a major role in reading accuracy, though studies differ from each other in their claim s to what degree, some claiming essentiality and others a more modest effect (Rahbari et al. 2007; Burt 2010; Bar Kochva and Breznitz 2014). As Turkish phonology takes into account some ecognize that morphological and phonological representation cannot be wholly separated when looking at the processing of the Ottoman abjad, especially as the script itself mirrored this phonological dependency on morphology. With this in mind, Ehri (1987) suggests that literacy is in fact necessary to build phonological awareness in the first place. This brings the role of phonological awareness out of simply being casual into also occupying a role in literacy acquisition and processing that is also affect ed. In essence, bidirectionality, where phonological and orthographic awareness do affect each other, thus comes to the forefront of the challenges faced by literacy acquisition, not only in


the late Ottoman Empire and early Turkish Republic, but also in a more modern sense, to the forefront of even modern language revitalization movements, especially as increasing literacy in endangered or at risk languages increasingly becomes a cornerstone strategy to ensure their revitalization. In fact, Wagner et al. (1994) investigates this bidirectionality and comes to the conclusion that not only is phonological awareness causally linked to word decoding, but additionally that letter name knowledge affects future phonological processing abilities with a modest c ausal relationship. This is corroborated by Landerl et al. (1996) who found that children with normal reading development sometimes gave responses based on orthographic rather than phonological information, whereas children with dyslexia dealt with such or thographic intrusion less frequently. In this sense, bidirectionality is especially important when considering the effects of inconsistent orthographies, or inconsistency d in orthographies, in literacy acquisition, as an awareness of phonology is not sol ely sufficient in acquisition and orthographic awareness is not solely sufficient in production. Of the characteristics of orthographies that determine their opacity or transparency, there are two in particular that this thesis concerns itself with : n eighborhood density and consistency, especially as these two are the most relevant in order to determine the depth of Ottoman Turkish orthography and its possible effects. Neighborhood density can be defined as the characteristic of a grapheme as being pho nologically similar or different to other strings of letters, or words (Coltheart et al. 1977). Coltheart et al. (1977) demonstrated that nonwords that were more similar to other real words took longer to process than nonwords that had less neighborhood de nsity. This suggests that orthographic consistency might play a larger role in orthographic processing rather than being arbitrary.


Another important aspect of considering the challenges in appropriating the Arabic abjad for Turkish is quite simply the va st differences between the phonological inventories of Turkish and Arabic. When appropriating the Arabic abjad for Turkish, there would have been a number of challenges faced by the Ottomans, including but not limited to only having seen a variety of Arabi c letters become redundant, but additionally noting a distinct lack of letters for all the consonants in the Turkish phonological system. It is to this end that many letters found themselves to represent far more than a single sound in the Ottoman alphabe t, leading to a very inconsistent alphabet In addition to this, as the Ottoman script maintained the underrepresentation of vowels in writing, and as vowels in Turkish are in contrastive distribution, many words came to be spelt similarly or even the s ame but having wildly different meanings ( olmak, meaning to be and lmek meaning to die being only two examples.) It is precisely the demonstration of this characteristic of the Ottoman abjad with which this thesis finds itself, in part, involved. Consistency, the second property of orthographies with which this paper involves itself, can be described as the presence of a consistent grapheme phoneme mapping system That is to say that if phonemes and graphemes are consistently mapped together wit h little variation, then the orthography is considered to be consistent and therefore less dense. Considering that the Ottoman abjad had to contend with both a higher vowel inventory in Turkish and voicing/devoicing rules, as well as consonants rendered re dundant, it is not a surprise that many letters were mapped to more than one sound. However, it is not simply this fact that adds depth to this orthography. In addition to letters being mapped to more than one sound, many sounds were mapped to more than a single letter. Even in the Perso Arabic abjad, which is the original Arabic abjad modified to contend with the


different sounds in the Persian phonological inventory, grapheme phoneme mapping mostly remains one to one, where a single grapheme for the most part is mapped to a single phoneme. Finally, as this paper concerns itself with both the phonological and morphological systems of Turkish and their orthographic representation with the Ottoman script, it is relevant to consider the effects of morphologi cal structure on orthographic transparency and processing. In this regard, though there are studies addressing this, there seems to be little consensus (Amenta and Crepaldi 2012). However, when it comes to terms of literacy acquisition, some studies hav e found that both phonological and morphological awareness are required for successful literacy acquisition (Li et al. 2010; Nagy et al. 2013). Additionally, it appears that orthographic processing can have aspects of processing specific to certain morpho logies. For example, Tong et al. (2010) point out that in their longitudinal study of literacy acquisition in Chinese children, that certain factors, namely homophone awareness, visual skills, and syllable awareness, affected the acquisition of Chinese orthography over time but not the acquisition of English orthography. Abu Rabia (2002) concludes that in Arabic, the lexicon is accessed following the initial identification of the morphological components of the text. Even though this study also finds th at phonology affects reading accuracy, access to the lexicon is firstly affected by the recognition of morphological structures, especially through the recognition of roots. Considering that abjads are designed for and operate in a manner most optimized fo r root and pattern morphologies, the application of an abjad to a non root and pattern morphology should certainly be considered relevant for not only language revitalization or literacy development efforts, but is also important to understand how these sy stems are processed by readers from languages that are distinctly not root and pattern.


Furthermore, as has already been demonstrated by some literature, orthographic processing does appear to be a script with bidirectional processing and acquisition. The refore, it is not a stretch to consider the implications of different triggers to accessing the lexicon as a result of difference in morphology coming to play a more significant role in scripts that are adapted from other morphological systems, especially considering the proliferation of the Latin alphabet in the modern era. In this manner, other studies have posited that different morphologies exhibit different processing pathways. For example, just as Abu Rabia (2002) showed in their study, Velan and Frost (2010) also demonstrate a similar trend, concluding that Hebrew words with Semitic origins are processed differently than Hebrew words with non Semitic origins, the latter which were shown to be processed more similarly to words in European languages. Semitic words, at least in speakers of Hebrew, have been demonstrated to be organized morphologically rather than orthographically (Frost et al. 2005). In fact, it has been suggested that morphology may constrain even alphabetic orthographies, and as such, may determine visual processing of words (Frost et al. 2005). That is, where Abu Rabia (2002) points out that word processing pathways may be catalyzed by the recognition of morphological structures in abjads, the fact has also been seen as a phenomenon present in alphabetic orthographies suggests that further research should be conducted into if there are some universal aspects of orthographic processing. What is of interest here is that there is limited literature on the processing of the Persian script, though there does appear to be literature on Arabic and Hebrew. This i s especially relevant to this paper as Persian is not a language with root and pattern morphology, but rather is agglutinative. As such, if it is true that morphology may affect orthographic processing, the depth


of Ottoman Turkish may have led to differen t processing patterns and reading strategies. Regardless, the limited research into Persian orthographic processing does seem to support that phonological awareness is an important factor in lexical processing (Rahbari 2007). This would be especially helpf ul in understanding the likely effects of trying to process a highly agglutinative morphological structure with a root and pattern orthography. The solution that was settled on for this very problem presented when trying to adapt the Arabic abjad to Ott oman Turkish was to have some set suffixes that would not change regardless of vowel harmony or voicing/devoicing rules. However, this is only the solution reached in the Ottoman orthography. Ottoman Turkish has not been the only language in history to ha ve adopted a script from a different culture and then faced the requisite challenges in making the orthography work with their language. Even today, there are many other languages that have borrowed scripts from other languages that are sometimes wildly di fferent than their own languages, be it in a phonological, morphological, or other sense. Additionally, it is not to say that only orthographies that have not been specifically created for their respective languages are worth studying, but rather it is cle ar that the field overall could certainly benefit from looking at more non European languages III. A Brief Overview of Arabic and Turkish Before going on to look at how the Ottoman abjad attempted to reconcile the differences between Turkish and Arabic, i t is fruitful to quickly take an overview of these differences to begin with. The two most important aspects of these differences for the purposes of this thesis are those of phonology and morphology. As orthographies are used to visually represent sounds, and words, it is important to recognize that the differences between the sounds available to languages may drastically affect how the orthography must be adapted. Additionally, the morphology of a language may be dependent or at least affect or be affec ted by certain


aspects of its phonology as well. Additionally, it may be helpful to imagine these two systems are being joint, or at least, not entirely discrete from one another, even if in this section they will both be dealt with one at a time. 4.1 Morphology The first matter to discuss is that of the morphologies of the two systems. Though there are many aspects of Arabic phonology that are fascinating, there is one in particular that is especially relevant when looking at abjads. Arabic heavily uses root and pattern morphology, where the root of the word may encapsulate a core meaning and is then able to be altered by the surrounding sounds (specifically vowels) and with the additional of prefixes or suffixes. Roots in Arabic can be anywhere from two to five p honemes, though the vast majority of the roots in Arabic are three letter roots. These roots can then be altered by mapping them over a pattern, which will add grammatical information to the word or might slightly change the meaning. Patterns in Arabic mig ht be comprised of vowels, some consonants, or even require the doubling of consonants, a process known otherwise as gemination (Ryding, 2005) Meanwhile, the Turkish morphology is not root and pattern based but rather is agg lutinative and is highly suffixing. This is in contrast to Arabic, where there may be suffixes as well as prefixes and infixes. Additionally, Turkish morphology has a morphophonemic quality to it, where the addition of further suffixes affects the realizat ion of certain qualities of other phonemes in the word: namely, voicing in consonants and roundedness and backness of vowels. That is, the vowels in suffixes are affected by the qualities of the vowels in the root, where they are modified to match those in the root in either backness roundedness, or both if possible (Oflazer et al., 1994).


4.2 Phonology Turkish and Arabic differ in phonology not only in inventory but also in system. Additionally, the differences are not limited to either consonants or v owels, but rather are interspersed between the two. When it comes to vowels, Turkish has more vowel than Arabic, but the two also differ in how these vowels interact with words, especially in relation to meaning, and additionally in what aspects of the vow els are prioritised in distinction. The same cannot be said of consonants, where Arabic has more consonants, though the morphophonemic system of Turkish does bring forth certain complications for orthographic representation. 4.2.1 Vowels There are six v owel phonemes in Arabic, as represented in the following table. They are actually three sounds that are differentiated by length. That is, there are three short vowels and three long vowels. Short vowels are not generally marked in the orthography, though they can be through the use of diacritic marks. However, long vowels are marked, especially with the letters alif, waaw, and yaa (Ryding, 2005) Front Central Back High i / i: u / u: Mid Low a / a: Figure 1 : Ryding (2005) Turkish, on the other hand, has eight vowel phonemes, also shown in a figure below. As Turkish has vowel harmony, there are two aspects of each vowel that are particularly important for conjugating Turkish words or distinguishing definition: rounded ness and backness As


vowels can appear in between consonants or before or after them, they are often either changed by preceding vowels or effect change in the vowels following them (Goksel & Kerslake, 2005) These processes are often dependent on the environment of the vowel in question as well match the roundedness and backness qualities of the leading vowel as closely as possible. It is important to note that /o/ and / / are not vowels that can be selected in suffixes as there are no suffixes that use these vowels in standard Turkish. (Oflazer et al., 1994). Front Central Back High i / y / u Mid e / o Low a Figure 2 : (Goksel & Kerslake, 2005) 4.2.2 Consonants Another challenge for the Ottomans in adopting the Arabic abjad would have been in dealing with the differences in the consonants available in the phonemic inventories of the two languages. Where there would be certain elements extra in Turkish that were n ot present in Arabic, there were also certain elements present in Arabic that were not present in Turkish. As the Arabic abjad was developed to be used for Arabic, there were certainly letters for some sounds that did not exist in Turkish but did in Arabic and a lack of some others for sounds that existed in Turkish but did not in Arabic. Below is a chart of consonants in Arabic.


Bilabial Labiodental Dental Alveolar Postalveolar Palatal Velar Uvular Pharyngeal Glottal Plosive b t d t: d: k q Nasal m n Trill r Tap/Flap Fricative f : s z s: X h Affricate Glides/Approximant w j Liquid/Lateral approximant l Figure 3 : (American Speech Language Hearing Association) As can be seen in the above table, there are 29 consonants in the Arabic phonemic inventory. Additionally, some consonants have both emphatic and nonemphatic forms. The emphatic forms are those that are elongated and marked above. On the other hand, if we introduction of the morphophonemic processes regarding voicing/devoicing of Turkish consonants, then there are 22 consonants in Turkish. The following table shows the consonant phoneme invento ry of Turkish. As will be quite easily noted, there are some significant differences between the inventories of the two languages.


Bilabial Labiodental Dental Alveolar Postalveolar Palatal Velar Uvular Pharyngeal Glottal Plosive p b t d k g Nasal m n Trill Tap/Flap Fricative f v s z h Affricate Glides/Approximant l j Liquid/Lateral approximant Figure 4 : (Oflazer et al. 1994) A quick glance at the two tables leads to some immediate conclusions, with the first being that there are more consonants in the phonemic inventory or Arabic than there are in that of Turkish. In fact, there are a total of seven more consonants in the Arab ic phonemic inventory dropping of a /k/ phoneme and the elonga tion of the preceding vowel. Additionally, a second observation that can be made is that where all Turkish plosives, fricatives, and affricates have both their voiced and devoiced forms present in the Turkish inventory, the same cannot be said for these consonants in the Arabic phonemic inventory. Both voiced and devoiced plosives, fricatives, and affricates exist in the Arabic inventory, but they do not seem to come in pairs necessarily as they do in Turkish. In fact, the fact the very fact that in


Turki sh these sounds seem to come, to some extent, in pairs is telling of another morphophonemic process in Turkish besides vowel harmony: consonants voicing/devoicing. Just like vowels in Turkish, Turkish consonants are also not free from modification. They a re both able to change the qualities of consonants in following suffixes as well as themselves be changed. If the suffix following begins with a plosive, the final phoneme in the root determines the voicing of the plosive. If the final phoneme is either a vowel of a voiced consonant, then the plosive is voiced, though if the final phoneme is devoiced, then the plosive is devoiced and becomes voiceless (Oflazer et al., 1994). Additionally, if the suffix immediately following the root begins with a vowel, then the preceding consonant will likely be changed to be voiced if it is devoiced plosive especially. There is only one exception to this rule, and that is with the case of /k/ and /g/. If /k/ is in the environment to be voiced (that is in word final posi tion and being followed by a suffix that begins with a vowel), there are two possibilities. If it is part of a consonant cluster, then it remains devoiced and is not changed. However, if it is not part of a consonant cluster, then it is dropped and the pre ceding vowel is elongated. This change in the modern Latin orthography is IV. The Script Itself As was mentioned before in the section giving historical background on the entrance of the Ottoman s into Anatolia, it is important to recognize the role Islam had played in introducing them to the script. However, also as mentioned prior, it is equally important to note by whom the Turks had first been introduced to Islam, as this would especially infl uential in the doctrine they adopt and the way in which they convert. Most notably, as a result of their travels westward, the


Turks would have come to encounter many peoples, many of whom were Persian speaking, and as such would have been quite familiar w ith the script as it was modified by these people for their own purposes. That is, the Turks would not have come across the script most impactfully from the Arabs but rather from the Farsi speaking people they would eventually come to wage war against. Tha t in itself is more likely to predispose the Turks to borrow the script from the Abbasids than it is to predispose them to borrowing it from the Arabs themselves. Phonemic Representation Phonemic Representation Arabic Ottoman Persian Arabic Ottoman Persian Many, /a:/ / / /d:/ /z/ [d] /dz/ /b/ /b/ [p] /b/ /t:/ /t/ [d] /ts/ /p/ /p/ / : / /z/ / / /t/ /t/ /t/ / / / / [ ] / / /s/ /s/ / / /g/ / / /v/ / / / / / / / / /f/ /f/ /f/ / / / / /q/ /k/ / / / / /h/ /h/ /k/ /k/ [ ] [j] /n/ /x/ /h/ /x/ /k/ /d/ /d/ [t] /d/ /g/ [ ] /g/ / / /z/ /z/ /r/ / / / / /l/ /l/ /l/ /z/ /z/ /z/ /m/ /m/ /m/ / / / / /n/ /n/ /n/ /s/ /s/ /s/ /w/ /u:/ /v/ /v/ /u:/ /o/ /ow/ / / / / / / /h/ /a/ [t] /h/ /s:/ /s/ / / /j:/ /i:/ / / /i/ / j / /j/ /i/ / :/ Figure 5


As can be seen in the above chart, there are a few consonants that are not present in the Arabic phonemic inventory. Indeed, the orthographic representation of these are all also borrowed from Persian, where the same symbols exist. There is only one letter which is novel to Ottoman Turkish. This being said, many letters are also adapted to take on Turkish sounds or to represent Turkish sounds in different environments. H owever, what is most notable here is how much more similarity there is between Ottoman a nd Persian than there is between Arabic and Ottoman. This suggests, as previously stated, that the Ottomans did in fact borrow the abjad from the Persians, especially as many of the symbols unique to Persian are also present in the Ottoman abjad. A final note worth mentioning is that this thesis omits the diacritics in its analysis. This is for one main reason, and that being that by and large these are omitted when writing or reading in Ottoman. Like in the Arabic or Persian scripts, these diacritics are often omitted, as is characteristic of abjads, and therefore it made little sense to include them in the analysis. Additionally, when they are included, it is often with other long vowels, such as elif V. Consistency As a result of some of the aspects of the Turkish morphophonemic system, phonemes in certain environments could be realized in speech in more than a single manner, and these changes would be something that the Ottoman abjad would have to find a way to cope with. In the modern Turkish alphabet, which uses Latin orthography, spelling is mostly entirely transparent, where letters are consistent and words are written as they sound. This means that phonemes are written as they are realized in spoken speech. Thou gh it is true that there are many writing systems that do not operate in this manner that is, by representing phonemes exactly as


they are realized (English comes to mind) this is still an important aspect of script processing and orthographic transpar ency. In particular, the difficulty brought up here is specifically pertaining to consistency, which can be defined as the phoneme symbol mapping of a given orthographic system. When looking at the issues regarding consistency in the Ottoman script, howe ver, it is important to recognize both the causes of inconsistency and the effects it would have. As Redhouse (1184) points out, for example, of particular interest are the vowels, as their omissions created interesting gaps or increased difficulty in tryi ng to distinguish between words. The specific example offered by Redhouse is in the case of differentiating between the optative and simple infinitive of words. Specifically, the words bilmek and bilemek which Redhouse claims to be written entirely the sa me save for the addition of the letter hemze ( ), which exists in the latter and not in the former. This example is already sufficient in drawing attention to one of the drawbacks of omitting diacritics or not marking vowels when writing in Ottoman Turkish, but additionally draws attention to another very important aspect of the script: the reallocation of phonemes to symbols in an effort to bridge these gaps that convention created. In this manner, though in the above chart hemze is shown as being one of two vowels, [a] or [e], instead really when looking at Ottoman orthography, it can be fruitful to loo (Redhouse, 1884) Or, at least this is the case when it is not representing [h]. In fact, of particular interest are the vowels, as they pose some of the greatest challenges in Ottoman orthography. This is in part due to the morphophonemic system in Turkish which causes vowels succeeding previous ones to change in response to certain attributes of the former. These attributes are specifically backness or roundedness. Below is a chart of all of the vowels


and their representations in Ottoman Turkish, not including those that may be represented by diacritics. As mentioned earlier, these diacritics are being omitted as they are almost never actually represented in practice. Additionally, not e that in the chart, only the vowels which the letters represent are included. Therefore, if a letter may also represent a consonant, it is omitted from the table. Ottoman Turkish Vowel Phonemes /a/ /e/ /a/ / / /i/ Figure 6 Note that each of these letters seem to represent a general type of vowel more than a specific one. For example, vav ( ) seems to represent all rounded vowels, both hemze and elif ( ) representing front, unrounded vowels, and finally with ye ( ) representing high unrounded vowels. change according to those in the roots and this can be represented wi th ease, even if the vowel phonemes themselves are not explicitly represented. Additionally, as both elif and hemze appear to be representing the same vowels, it may be tempting to suggest that they are redundant entirely. However, this is not the case. T he main difference between the two appears to be in their position, where hemze generally appears


between roots and suffixes, or suffixes and other suffixes. Elif however generally appears anywhere within a root. It is in this regard that Redhouse (1886) d escribes hemze as a medial. Another way in which the Ottoman abjad proves itself to be quite complex in terms of phoneme to symbol mapping is in the case of some consonants. Not only are some letters mapped to more than one phoneme, but additionally, some phonemes are mapped to multiple letters. This becomes especially relevant when considering what Redhouse (1886) describes as long and short vowels, a distinction most relevant when dealing with Arabic and Persian loanwords. As seen in the abjad comparison table, the Arabic orthography is actually quite consistent, with no repeat consonant or double mapping. This is to be expected, to be fair, as the abjad was made for Arabic in the first place and only later adopted by the Persians and Ottomans. Even still the level of inconsistency in the Persian consonants is still much less than than one symbol /z/ /h/ and /s/ and other than the letters representing vow els, no consonants correspond to more than a single phoneme. As with Ottoman, waw and ye both correspond to multiple phonemes, some of which are vowels and diphthongs as well as some consonants. This is in part due to the fact that there are 32 unique pho nemes that are expressed through the orthography in Persian whereas in Ottoman there are 35. It must be admitted, however, that this is in itself not enough to account for why there are so many more double mapped consonants in the Ottoman abjad than there are in the Persian. First it must be pointed out that though in the Persian abjad, six of the 32 unique phonemes are vowels, in the Ottoman abjad of the thirty five, nine are vowels. This leaves twenty six consonants in both Ottoman and in Persian to be mapped, suggesting that there are other factors to the multiple phoneme letter


correspondences in Ottoman that are not so in Persian. Of these, eleven consonants are ma pped to more than one letter. The following table shows these phonemes; the letters in parentheses are letters that can represent the sound even if the corresponding phoneme is not its primary assignment. All the letters that are not in parentheses are the primary assignments for the corresponding phoneme. Phoneme Letters /b/ /p/ ) /t/ ( ) /d/ /s/ /z/ /k/ /g/ /h/ /v/ /y/ ( ) Figure 7 Immediately, o ne does notice two things about letters that correspond to more than a single sound in the Ottoman abjad. The first is that some of these letters include either the voiced or devoiced variant of the phoneme. This can be seen in be ( ), te ( ), and dal ( ). This is often a result of voicing/devoi cing rules in Turkish, which cause these letters to be pronounced differently as a result of the phonemic environment. The second thing one notices about this list of phonemes is that many of them that correspond to more than one letter, while able to cor respond to matching phonemes in Persian,


are also corresponding to phonemes in Persian that do not exist in the Turkish phonemic inventory. As such, it is likely that the reason why there are so many double correspondences for these letters is that these l the Persian letters originally represented. Additionally, where the Turkish letters are not versions of Arabic letters. Phonemic Representation Arabic Ottoman Persian /b/ /b/ [p] /b/ /p/ /p/ /t/ /t/ /t/ /t:/ /t/ [d] /ts/ /d/ /d/ [t] /d/ /s/ /s/ /s/ /s/ /s/ /s:/ /s/ / / / / /z/ /z/ /z/ /z/ /z/ /d:/ /z/ [d] /dz/ / : / /z/ / / / / /h/ /h/ /x/ /h/ /x/ / / /g/ / / /v/ / / /q/ /k/ / / /k/ /k/ [ ] [j] /n/ /g/ [ ] /g/ Figure 8


VI. Neighborhood Density Neighborhood density, or how much words look similar to each other in the orthography, can clearly be affected by the consistency of letters. Redhouse (1884) is quick to point out when discussing short and long vowels how since in Turkish vowels are almost always shor t, there leads there to be many words written alike. Two such examples are bozulmak (to be broken, ruined) and bzlmek (to shrink), which are both written identically save the final consonant, which is in the former and in the latter. Another similar example, though this time the words are all written exactly the same, is the word where it could be read as buz (ice) bz (gather, shrink) or boz (break, ruin). In the same vein, the words toz (dust) and tuz (salt) a re also both written the same. In all of the above examples, it is clear that a big reason why these words are written similarly to each other is due to the letter vav which can stand in for all the rounded vowels in Turkish. It is clear that such confusion is most likely to occur with this letter, though as a result of many vowels not being represented, the same may occur with any vowel that it assigned to a phoneme assigned to multiple vowels and in a word that does not have a serendipitous suffix attached to it that might hint at the properties of the preceding vowels. For example, w hile in the example of bozulmak and bzlmek the infinitive marker mak/mek being written differently in each form certainly clues the reader into which set of rounded vowels to read the word with, no such similar thing can be said for the other nouns in the aforementioned collection. in following suffixes continues in other gramm atical forms, especially in suffixes that end with /k/. Some such suffixes include ecek/acak (future tense) and erek/arak (adverbial suffix), where the final /k/ phoneme might be represented by ( ) if the vowels are back vowels and ( ) if the


vowels are back vowels. This is especially useful as this particular phoneme, /k/, appears in many suffixes. In addition to those previously mentioned which attach to verbs, there are some suffixes that attach to nouns that can also be affected by this rule, namely the Turkish diminutive The following are some example sentences, written in the Ottoman abjad followed by a gloss and then a translation. What is worth noting is that even if the vowels might change, the way the suffixes were written allowed them to not change in form even if they changed in pronunciation. This can especially be seen in the last few examples, where the verbs kamak (to run) and gelmek (to come) are shown, where the vowel harmony rules become most apparent. Add itionally, here one can also the voicing/devoicing rules at work and still not affecting the written form. im gel d i Sibling POSS.1SG come PST.3SG My sibling came. im sin Sibling POSS.1SG SBJ.2SG You are my sibling.


in gel di Sibling POSS.2SG come PST.3SG Your sibling came. Gel dim Come PST.1SG I came. Gel din Come PST.2SG You came. Ka Come PST.1SG Ka Come PST.2SG


VII. Conclusion In many ways, it can be tempting to look at all of this information regarding the opacity of the Ottoman orthography and expect a conclusion that claims it might be cognitively too demanding, or at least, more demanding than other orthographies. Unfortunat ely, as it is not the aim of this thesis to determine that, no such conclusions can be expected here. However, it is possible to look at some of the specifics of the orthographic system and reach a few conclusions. The first thing that can certainly be s urmised by looking at this is how much the Ottomans were aware of the complexities involved in adapting the abjad to Turkish. This point might be slightly undercut by the fact that much of the older Ottoman works are almost unreadable by the fact that many Turkish scholars simply refused to include any vowels (Redhouse, 1884) but the development of the orthography to the state it was in during the time which led to some of the most famous Turkish grammars being produced is asto unding. Not only were the Ottomans aware of some of the hardest aspects to adopt the orthography to a morphophonemic system that led to permutations of whole words but additionally shows a rather ingenious way of dealing with the issue. Additionally, unsuitability were recognized and ratified, the Ottoman abjad also demonstrates the effects of cultural influence on the whole literacy of an empire. Not only were the Ottomans aware of some of the struggles of readapting the abjad to their own language, but additionally, it is almost certain that they were aware of the Latin alphabet, among others surrounding the empire. And still, they made no move to try some of the other scripts preva lent throughout the region. A people well suited and comfortable to a variety of religions and cultures historically, it might


seem surprising that they were still so insistent on a system that would inevitably need to be heavily modified to suit their pur poses. In this regard, the geopolitical environment of the Ottomans is reflected not only in their decision to adopt the abjad and maintain it, but additionally in the ways in which they modified it to deal with some of the challenges faced in describing not only Turkish words, but additionally Persian and Arabic. Beyond this, not only had this script to reckon with lexical items, but it also had to reckon with borrowed grammatical forms though these latter are not expressly discussed in this paper. Howe ver, the adaptations made to accommodate both of these reflect themselves starkly in the way in which letters were assigned phonemes, sometimes many at a time. In many ways, when words were borrowed, they were borrowed spelling and all, thus resulting in t he orthographic property of consistency being affected, the mapping changing over time to reflect the different environments in which a letter might be seen. And as such, some letters came to be written in convention with the origin of the word in mind rat her than necessarily any phonemic property most relevant to it. Indeed, there are certainly some ways in which the lexical makeup of Ottoman Turkish heavily influenced the orthography, forcing the Turks to find new ways to use letters that represented so unds in Turkish as well sounds foreign to Turkish. The fact that much of the orthography follows the Persian system is hardly surprising, not only because the medreses used in the Ottoman Empire were borrowed from the Seljuks, as was much of the education system, but additionally because of the long history of contact between the Persians and the Turks (McCarthy, 1997) Furthermore, the influence of Arabic, however, is also hardly surprising, not only because it is the language of the religion the Ottomans subscribed to, but additionally


because of the strategic way in which the Ottomans had to navigate trade and empire with their Arabic speaking neighbors (Lindholm, 2002) Finally, though it is true that the orthography led to many types of words being written either very similarly or entirely identically to one another, in some cases, these were dealt with by adding features to some letters that lead it to become present in some environments over others. Both Hagiopan (1908) and Redhouse (1886) discuss these properties, referring to them as responses to hard or soft vowels, though in some ways, it is not so much a question of the realization of the pronunciation of these in Turkish as it is a question of the etymology of the words borrowed and their pronunciations in their native languages (be it Persian, Turkish, Arabic, or eventually, French). Additionally, where these markers are not representing the original pronunciation s of these sounds in their own native languages, they are sometimes marking properties of vowels that might help the reader distinguish between the different possibilities of words that any one grapheme might be. In essence, when examining the transparen cy of the Ottoman abjad from the perspective of consistency and neighborhood density, it is clear that the script is certainly opaque. However, it is not so opaque as to be unreadable. Instead, where the system might lack consistency in a grapheme phoneme mapping system, the system does attempt to rectify this through the assignment of some writing conventions that mitigate some of the opaquer features of the orthography. However, it can be certainly said that the neighborhood density of the orthography is indeed very high, especially as a result of the way in which vowels are represented in the script, when they are actually represented in the spelling or in practice on the page.


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