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Summary A semantics for a particular language L is a theory that maps each sentence of L onto its meaning, usually by having theorems of the appropriate form among its deductive consequences. It is standard (although controversial) to require an adequate semantics for L to be compositional – that is, to show how the meaning of each sentence of L is determined by the meanings of its basic lexical items and its syntactic structure. A central foundational question about semantics concerns its proper object of study: what features of an expression count as its semantic ones? One standard answer is that semantics should be “outward-looking” and concern itself with the word-world relational features of expressions, especially those that determine the truth-conditions of sentences. Another influential answer is that semantics should be “inward-looking” and concern itself with relationships between expressions and mental representations. Further important questions concern how linguistic meaning interacts with features of extra-linguistic context, how semantic and pragmatic phenomena are to be distinguished, and what role (if any) an adequate semantics for L should play in explaining the capacity of competent L-speakers to use and understand utterances in L.    
Key works See Davidson 1967, Soames 2009, Jackendoff 1990 and Higginbotham 1992 for important discussions of the proper object of study for semantics. Montague 1974 and Partee 1973 are crucial texts on the application of formal methods to the semantics of natural language. Devitt 2006 is a critical discussion on the role of semantic theory (and linguistics more generally) in explaining linguistic competence. Kaplan 1977 is a landmark treatment of context-sensitivity within semantic theory. Preyer & Peter 2007 and Szabó 2005 are valuable collections that discuss some of the controversies about the role of context in semantics and about how to distinguish semantics from pragmatics, respectively.
Introductions Good introductions to natural language semantics are Heim & Kratzer 1998, Larson & Segal 1995, and Chierchia & McConnell-Ginet 2000. Portner & Partee 2002 is a collection of important primary texts.
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Subcategories:History/traditions: Semantics
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  1. Jan M. G. Aarts (1979). Metaphor and Non-Metaphor: The Semantics of Adjective Noun Combinations. Niemeyer.
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  2. B. Abbott (2002). Discussion Note: Definiteness and Proper Names: Some Bad News for the Description Theory. Journal of Semantics 19 (2):191-201.
    This paper addresses some data put forward by Geurts (1997) in support of his metalinguistic or quotation theory of proper names, according to which a name N means ‘the individual named N’. The data illustrate ten linguistic behaviours claimed to be shared by proper names and definite descriptions. I argue that in some cases the behaviours have a common explanation which is based on a property independent of Geurts' analysis, and that in the remaining cases the behaviours are not actually (...)
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  3. Barbara Abbott, The Formal Approach to Meaning: Formal Semantics and its Recent Developments.
    Like Spanish moss on a live oak tree, the scientific study of meaning in language has expanded in the last 100 years, and continues to expand steadily. In this essay I want to chart some central themes in that expansion, including their histories and their important figures. Our attention will be directed toward what is called 'formal semantics', which is the adaptation to natural language of analytical techniques from logic.[1] The first, background, section of the paper will survey the changing (...)
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  4. Barbara Abbott (2010). Reference. Oxford University Press.
    This book introduces the most important problems of reference and considers the solutions that have been proposed to explain them. Reference is at the centre of debate among linguists and philosophers and, as Barbara Abbott shows, this has been the case for centuries. She begins by examining the basic issue of how far reference is a two place (words-world) or a three place (speakers-words-world) relation. She then discusses the main aspects of the field and the issues associated with them, including (...)
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  5. Barbara Abbott (2002). Discussion Note. Journal of Semantics 19 (2).
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  6. M. Abrusan & B. Spector (2011). A Semantics for Degree Questions Based on Intervals: Negative Islands and Their Obviation. Journal of Semantics 28 (1):107-147.
    According to the standard analysis of degree questions (see, among others, Rullmann 1995; Beck & Rullmann 1996), the logical form of a degree question contains a variable that ranges over individual degrees and is bound by the degree question operator how. In contrast with this, we claim that the variable bound by the degree question operator how does not range over individual degrees but over intervals of degrees, by analogy with Schwarzschild and Wilkinson's (2002) proposal regarding the semantics of comparative (...)
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  7. Ahmad Abu-Akel & Alison L. Bailey (2001). Indexical and Symbolic Referencing: What Role Do They Play in Children's Success on Theory of Mind Tasks? Cognition 80 (3):263-281.
  8. Fred Adams & Kenneth Campbell (1999). Modality and Abstract Concepts. Behavioral and Brain Sciences 22 (4):610-610.
    Our concerns fall into three areas: (1) Barsalou fails to make clear what simulators are (vs. what they do); (2) activation of perceptual areas of the brain during thought does not distinguish between the activation's being constitutive of concepts or a mere causal consequence (Barsalou needs the former); and (3) Barsalou's attempt to explain how modal symbols handle abstraction fails.
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  9. Frederick R. Adams & Kenneth Aizawa (1994). 'X' Means X: Fodor/Warfield Semantics. [REVIEW] Minds and Machines 4 (2):215-31.
    In an earlier paper, we argued that Fodorian Semantics has serious difficulties. However, we suggested possible ways that one might attempt to fix this. Ted Warfield suggests that our arguments can be deflected and he does this by making the very moves that we suggested. In our current paper, we respond to Warfield's attempts to revise and defend Fodorian Semantics against our arguments that such a semantic theory is both too strong and too weak. To get around our objections, Warfield (...)
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  10. Frederick R. Adams & Kenneth Aizawa (1993). Fodorian Semantics, Pathologies, and "Block's Problem". Minds and Machines 3 (1):97-104.
    In two recent books, Jerry Fodor has developed a set of sufficient conditions for an object “X” to non-naturally and non-derivatively mean X. In an earlier paper we presented three reasons for thinking Fodor's theory to be inadequate. One of these problems we have dubbed the “Pathologies Problem”. In response to queries concerning the relationship between the Pathologies Problem and what Fodor calls “Block's Problem”, we argue that, while Block's Problem does not threatenFodor's view, the Pathologies Problem does.
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  11. Frederick R. Adams & Kenneth Aizawa (1992). 'X' Means X: Semantics Fodor-Style. [REVIEW] Minds and Machines 2 (2):175-83.
    InPsychosemantics Jerry Fodor offered a list of sufficient conditions for a symbol “X” to mean something X. The conditions are designed to reduce meaning to purely non-intentional natural relations. They are also designed to solve what Fodor has dubbed the “disjunction problem”. More recently, inA Theory of Content and Other Essays, Fodor has modified his list of sufficient conditions for naturalized meaning in light of objections to his earlier list. We look at his new set of conditions and give his (...)
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  12. A. I͡U Aĭkhenvalʹd (2004). Evidentiality. Oxford University Press.
    In some languages every statement must contain a specification of the type of evidence on which it is based: for example, whether the speaker saw it, or heard it, or inferred it from indirect evidence, or learnt it from someone else. This grammatical reference to information source is called 'evidentiality', and is one of the least described grammatical categories. Evidentiality systems differ in how complex they are: some distinguish just two terms (eyewitness and noneyewitness, or reported and everything else), while (...)
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  13. Rose-Marie Alarcon (2010). Poetry and Music. Baudelaire Et Fauré : Du Sens Poetique au Sens Musical. In Pierre-Alexis Mevel & Helen Tattam (eds.), Language and its Contexts: Transposition and Transformation of Meaning? = le Langage Et Ses Contexts: Transposition Et Transformation du Sens? Peter Lang.
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  14. M. F. Alefirenko (2005). Spornye Problemy Semantiki. Gnōsis.
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  15. M. F. Alefirenko (2004). Problemy Frazeologicheskogo Znachenii͡a I Smysla: V Aspekte Mezhurovnevogo Vzaimodeĭstvii͡a I͡azykovykh Edinit͡s: Monografii͡a. Izdatelʹskiĭ Dom "Astrakhanskiĭ Universitet".
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  16. Maes Alfons (1997). Referent Ontology and Centering in Discourse. Journal of Semantics 14 (3).
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  17. Syed S. Ali & Stuart C. Shapiro (1993). Natural Language Processing Using a Propositional Semantic Network with Structured Variables. Minds and Machines 3 (4):421-451.
    We describe a knowledge representation and inference formalism, based on an intensional propositional semantic network, in which variables are structures terms consisting of quantifier, type, and other information. This has three important consequences for natural language processing. First, this leads to an extended, more natural formalism whose use and representations are consistent with the use of variables in natural language in two ways: the structure of representations mirrors the structure of the language and allows re-use phenomena such as pronouns and (...)
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  18. Kathryn Allan & Justyna A. Robinson (eds.) (2011). Current Methods in Historical Semantics. De Gruyter Mouton.
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  19. Keith Allan (2001). Natural Language Semantics. Blackwell.
    This volume offers a general introduction to the field of semantics and provides coverage of the main perspectives.
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  20. Keith Allan (1986). Interpreting English Comparatives. Journal of Semantics 5 (1):1-50.
    This paper attempts to clarify the way in which we interpret English comparatives. It shows that recognition of a comparative depends primarily on the recognition of the comparative operator, cl. The cl has two constituents (1) a comparative marker which, because there are less than a dozen of them, makes cl readily recognizable; and (2) a scale marker. I argue that comparisons are made on a particular scale, and that scales have a supra end and a sub end; the scale (...)
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  21. Keith Allan (1986). Linguistic Meaning. Routledge & Kegan Paul.
    Chapter Beginning an account of linguistic meaning: speaker, hearer, context, and utterance Pity the poor analyst, who has to do the best he can with ...
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  22. Ramsay Allan (1992). Presuppositions and Wh-Clauses. Journal of Semantics 9 (3).
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  23. James F. Allen (1993). Bbvrlp> Fmraflbivhlbhhrnnehkei. Journal of Semantics 10.
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  24. Jens Allwood, Joakim Nivre & Elisabeth Ahlsén (1992). On the Semantics and Pragmatics of Linguistic Feedback. Journal of Semantics 9 (1):1-26.
    This paper is an exploration in the semantics and pragmatics of linguistic feedback, i. e. linguistic mechanisms which enable the participants in spoken interaction to exchange information about basic communicative functions, such as contact, perception, understanding, and attitudinal reactions to the communicated content. Special attention is given to the type of reaction conveyed by feedback utterances, the communicative status of the information conveyed (i. e. the level of awareness and intentionality of the communicating sender), and the context sensitivity of feedback (...)
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  25. L. Alonso-Ovalle & P. Menendez-Benito (2013). Indefinites, Dependent Plurality, and the Viability Requirement on Scalar Alternatives. Journal of Semantics 30 (1):65-102.
    Spanish has two plural existential determiners, unos and algunos, which have been argued to contrast in a number of ways (Gutiérrez-Rexach 2001, 2010; Martí 2008, 2009). In this paper, we analyze an unexplored difference between these two determiners. A sentence like esos chicos tienen unas cabezas grandes (‘those kids have huge heads’) has a dependent plural reading: it can be true in a situation where those kids have exactly one huge head each. In contrast, its counterpart with algunos (esos chicos (...)
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  26. Luis Alonso-Ovalle, Is the 'Arbitrary Interpretation' a Semantic Epiphenomenon?
    Much syntactic research on Romance, and, specifically, on Spanish, has been devoted within the GB framework to examining the properties of a class of pronominal elements involving the so-called ‘arbitrary reference’.1 Here is a sample of such constructions.
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  27. Luis Alonso-Ovalle & Paula Menéndez-Benito (2011). Domain Restrictions, Modal Implicatures and Plurality: Spanish Algunos. Journal of Semantics 28 (2):211-240.
    In language after language, we find existential determiners that convey information about the speaker’s epistemic state. To date, research on these ‘epistemic indefinites’ has focused on their singular forms. The present work brings plural epistemic indefinites into the picture by analysing the contrast between Spanish algún and its plural counterpart algunos. While algún signals speaker’s ignorance, algunos does not. We provide an account of this contrast that builds on our previous research on algún (Alonso-Ovalle & Menéndez-Benito 2008, 2010). In those (...)
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  28. William P. Alston (1962). Philosophical Analysis and Structural Linguistics. Journal of Philosophy 59 (23):709-720.
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  29. Duk-Ho An (2007). On the Distribution of NPIs in Korean. Natural Language Semantics 15 (4):317-350.
    In this paper, I offer a novel solution to the well-known problem concerning two polarity items in Korean, amu-(N)-to and amu-(N)-rato, that show a complementary distribution within the set of typical NPI-licensing contexts. I present a uniform analysis of the distribution of these NPIs, where the complementary distribution follows from the opposite scope properties of the emphatic particles to and rato contained in the NPIs in question. As the- oretical background, I adopt Karttunen and Peters’s (1979, Syntax and Semantics 11: (...)
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  30. Scott Anderbois, Adrian Brasoveanu & Robert Henderson (2013). At-Issue Proposals and Appositive Impositions in Discourse. Journal of Semantics:fft014.
    Potts (2005) and many subsequent works have argued that the semantic content of appositive (non-restrictive) relative clauses, e.g., the underlined material in John, who nearly killed a woman with his car, visited her in the hospital, must be in some way separate from the content of the rest of the sentence, i.e., from at-issue content. At the same time, there is mounting evidence from various anaphoric processes that the two kinds of content must be integrated into a single, incrementally evolving (...)
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  31. Herzig Andreas & Longin Dominique (2000). Belief Dynamics in Cooperative Dialogues. Journal of Semantics 17 (2).
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  32. Kehler Andrew, Kertz Laura & Rohde Hannah (2008). Coherence and Coreference Revisited. Journal of Semantics 25 (1).
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  33. A. Anttila (2000). The Partitive Constraint in Optimality Theory. Journal of Semantics 17 (4):281-314.
    This paper discusses a case of syntax/semantics interaction of a characteristically optimality-theoretic kind. Finnish partitive constructions exhibit a case alternation that is partly semantically, partly syntactically driven. The crucial semantic condition that plays a role in case selection is quantitative determinacy, which replaces the definitenes condition familiar from the Partitive Constraint. The crucial syntactic condition is the Case-OCP, which prohibits the assignment of the same case to both the head and its sister. The syntactic and semantic constraints conflict, which leads (...)
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  34. Peter M. Arkadiev (2008). Thematic Roles, Event Structure, and Argument Encoding in Semantically Aligned Languages. In Mark Donohue & Søren Wichmann (eds.), The Typology of Semantic Alignment. Oxford University Press.
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  35. Mark Aronszajn (1988). Thought and Circumstance. Journal of Semantics 6 (1):271-307.
    A long-standing logical and philosophical tradition holds that there are such things as objects of thought, things of the sort a person may be said to be thinking - objects not only of doxastic thoughts (thoughts to the effect that something or other is the case), but of wonderings, wish-ings, hopings and desirings, etc. Virtually all propotranents of this tradition have supposed that the objects of thought are propositions, the (primary) bearers of truth-value. There are various proposals within the tradition (...)
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  36. Ana Arregui (2011). Counterfactual-Style Revisions in the Semantics of Deontic Modals. Journal of Semantics 28 (2):171-210.
    The article argues for a parallelism between the interpretation of deontic modals and the interpretation of counterfactuals. The main claim is that dependencies between facts play a role in the resolution of both types of modality: in both cases, facts ‘stand and fall’ together. The article provides two types of evidence supporting this claim: (i) evidence that comes from the interaction between primary and secondary duties (as presented in contrary-to-duty imperatives) and (ii) evidence that comes from the possibility of reproducing (...)
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  37. Fabien Arribert-Narce (2010). Image(s) de l'Autobiographe : De la Photographie Comme " Dangereux Supplement". In Pierre-Alexis Mevel & Helen Tattam (eds.), Language and its Contexts: Transposition and Transformation of Meaning? = le Langage Et Ses Contexts: Transposition Et Transformation du Sens? Peter Lang.
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  38. V. N. Artamonov (2006). Realizat͡sii͡a Kategorii Vazhnosti V Predlozhenii I V Tekste. Ulʹi͡anovskiĭ Gos. Tekhn. Universitet.
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  39. Merin Arthur (1992). Permission Sentences Stand in the Way of Boolean and Other Lattice-Theoretic Semantices. Journal of Semantics 9 (2).
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  40. Anttila Arto & Fong Vivienne (2000). The Partitive Constraint in Optimality Theory. Journal of Semantics 17 (4).
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  41. N. Asher (1998). Bridging. Journal of Semantics 15 (1):83-113.
    In this paper, we offer a novel analysis of bridging, paying particular attention to definite descriptions. We argue that extant theories don't do justice to the way different knowledge resources interact. In line with Hobbs (1979), we claim that the rhetorical connections between the propositions introduced in the text play an important part. But our work is distinct from his in that we model how this source of information interacts with compositional and lexical semantics. We formalize bridging in a framework (...)
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  42. N. Asher (1998). The Semantics and Pragmatics of Presupposition. Journal of Semantics 15 (3):239-300.
    In this paper, we offer a novel analysis of presuppositions, paying particular attention to the interaction between the knowledge resources that are required to The analysis has two main features. First, we capture an analogy between presuppositions, anaphora and scope ambiguity (cf. van der Sandt 1992), by utilizing semantic under-specification (c£ Reyle 1993). Second, resolving this underspecification requires reasoning about how the presupposition is rhetorically connected to the discourse context. This has several consequences. First, since pragmatic information plays a role (...)
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  43. Nicholas Asher (2011). Lexical Meaning in Context: A Web of Words. Cambridge University Press.
    This is a book about the meanings of words and how they can combine to form larger meaningful units, as well as how they can fail to combine when the ...
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  44. Nicholas Asher (1984). Meanings Don't Grow on Trees. Journal of Semantics 3 (3):229-247.
    In “Meanings don't grow on Trees” I investigate Lewis's proposal for using syntactical information to distinguish between intensions. Lewis's proposal, if it succeeds, would eliminate certain deficiencies in the predictions made by possible world semantics concerning synonymy. I provide two criteria for judging semantic theories: descriptive adequacy and explanatory adequacy. I argue that Lewis's proposal concerning synonymy fails on both counts. I then offer a different approach to problems with synonymy. Synonymy judgments involve two different kinds of meaning: truth conditional (...)
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  45. Nicholas& Lascarides Asher (1998). Alex," Bridging. Journal of Semantics 15:1.
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  46. Nicholas Asher & Alex Lascarides (1998). Bridging. Journal of Semantics 15 (1):83-113.
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  47. Nicholas Asher & Alex Lascarides (1995). Lexical Disambiguation in a Discourse Context. Journal of Semantics 12 (1):69-108.
    In this paper we investigate how discourse structure affects the meanings of words, and how the meanings of words affect discourse structure. We integrate three ingredients: a theory of discourse structure called SDRT, which represents discourse in terms of rhetorical relations that glue together the propositions introduced by the text segments; an accompanying theory of discourse attachment called DICE, which computes which rhetorical relations hold between the constituents, on the basis of the reader's background information; and a formal language for (...)
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  48. Nicholas Asher & Pierre Sablayrolles (1995). A Typology and Discourse Semantics for Motion Verbs and Spatial PPs in French. Journal of Semantics 12 (2):163-209.
    In this paper we offer a semantic study of motion verbs and motion verb complexes determined by motion verbs and spatial prepositional phrase adjuncts. We propose a classification of motion verbs and of motion verb complexes. Unlike other semantic or syntactic studies, we build up the spatioremporal semantic properties of motion verb complexes compositionally, on the basis of the semantic properties of the verbs, their arguments and adjuncts. We show how to combine this lexical information with discourse information to determine (...)
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  49. Nicholas Asher & Hajime Wada (1988). A Computational Account of Syntactic, Semantic and Discourse Principles for Anaphora Resolution. Journal of Semantics 6 (1):309-344.
    We present a unified framework for the computational implementation of syntactic, semantic, pragmatic and even “stylistic” constraints on anaphora. We build on our BUILDERS implementation of Discourse Representation (DR) Theory and Lexical Functional Grammar (LFG) discussed in Wada & Asher (1986). We develop and argue for a semantically based processing model for anaphora resolution that exploits a number of desirable features: (1) the partial semantics provided by the discourse representation structures (DRSs) of DR theory, (2) the use of syntactic and (...)
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  50. A. T. Ashkharava (ed.) (2004). Semantika I Pragmatika Slova I Teksta: Monografii͡a. Pomorskiĭ Universitet.
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