About this topic
Summary There is some debate among philosophers and linguists over the role of context in fixing the satisfaction conditions or extension of predicates. The central questions concern the extent to which context plays a role, and how, if at all, such context-sensitivity can be accommodated within truth conditional semantic theories.
Key works Perhaps the most radical position is that of Charles Travis, who presents various examples designed to show that the truth of what one says in using a predicate to describe an object is not fixed by the meaning of the predicate, even as a function of specifiable parameters of the occasion of use. See the papers collected in Travis 2008. Responses to the sorts of examples Travis describes vary. One option is to argue that the examples do not involve any variation in truth-value across contexts (see Cappelen & Lepore 2005); another is to argue that, while there is variation in truth-value, it can be understood as a form of indexicality (see Szabó 2001 and Rothschild & Segal 2009). (Sainsbury 2001 argues for a mixture of these two approaches.) A different strategy is to concede that there is variation, but that it is a form of nonindexical context-dependence, which can nevertheless be accommodated within traditional truth conditional semantics (see Predelli 2004Predelli 2005, MacFarlane 2007, and MacFarlane 2009).
Introductions Travis 1997 Recanati 2002
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  1. Adjectives, Datives and Ergativisation.John Anderson - 1969 - Foundations of Language 5 (3):301-323.
  2. Evaluative Adjectives as One-Place Predicates Dm Montague Grammar.Kenneth Reid Beesley - 1982 - Journal of Semantics 1 (3-4):195-249.
    In this paper I will argue that evaluative adjectives, such as good, bad, clever and skilful, should be analysed as one-place predicates in logical translation. This approach, which is basically the traditional logical treatment of ‘absolute’ adjectives, is to be contrasted with the approach in Montague (1974a) and Parsons (1972), wherein all adjectives are translated as two-place predicates, i.e. as semantic attributives. The move away from the Montague-Parsons analysis is not new: Bartsch (1972. 1975), McConnell-Ginet (1973), Kamp (1975), Siegel (1976a, (...)
  3. Adjectives and Adverbs in English.John S. Bowers - 1975 - Foundations of Language 13 (4):529-562.
  4. Locations and Binding.Herman Cappelen & John Hawthorne - 2007 - Analysis 67 (294):95–105.
    It is natural to think that the relationship between ‘rain’ and the location of rain is different from the relationship between ‘dance’ and the location of dancing. Utterances of (1) are typically interpreted as, in some sense, being about a location in which it rains. (2) is, typically, not interpreted as being about a location in which the dancing takes place.
  5. Insensitive Semantics: A Defense of Semantic Minimalism and Speech Act Pluralism.Herman Cappelen & Ernest Lepore - 2005 - Wiley-Blackwell.
    _Insensitive Semantics_ is an overview of and contribution to the debates about how to accommodate context sensitivity within a theory of human communication, investigating the effects of context on communicative interaction and, as a corollary, what a context of utterance is and what it is to be in one. Provides detailed and wide-ranging overviews of the central positions and arguments surrounding contextualism Addresses broad and varied aspects of the distinction between the semantic and non-semantic content of language Defends a distinctive (...)
  6. Predicates in Perspective.Anthony Corsentino - 2012 - Synthese 187 (2):519-545.
    A familiar strategy of argument to the effect that natural-language predicates are semantically context dependent rests on constructing what I term Travis cases: different contexts for the use of a predicate are imagined in which its semantic (typically, truth-conditional) properties are claimed to differ. I propose an account of the semantic properties of predicates that give rise to Travis cases; I then argue that the account underwrites a genuine alternative to the standard explanations of Travis cases to be found in (...)
  7. The Semantics of Slurs: A Refutation of Pure Expressivism.Adam M. Croom - 2014 - Language Sciences 41:227-242.
    In several recent contributions to the growing literature on slurs, Hedger draws upon Kaplan’s distinction between descriptive and expressive content to argue that slurs are expressions with purely expressive content. The distinction between descriptive and expressive content and the view that slurs are expressions with purely expressive content has been widely acknowledged in prior work, and Hedger aims to contribute to this tradition of scholarship by offering novel arguments in support of his ‘‘pure expressivist’’ account of slurs. But the account (...)
  8. Slurs, Stereotypes, and in-Equality: A Critical Review of “How Epithets and Stereotypes Are Racially Unequal”.Adam M. Croom - 2014 - Language Sciences 44:1-16.
    Are racial slurs always offensive and are racial stereotypes always negative? How, if at all, are racial slurs and stereotypes different and unequal for members of different races? Questions like these and others about slurs and stereotypes have been the focus of much research and hot debate lately, and in a recent article Embrick and Henricks aimed to address some of the aforementioned questions by investigating the use of racial slurs and stereotypes in the workplace. Embrick and Henricks drew upon (...)
  9. Racial Epithets, Characterizations, and Slurs.Adam M. Croom - 2013 - Analysis and Metaphysics 12:11-24.
    Since at least 2008 linguists and philosophers of language have started paying more serious attention to issues concerning the meaning or use of racial epithets and slurs. In an influential article published in The Journal of Philosophy, for instance, Christopher Hom (2008) offered a semantic account of racial epithets called Combinatorial Externalism (CE) that advanced a novel argument for the exclusion of certain epithets from freedom of speech protection under the First Amendment (p. 435). Also in more recent work, “The (...)
  10. Communicating by Doing Something Else.Alex Davies - forthcoming - In Tamara Dobler, John Collins & Alun Davies (eds.), Themes from Charles Travis: On Language, Thought, and Perception. Oxford University Press.
    It's sometimes thought that context-invariant linguistic meaning must be a character (a function from context types to contents) i.e. that linguistic meaning must determine how the content of an expression is fixed in context. This is thought because if context-invariant linguistic meaning were not a character then communication would not be possible. In this paper, I explain how communication could proceed even if context-invariant linguistic meaning were not a character.
  11. Using "Not Tasty" at the Dinner Table.Alex Davies - forthcoming - Organon F: Medzinárodný Časopis Pre Analytickú Filozofiu.
    John MacFarlane argues against objectivism about “tasty”/”not tasty” in the following way. If objectivism were true then, given that speakers use “tasty”/”not tasty” in accordance with a rule, TP, speakers would be using an evidently unreliable method to form judgements and make claims about what is tasty. Since this is implausible, objectivism must be false. In this paper, I describe a context in which speakers deviate from TP. I argue that MacFarlane's argument against objectivism fails when applied to uses of (...)
  12. Elaboration and Intuitions of Disagreement.Alex Davies - 2017 - Philosophical Studies 174 (4):861-875.
    Mark Richard argues for truth-relativism about claims made using gradable adjectives. He argues that truth-relativism is the best explanation of two kinds of linguistic data, which I call: true cross-contextual reports and infelicitous denials of conflict. Richard claims that such data are generated by an example that he discusses at length. However, the consensus is that these linguistic data are illusory because they vanish when elaborations are added to examples of the same kind as Richard’s original. In this paper I (...)
  13. Off-Target Responses to Occasion-Sensitivity.Alex Davies - 2014 - Dialectica 68 (4):499-523.
    In the literature on linguistic context-sensitivity, a recurrent move has been made with the intention of attacking Charles Travis's occasion-sensitivity. The move is to provide a semantic analysis of the meaning of an expression which makes the content of that expression context sensitive but without providing any reason to think that the meaning of the expression is a character. I argue that this move is off-target. Such proposals are entirely consistent with occasion-sensitivity and so don't constitute an attack on it.
  14. Occasion-Sensitivity: Selected Essays, by Charles Travis.Alex Davies - 2011 - Disputatio 4 (31):309-315.
    This is not a critical review of Travis' book. It's an attempt to summarize the key thesis (occasion-sensitivity) in a way that makes the book accessible and distinguishes it from similar looking theses (such as relevance theory and truth-conditional pragmatics).
  15. Aesthetic Ideals.Rafael De Clercq - 2008 - In Kathleen Stock & Katherine Thomson-Jones (eds.), New Waves in Aesthetics. Palgrave-Macmillan. pp. 188-202.
    The aim of this chapter is to understand how sortals determine what aesthetic properties an object has. It is argued that Frank Sibley’s notion of an ideal of beauty does not help us to achieve that aim. Instead, it is argued, the special aesthetic relevance of sortals is better understood by reference to the (non-aesthetic) ideas of normality and functionality associated with sortals. In passing, the paper also argues that there must be a maximum degree of beauty if non-comparative judgments (...)
  16. Charles Travis, Occasion-Sensitivity. Selected Essays. Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2008.Lorenz Demey - 2009 - Tijdschrift Voor Filosofie 71 (3):633-635.
  17. Oraciones normativas y sensibilidad a la evaluación.Justina Diaz Legaspe - 2017 - Revista Latinoamericana de Filosofia 43 (1):29-47.
    Nuestro lenguaje no sólo describe el mundo que nos rodea: muchas expresiones que usamos habitualmente (desde predicados de gusto a expresiones evaluativas como “interesante” o “divertido”) tienen por función valorar los objetos que constituyen nuestro entorno. Las oraciones que las contienen son sensibles a la evaluación: su valor de verdad depende del estándar evaluativo saliente en contexto y su emisión puede dar lugar a desacuerdos duros. El presente trabajo examina la extensión de esta categoría a oraciones con predicados y verbos (...)
  18. Evaluative Disagreements.Justina Diaz Legaspe - 2016 - Teorema: International Journal of Philosophy (1):67-87.
    A recent quarrel over faultless disagreements assumes that disputes over evaluative sentences should be understood as regular, factual disagreements. Instead, I propose that evaluative disagreements should be understood in Lewisian terms. Language use works like a rule-governed game. In it, the assertion of an evaluative sentence is an attempt to establish one value as default in the conversation; its rejection, in turn, is in most cases the refusal to accept this move.
  19. Vagueness and Subjective Attitudes.Carter Eric - 2011 - Tampa Papers in Linguistics 2:47-64.
  20. What Tipper is Ready For: A Semantics for Incomplete Predicates.Christopher Gauker - 2012 - Noûs 46 (1):61-85.
    This paper presents a precise semantics for incomplete predicates such as “ready”. Incomplete predicates have distinctive logical properties that a semantic theory needs to accommodate. For instance, “Tipper is ready” logically implies “Tipper is ready for something”, but “Tipper is ready for something” does not imply “Tipper is ready”. It is shown that several approaches to the semantics of incomplete predicates fail to accommodate these logical properties. The account offered here defines contexts as structures containing an element called a proposition (...)
  21. Moving Parts: A New Indexical Treatment of Context-Shifting Predication.Daniel Giberman - 2016 - Synthese 193 (1):95-124.
    A context-shifting example involves a putatively non-ambiguous, non-elliptical, non-indexical declarative sentence, some distinct utterances of which differ in truth value despite sameness of place, time, surrounding objects, and other physical factors. Charles Travis has spawned a large literature by arguing that such examples undermine compositional truth-conditional semantics. After explaining how prior responses to Travis’s examples fail in the metaphysical details, the present essay develops a new approach that treats a wide range of subject terms as disguised indexicals sensitive to mereological (...)
  22. Objectivism About Color and Comparative Color Statements. Reply to Hansen.Mario Gómez‐Torrente - 2017 - Noûs 51 (2):429-435.
    Nat Hansen builds a new argument for subjectivism about the semantics of color language, based on a potential kind of intersubjective disagreements about comparative color statements. In reply, I note that the disagreements of this kind are merely hypothetical, probably few if actual, and not evidently relevant as test cases for a semantic theory. Furthermore, even if they turned out to be actual and semantically relevant, they would be intuitively unusable by the subjectivist.
  23. Perceptual Variation, Color Language, and Reference Fixing. An Objectivist Account.Mario Gómez‐Torrente - 2014 - Noûs 49 (3):3-40.
    I offer a new objectivist theory of the contents of color language and color experience, intended especially as an account of what normal intersubjective variation in color perception and classification shows about those contents. First I explain an abstract account of the contents of color and other gradable adjectives; on the account, these contents are certain objective properties constituted in part by contextually intended standards of application, which are in turn values in the dimensions of variation associated with the adjectives. (...)
  24. Color Adjectives and Radical Contextualism.Hansen Nat - unknown
    Radical contextualists have observed that the content of what is said by the utterance of a sentence is shaped in far-reaching ways by the context of utterance. And they have argued that the ways in which the content of what is said is shaped by context cannot be explained by semantic theory. A striking number of the examples that radical contextualists use to support their view involve sentences containing color adjectives. In this paper, I show how the most sophisticated analysis (...)
  25. Color Adjectives and Radical Contextualism.Hansen Nat - unknown
    Radical contextualists have observed that the content of what is said by the utterance of a sentence is shaped in far-reaching ways by the context of utterance. And they have argued that the ways in which the content of what is said is shaped by context cannot be explained by semantic theory. A striking number of the examples that radical contextualists use to support their view involve sentences containing color adjectives. In this paper, I show how the most sophisticated analysis (...)
  26. Color Adjectives and Radical Contextualism.Hansen Nat - unknown
    Radical contextualists have observed that the content of what is said by the utterance of a sentence is shaped in far-reaching ways by the context of utterance. And they have argued that the ways in which the content of what is said is shaped by context cannot be explained by semantic theory. A striking number of the examples that radical contextualists use to support their view involve sentences containing color adjectives. In this paper, I show how the most sophisticated analysis (...)
  27. Color Adjectives and Radical Contextualism.Hansen Nat - unknown
    Radical contextualists have observed that the content of what is said by the utterance of a sentence is shaped in far-reaching ways by the context of utterance. And they have argued that the ways in which the content of what is said is shaped by context cannot be explained by semantic theory. A striking number of the examples that radical contextualists use to support their view involve sentences containing color adjectives. In this paper, I show how the most sophisticated analysis (...)
  28. Color Adjectives and Radical Contextualism.Hansen Nat - 2011 - Linguistics and Philosophy 34 (3):201-221.
    Radical contextualists have observed that the content of what is said by the utterance of a sentence is shaped in far-reaching ways by the context of utterance. And they have argued that the ways in which the content of what is said is shaped by context cannot be explained by semantic theory. A striking number of the examples that radical contextualists use to support their view involve sentences containing color adjectives ("red", "green", etc.). In this paper, I show how the (...)
  29. Color Adjectives and Radical Contextualism.Hansen Nat - unknown
    Radical contextualists have observed that the content of what is said by the utterance of a sentence is shaped in far-reaching ways by the context of utterance. And they have argued that the ways in which the content of what is said is shaped by context cannot be explained by semantic theory. A striking number of the examples that radical contextualists use to support their view involve sentences containing color adjectives. In this paper, I show how the most sophisticated analysis (...)
  30. Just What Is It That Makes Travis's Examples So Different, So Appealing?Nat Hansen - forthcoming - In J. Collins A. Davies & T. Dobler (eds.), Themes from Charles Travis: On Language,Thought and Perception. Oxford University Press.
    Odd and memorable examples are a distinctive feature of Charles Travis's work: cases involving squash balls, soot-covered kettles, walls that emit poison gas, faces turning puce, ties made of freshly cooked linguine, and people grunting when punched in the solar plexus all figure in his arguments. One of Travis's examples, involving a pair of situations in which the leaves of a Japanese maple tree are painted green, has even spawned its own literature consisting of attempts to explain the context sensitivity (...)
  31. A New Argument From Interpersonal Variation to Subjectivism About Color: A Response to Gómez‐Torrente.Nat Hansen - 2015 - Noûs:421-428.
    I describe a new, comparative, version of the argument from interpersonal variation to subjectivism about color. The comparative version undermines a recent objectivist response to standard versions of that argument.
  32. Color Adjectives, Standards, and Thresholds: An Experimental Investigation.Nat Hansen & Emmanuel Chemla - 2017 - Linguistics and Philosophy 40 (3):1--40.
    Are color adjectives ("red", "green", etc.) relative adjectives or absolute adjectives? Existing theories of the meaning of color adjectives attempt to answer that question using informal ("armchair") judgments. The informal judgments of theorists conflict: it has been proposed that color adjectives are absolute with standards anchored at the minimum degree on the scale, that they are absolute but have near-midpoint standards, and that they are relative. In this paper we report two experiments, one based on entailment patterns and one based (...)
  33. Color Adjectives and Radical Contextualism.Nathaniel Hansen - 2011 - Linguistics and Philosophy 34 (3):201 - 221.
    Radical contextualists have observed that the content of what is said by the utterance of a sentence is shaped in far-reaching ways by the context of utterance. And they have argued that the ways in which the content of what is said is shaped by context cannot be explained by semantic theory. A striking number of the examples that radical contextualists use to support their view involve sentences containing color adjectives ("red", "green", etc.). In this paper, I show how the (...)
  34. Answering Questions Containing Marked and Unmarked Adjectives and Adverbs.Richard J. Harris - 1973 - Journal of Experimental Psychology 97 (3):399.
  35. Context-Dependency and Comparative Adjectives.John Hawthorne - 2007 - Analysis 67 (295):195–204.
    The full-text of this article is not currently available in ORA, but you may be able to access the article via the publisher copy link on this record page.
  36. Indexical Predicates and Their Uses.Jane Heal - 1997 - Mind 106 (424):619--640.
    Indexicality is a feature of predicates and predicate components (verbs, adjectives, adverbs and the like) as well as of referring expressions. With classic referring indexicals such as 'I' or 'that' a distinctive rule takes us from token and context to some item present in the content which is the semantic correlate of the token. Predicates and predicate components may function in an analogous fashion. For example 'thus' is an indexical adverb which latches onto some manner of performance present in its (...)
  37. Tolerance Effect in Categorisation with Vague Predicates.Minyao Huang - 2013 - Pragmatics and Cognition 21 (2):340-358.
    Vagueness is understood as the problem of associating imprecise application criteria with ordinary predicates such as ‘bald’ or ‘blue’. It is often construed as due to one’s tolerance to a minute difference in forming a verdict on the application of a vague predicate. This paper reports an experiment conducted to test the effect of tolerance, using as paradigm categorisation tasks performed with respect to transitional series, e.g., a series of tomatoes from red to orange. The findings suggest a negative effect (...)
  38. Ordering of Taboo Adjectives.Timothy B. Jay & Joseph H. Danks - 1977 - Bulletin of the Psychonomic Society 9 (6):405-408.
  39. The Relativity of Evaluative Sentences: Disagreeing Over Disagreement.Justina Diaz Legaspe - 2013 - Kriterion (127):211-66.
    Evaluative sentences (moral judgments, expressions of taste, epistemic modals) are relative to the speaker’s standards. Lately, a phenomenon has challenged the traditional explanation of this relativity: whenever two speakers disagree over them they contradict each other without being at fault. Hence, it is thought that the correction of the assertions involved must be relative to an unprivileged standard not necessarily the speaker’s. I will claim instead that so far, neither this nor any other proposal has provided an explanation of the (...)
  40. Oraciones evaluativas y los compromisos de la aserción.Diaz Legaspe Justina - 2016 - Análisis Filosófico 36 (2):199-224.
    Las oraciones con predicados evaluativos son sensibles a la valoración realizada según un parámetro evaluativo contextual. Dos teorías han proporcionado explicaciones para este tipo de sensibilidad: el contextualismo (indexicalista y no indexicalista) y el relativismo de apreciación. En este trabajo presentaré una tercera opción que logra lo mismo que éstas de una manera más sencilla. La teoría se centrará en dos pilares: una reconsideración del contenido expresado por las oraciones con predicados de gusto que parte de la articulación del parámetro (...)
  41. Color, Context, and Compositionality.Christopher Kennedy & Louise Mcnally - 2010 - Synthese 174 (1):79-98.
    Color adjectives have played a central role in work on language typology and variation, but there has been relatively little investigation of their meanings by researchers in formal semantics. This is surprising given the fact that color terms have been at the center of debates in the philosophy of language over foundational questions, in particular whether the idea of a compositional, truth-conditional theory of natural language semantics is even coherent. The challenge presented by color terms is articulated in detail in (...)
  42. Relativism About Predicates of Personal Taste and Perspectival Plurality.Kneer Markus, Vicente Agustin & Zeman Dan - 2017 - Linguistics and Philosophy 40 (1):37-60.
    In this paper we discuss a phenomenon we call perspectival plurality, which has gone largely unnoticed in the current debate between relativism and contextualism about predicates of personal taste. According to perspectival plurality, the truth value of a sentence containing more than one PPT may depend on more than one perspective. Prima facie, the phenomenon engenders a problem for relativism and can be shaped into an argument in favor of contextualism. We explore the consequences of perspectival plurality in depth and (...)
  43. On the Logic of Adjectives.Nebojsa Kujundzic - 2001 - Dialogue 40 (4):803.
  44. Disagreeing Over Evaluatives: Preference, Normative and Moral Discourse.Justina Diaz Legaspe - 2015 - Manuscrito 38 (2):39-63.
    Why would we argue about taste, norms or morality when we know that these topics are relative to taste preferences, systems of norms or values to which we are committed? Yet, disagreements over these topics are common in our evaluative discourses. I will claim that the motives to discuss rely on our attitudes towards the standard held by the speakers in each domain of discourse, relating different attitudes to different motives –mainly, conviction and correction. These notions of attitudes and motives (...)
  45. Aesthetic Adjectives Lack Uniform Behavior.Shen-yi Liao, Louise McNally & Aaron Meskin - 2016 - Inquiry : An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy 59 (6):618-631.
    The goal of this short paper is to show that esthetic adjectives—exemplified by “beautiful” and “elegant”—do not pattern stably on a range of linguistic diagnostics that have been used to taxonomize the gradability properties of adjectives. We argue that a plausible explanation for this puzzling data involves distinguishing two properties of gradable adjectives that have been frequently conflated: whether an adjective’s applicability is sensitive to a comparison class, and whether an adjective’s applicability is context-dependent.
  46. Aesthetic Adjectives: Experimental Semantics and Context-Sensitivity.Shen-yi Liao & Aaron Meskin - 2017 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 94 (2):371–398.
    One aim of this essay is to contribute to understanding aesthetic communication—the process by which agents aim to convey thoughts and transmit knowledge about aesthetic matters to others. Our focus will be on the use of aesthetic adjectives in aesthetic communication. Although theorists working on the semantics of adjectives have developed sophisticated theories about gradable adjectives, they have tended to avoid studying aesthetic adjectives—the class of adjectives that play a central role in expressing aesthetic evaluations. And despite the wealth of (...)
  47. Nonindexical Contextualism.John MacFarlane - 2009 - Synthese 166 (2):231-250.
    Philosophers on all sides of the contextualism debates have had an overly narrow conception of what semantic context sensitivity could be. They have conflated context sensitivity (dependence of truth or extension on features of context) with indexicality (dependence of content on features of context). As a result of this conflation, proponents of contextualism have taken arguments that establish only context sensitivity to establish indexicality, while opponents of contextualism have taken arguments against indexicality to be arguments against context sensitivity. Once these (...)
  48. Semantic Minimalism and Nonindexical Contextualism.John MacFarlane - 2007 - In Gerhard Preyer & Georg Peter (eds.), Context-Sensitivity and Semantic Minimalism: New Essays on Semantics and Pragmatics. Oxford University Press. pp. 240--250.
    According to Semantic Minimalism, every use of "Chiara is tall" (fixing the girl and the time) semantically expresses the same proposition, the proposition that Chiara is (just plain) tall. Given standard assumptions, this proposition ought to have an intension (a function from possible worlds to truth values). However, speakers tend to reject questions that presuppose that it does. I suggest that semantic minimalists might address this problem by adopting a form of "nonindexical contextualism," according to which the proposition invariantly expressed (...)
  49. Aesthetic Predicates: A Hybrid Dispositional Account.Teresa Marques - 2016 - Inquiry : An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy 59 (6):723-751, doi:10.1080/0020174X.20.
    This paper explores the possibility of developing a hybrid version of dispositional theories of aesthetic values. On such a theory, uses of aesthetic predicates express relational second-order dispositional properties. If the theory is not absolutist, it allows for the relativity of aesthetic values. But it may be objected to on the grounds that it fails to explain disagreement among subjects who are not disposed alike. This paper explores the possibility of adapting recent proposals of hybrid expressivist theories for moral predicates (...)
  50. Aesthetic Adjectives.Louise McNally & Isidora Stojanovic - 2014 - In James Young (ed.), The Semantics of Aesthetic Judgment. Oxford University Press.
    Among semanticists and philosophers of language, there has been a recent outburst of interest in predicates such as delicious, called predicates of personal taste (PPTs, e.g. Lasersohn 2005). Somewhat surprisingly, the question of whether or how we can distinguish aesthetic predicates from PPTs has hardly been addressed at all in this recent work. It is precisely this question that we address. We investigate linguistic criteria that we argue can be used to delineate the class of specifically aesthetic adjectives. We show (...)
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