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A STUDY ON THE INFLUENCE OF MOBILE PHONE AND SHORT MESSAGING SERVICES (SMS) ON LANGUAGE CORRUPTION IN MALAYSIA: A CASE STUDY

IN KOTA KINABALU, SABAH

TABLE OF CONTENTS

1.0Introduction...................................................................................................... 1 1.1Problem Statement........................................................................................ 1 1.2Objective of this Study...................................................................................2 1.3Research Methodology.................................................................................. 2 2.0Literature Review.............................................................................................. 4 2.1The Development of Mobile Communication in Malaysia...............................4 2.2What are Short Messaging Services (SMS)?...................................................5 2.3Use of SMS in Malaysia and Other Countries.................................................5 3.0Findings of the Study........................................................................................ 9 3.1Description of the Respondents.....................................................................9 3.2SMS Activities of the Respondents...............................................................11 3.3SMS Abbreviations by the Respondents......................................................12 3.4Respondents Opinion Regarding SMS and its Corruption of the Language.13 4.0Discussions .................................................................................................... 15 5.0Conclusion...................................................................................................... 16 REFERENCES........................................................................................................ 17 Appendix A Questionnaire................................................................................. 19

1.0

Introduction 1.1 Problem Statement

Wei and Kolko (2005) stated that mobile phones are growing in popularity all around the world. They have become common tools and accessories in highly wired societies (Ito and Okabe, 2003; Ling, 2000; Oksman and Rautiainen, 2003; and Rheingold, 2002). In developing countries such as Malaysia, mobile technology is becoming an important aspect of development as it allows the countries to leapfrog and take advantage of advances in information and communication technologies (ICT) without barriers (Jamieson, 2002). In Malaysia, majority of teenagers and adults carry at least one mobile phone. In fact, cell phones as they are also called; have become an integral part of the modern world, providing human connectivity in a way never thought possible before (Brown, Shipman and Vetter, 2007). A recent United Nations report (www.cellular-news.com/story/25833.php) estimated that there are a total of more than 2.68 billions of mobile phone subscribers in the world. There has been a major increase in the use of phone calls and short messages (SMS) as a form of communication among people. In Malaysia, 74 per cent of mobile phone subscribers were reported to have sent at least a text message per day (Koay, Azilawati, Malini and Ng, 2004). It is also estimated that approximately eight hundred thousand Malaysian students are such users. A phenomenon that emerged in the recent decade due to the extensive and intensive use of mobile phone and SMS is the abbreviation of words in SMS. It has resulted in some people being worried about the corruption of our national language (Bahasa Melayu) through abbreviation, newly created words, code-switching, code-mixing and emoticons or symbols in their SMS. Some however, argued that SMS has opened up new opportunities for our national language to survive and some mother tongue languages to be revived as they are able to romanize their languages in their SMS.

1.2

Objective of this Study

This assignment presents a literature review on the use of SMS in Malaysia as well as in foreign countries. These reviews are based on research articles downloaded from the Internet and presented in the next chapter. In addition, a small scale study using survey method with a pre-designed questionnaire by Supyan Hussein (2008) was conducted to gather respondents from adults and teenagers around Kota Kinabalu City area about their SMS practices. The main aim of this assignment is to provide literal and empirical evidences that use of SMS is corrupting our language in Malaysia. In my opinion, I strongly agree with the notion that SMS is corrupting our language. Thus, more specifically, the objectives of this study are presented as follows: 1. To explain the use of SMS in Malaysia and other countries based on literature reviews; and 2. To provide empirical evidences that use of SMS is corrupting our language by gathering perceptions of SMS practices among respondents in Kota Kinabalu City area

1.3

Research Methodology

This study uses literature review of research articles sourced from the Internet. In addition, a short survey using a pre-designed survey (Supyan Hussin, 2008) was used to gather empirical data to determine the detrimental impact of SMS messages to Malaysian language, especially Bahasa Malaysia. Factual information from literature reviews are presented in the following chapter while empirical data are presented in the ensuing chapters. Descriptive analysis to obtain frequency and percentage values of respondents responses is executed with the aid of Microsoft Excel. Results of the survey are presented in table and graphical forms.
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2.0

Literature Review

2.1

The Development of Mobile Communication in Malaysia

The mobile phone is seen as an increasingly important communication tool, which has become an integral part of the Malaysian society. Sheereen and Rozumah (2009) stated that Malaysians are increasingly using the mobile phone rather than the fixed lines to communicate with their friends, family, colleagues and business associates. Nowadays, mobile phones are equipped with various features that allow communication and entertainment such as the Short Message Service (SMS), MP3 (MPEG-1 Audio Layer 3) player, games, internet and videos. These features have attracted people from all walks of life including the younger generations, and consequently resulted in an increase number of mobile phone users in Malaysia. The Handphone User Survey (2005) carried out by the Malaysian Communication and Multimedia Commission found that 13 per cent of people aged below 20 years old owned a mobile phone. Nearly 80 per cent of people living in Malaysia between the ages of 20 and 49 owned or used a mobile phone (Mohd Hairul, Hazrina and Nazean, 2008). In 2008, the Malaysian Communication and Multimedia Commission carried out another study which found that Malaysia ranked second in ASEAN in terms of the number of mobile phone users, recording 26 thousand users during that year. The survey revealed that those within the range of 20 to 49 years are the main users while those below 19 years old make up 20.9 per cent, signifying that young adults are prominent mobile phone users in Malaysia (Sheereen and Rozumah, 2009). Abdullah (2004) found in this study that youths claimed that owning a mobile phone is an essential part of their life. This is not surprising as the younger generations are regarded as digital natives (i.e. individuals born in the technological era) and are naturally attracted to any technological gadgets. According to Ito and Okabe (2004),

mobile phone is regarded not only as a tool for communication but also as a way to express themselves and to make them look hip and cool (Ling, 2001). Contrary to the older generations, better known as digital immigrants (i.e. individuals born before the technological era), their use of mobile phones are mostly for social or business purposes (Bianchi and Phillips, 2005).

2.2

What are Short Messaging Services (SMS)?

Brown et al. (2007) defined Short Messaging Services (SMS) is the text communication service component of phone or mobile communication systems, using standardized communication protocols that allow the exchange of short text messages between fixed line or mobile phone devices. SMS was created during the late 1980s to work with a digital technology called Global System for Mobile Communication (GSM), which eventually become the basis for most modern cell phones. The term SMS is used as a synonym for all types of short text messaging as well as the user activity itself in many parts of the world. SMS is a method of communication that sends text between cell phones or from a personal computer or handheld to a cell phone. The short part in SMS refers to the maximum size of the text messages i.e. 160 characters (letters, numbers or symbols in the Latin alphabet) [How and Kan, 2005].

2.3

Use of SMS in Malaysia and Other Countries

Thurlow and Poff (2010) explained that text messaging refers to the brief typed messages sent by SMS of mobile or cell phones, personal digital assistants (PDA), smart phones or web browsers. They explained that texting has become popular with the rapid spread of mobile telephony in general. There have been extensive researchers conducted to address the role of texting as a social-communicative resource in peoples daily lives. For instance,
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Tanakinjal et al. (2007) found that 32 percent of adult texters in Malaysia cannot use their mobile phones without texting. Among college students in Hong Kong, texting is a status symbol, with texters being predominantly male and having a high household income (Leung, 2007). In Japan, Ishii (2006) found that Japanese prefer texting to voice communication while Uy-Tioco (2007) found that Filipino mothers in the U.S. with children overseas use texting to maintain real-time relationships with their children. In another study by Lin and Tong (2007) in Taiwan, it was found that subtle gender relations are negotiated via texting. The impact of short messages in SMS on the language has been investigated in numerous studies all over the world. Thurlow and Poff (2010) explained that Swedish texters typically alter their spelling from the standard by spelling phonetically, splitting compounds, omitting vowels, using conventional and unconventional abbreviations, writing in either all caps or all lower case and exchanging longer words for shorter ones. Among German texters, reduction techniques are used while French texters use phonetic reductions, syllabograms or rebus writing (such as b4 with the English for before), and logograms which are symbols, acronyms, and unilateral abbreviations (Anis 2007). Among US texters, unambiguous abbreviations (e.g. I and R for you and are), vowel deletions and lexical shortenings (e.g. Sun for Sunday) are common (Ling and Baron 2007). Other than that, capitalization, punctuation and blank spaces are often omitted in Swedish text messages, so do apostrophes and sentence-final punctuation (Thurlow and Poff, 2010). Mohd Sahandri, Mohd Reza and Saifuddin Kumar (2009) explained that the evolution of an abbreviated language is due to the shortcoming and the technical restrictions of SMS as a means of communication. They further elaborated that the existence of a common background between close friends and family members serves as a reason for using syntactic and lexical short forms to save energy, space and time. In order to ensure comprehension, these texters have a special shared knowledge and according to Abdullah (1988), this points to the fact that the language of SMS that is associated with

acronyms and changes in spelling norms, depicts that it is an inherently informal communication system. Based on the study by Mohd Sahandri et al. (2009) among students of University Putra Malaysia, it was found that SMS users employed text devices such as single letters, digits, abbreviation and acronyms to replace words. Their study revealed the popular use of shortened words and word combined with numbers. Grammar, punctuation and capitalization were largely ignored. They noticed that the language of SMS messages was a combination of spoken and written communication a spoken mode in a written medium. Table 1 below shows some of the text devices found in the analyzed SMS of the respondents in their study.

Table 1: The main text devices found in the analyzed SMSs (N = 50)

(Source: Mohd Sahandri et al., 2009, p. 77) Their study challenged the assumption that language is deteriorating because of increased use in electronic communication. However, they noted that although there are linguistics and non-linguistic problems observed in the SMS messages, it also suggests that language used is adapted creatively to the particular needs of the electronic age. They argued that there is a number of linguistic features and strategies used by the e-mail and SMS writers such as abbreviations, spoken-like spelling, less attention to punctuation and capitalization, as well as syntactical and lexical reductions were well suited to the conditions of electric communication to reduce space, time and effort. Nevertheless, they agree that SMS messages tend to ignore the affective and aesthetic part of speech such as the omission of thanks, greetings, punctuation, capitalization and grammar which are not good. In another study by Kho (2004) on the impact of using net lingo (such as btw means by the way) in computer-mediated communication on off-line writing tasks among Cohort Two students of the Overseas Link B. Ed. TESL Programme. According to Johnston (2003), the usage of net lingo is corrupting the standards of English. Teh (2004) supported this notion by stating that some educators claimed that there has been a decrease in students performance in English language papers due to the prolonged use of net lingo. Kho (2004) justified this claim as the frequent exposure and use to net lingo could lead to habitual usage and that students may unconsciously use net lingo in their writing. Since use of mobile phones is common among students, there is a possibility that the conversational writing they use in computer-mediated communication which includes shorthand, non-conventional spellings and emoticons could unconsciously creep into their school work (Lee, 2003; Smith, 2004).

3.0

Findings of the Study 3.1 Description of the Respondents

The respondents background information was obtained from Section A of the questionnaire. Four demographic profiles were determined: age, ethnic group, gender and status.

Figure 1: Breakdown of Respondents based on Age

Figure 1 shows the breakdown of respondents based on age. A total of 27 per cent of the respondents are between the age of 15 and 20 years; 30 per cent between the age of 26 and 30 years; 20 per cent between 31 and 35 years; 13 per cent between 36 and 40 and 10 percent more than 40 years old.

Figure 2: Breakdown of Respondents based on Ethnic Group

Figure 2 shows that the majority of the respondents came from the ethnic groups of Kadazan/Dusun, Malay, Rungus and Bajau. Remaining number of respondents are Chinese, Indian, Brunei and others.

Figure 3: Breakdown of Respondents based on Gender

Figure 3 above shows that 57 per cent of the respondents are female and 43 per cent are males.
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Figure 4: Breakdown of Respondents based on Status

Based on status, majority of the respondents are working (13 respondents) and 7 of them still studying while 9 respondents work and study. One respondent was unemployed.

3.2

SMS Activities of the Respondents

Table 2 below presents the respondents feedback on their SMS activities, based on the questions presented in Section B of the questionnaire.

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Table 2: Respondents SMS Activities (N = 30) No 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 Statement Do you have a mobile phone? Do you SMS? When you used SMS, did you shorten up the words, abbreviate the words or chunk the words? Did you shorten up Bahasa Melayu words in your SMS? Did you shorten up mother tongue words in SMS? Did you shorten up English words in SMS? Did you mix up more than one language in your SMS? Will SMS help to revive your mother tongue language? Respondents Feedback Yes No NA 30 0 0 (100.0%) (0.0%) (0.0%) 30 0 0 (100.0%) (0.0%) (0.0%) 30 0 0 (100.0%) (0.0%) (0.0%) 30 (100.0%) 30 (100.0%) 30 (100.0%) 30 (100.0%) 6 (20.0%) 0 (0.0%) 0 (0.0%) 0 (0.0%) 0 (0.0%) 24 (80.0% 0 (0.0%) 0 (0.0%) 0 (0.0%) 0 (0.0%) 0 (0.0%)

Table 2 above shows that all the respondents responded Yes to Statement 1 to 7. This indicates that respondents are regular user of mobile phones and SMS as well as practices sentence/word shortening, abbreviation, chunking and mixing different languages in their SMS messages. Only 20 per cent of the respondents agreed that SMS will help to revive their mother tongue whereas 80 per cent responded negatively.

3.3

SMS Abbreviations by the Respondents

Based on the respondents feedback about SMS abbreviations in Section C of the questionnaire, Table 3 presents a compilation of their feedbacks.

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Table 3: Respondents SMS Abbreviations (N = 30) Expressions How are you? Bahasa Melayu English HRU How U? OK U? GM Gud morn Gud mg A wil cal ya Cal ya sun Wil cal ya Brekfas B-fas BrekFs Luv u ILU U wana come with me? U come wit me? Du wanna com wt me? He aciden l/nite He hd accidn las nite He xsiden las nite

Apo kabo? Ap khab? Camana U skrg? Good morning SP Sel pgi Slmt pg I will call you Nanti I kol I kol krg Jap gi I kol Breakfast Sarapn Makn pgi Mkn pgi I love you Cyg u ICU Syg u Do you want to come with Nak kut sa? me? U nak ikt sa? U nak ikt I? He had an accident last night Dia eksiden smlm Smlm dia aksiden Aksiden dia smlm

Table 3 recorded the respondents habit of SMS abbreviations in Bahasa Melayu and English. It shows the action of shortening words, using single letter to represent a word, spelling based on sound and code-mixing of English and Bahasa Malaysia.

3.4

Respondents Opinion Regarding SMS and its Corruption of the Language

From Section D of the questionnaire, the respondents were asked whether to agree or disagree that shortening up words in SMS will corrupt the language.
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Findings indicate that all the respondents or 100 per cent of the respondents agreed to the statement. Some of the reasons for their answers are indicated in Table 4 below.

Table 4: Reasons Supporting the Respondents Notion that Shortening up Words in SMS will Corrupt Language 1. Shortening up words becomes a habit that can be transferred to academic or work assignments. 2. 3. Laziness to determine the right spelling of the word is aggravated. Mixing English and Bahasa Melayu spoil the language. Thus, texters are neither good in English or Bahasa Melayu. 4. Shortening up words ignored the use of connecting words

(conjunctions), which further decrease the texters grammar skills for both language 5. There are jargons used in texting e.g. LOL, ciao, mo mantai that has meaning in the register group of mobile phone/SMS users but are meaningless in standard language. It might intentionally be used in writing or speaking in the school or work environment

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4.0

Discussions Based on the findings of the small scale study among 30 respondents in Kota Kinabalu city area, it can be concluded that majority or in this case, all the respondents agree that shortening up messages in SMS is corrupting the language. These findings are supported by numerous researches as presented in the second chapter of this report. The result of the study indicated that the practice of shortening up messages in SMS can become a habit among mobile phone users and this habit can be passed on to the academic or professional language uses. The findings imply that the impact of SMS on our language should be taken seriously. Since shortening messages in SMS and the use of SMS is a growing and unavoidable trend, users especially among teenagers and students should be made aware of this problem and that there should be some action to be taken to ensure prevention of this habit to flow to their practice in speaking and writing in a formal context. Language teachers should consider the need to bring this issue out in the open with their students so as to enhance learners awareness on the inappropriateness of using such language in the formal contexts. If these actions are not taken, the governments effort to raise the standard of Bahasa Melayu and English as the primary languages in this country will fail.

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5.0

Conclusion It is concluded that SMS poses detrimental effect on language for both English and Bahasa Melayu (as well as other mother tongues). Although, skills in shortening up words in SMS messages are necessary especially in this era of borderless state of communication, globalization and the need for swift actions, the impact of SMS on our language cannot be denied. Although language creativity in SMS has enable SMS users to communicate effectively and efficiently with others who understand the same language level, it must be cautioned that lack of monitoring for such practices might result in failure to uphold the national language, Bahasa Melayu and the global lingua franca, English. Thus, mobile phone and SMS users should be made aware of this issue and as the practice of shortening up messages in various creative and innovative ways is developed, there should be measures to ensure that users are also adept and proficient in using the languages in formal contexts.

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REFERENCES

Anis, J. (2007). Neography: Unconventional Spelling in French SMS Text Messages. In Brenda, Danner and Susan C. Herring (eds), Ed. 87-115, New York: Oxford University Press Brown, J., Shipman, B. and Vetter, R. (2007). SMS: The Short Message Service, Computer, December How, Y. J. And Kan, M. Y. (2005). Optimizing Predictive Text Entry for Short Message Service on Mobile Phones, School of Computing, National University of Singapore Ishii, K. (2006). Implications of Mobility: The Uses of Personal Communication Media in Everyday Life, Journal of Communication, 56(2): 346 Ito, M. and Okabe, D. (2003). Mobile Phones, Japanese Youth, and the Re-Placement of Social Contact, in Front Stage - Back Stage: Mobile Communication and the Renegotiation of the Social Sphere, Grimstad, Norway, 2003. [Online]. Available: http://www.itofisher.com/PEOPLE/mito/mobileyouth.pdf Ito, M and Okabe D. (2004). Mobile Phones, Japanese Youth, and the Replacement of Social Contact Jamieson, D. (2002). Mobiles to leapfrog into the future, BBC News Online. [Online]. Available: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/ technology/2287913.stm (Sept 30) Johnston, J. (2003, March 2). Teachers call for urgent action as pupils write essays in textspeak. Sunday Herald. Retrieved from http://www.sundayherald.com/ print31826 Koay, H. E., Azilawati, M., Malini, R., & Ng, W. M. (2004). Hand phone users survey 2004.Cyberjaya: Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission. Kho, C. W. (2004). The Impact of Using Net Lingo in Computer-Mediated Communication on Off-line Writing Tasks, Jurnal IPBA, Jilid 3, Bilangan 2 Ling, R. (2001). Students girls and young adult men: Two sub-cultures of the mobile telephone. Kjeller. Telenor Research and Development, 2001 (R&D report r 34/2001). Lin, A. M. Y. And Ting, A. H. M. (2007). Text-messaging Cultures of College Girls in Hong Kong: SMS as Resources for Achieving Intimacy and Gift-exchange with Multiple Function, Continuum: Journal of Media and Cultural Studies, 21 (2), 303-315 Ling, R. (2000). The Adoption of Mobile Telephony among Norwegian Teens, May 2000. Telenor Notation 57/2000. Kjeller: Telenor R&D, 2000. [Online]. Available: http://www.telenor.no/fou/program/nomadiske/articles/07.pdf Ling, R. and Baron, N. S. (2007). Text Messaging and IM: Linguistic Comparison of American College Data, Journal of Language and Social Psychology, 36(3): 291

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Mohd Hairul Nizam, M. N., Hazrina, H. and Nazean, J. (2008). The Use of Mobile Phones by Elderly: A Malaysia Perspectives. Journal of Social Science, 4(2): 123-127 Mohd Sahandri, G. H., Mohd Reza, G. and Saifuddin Kumar, A. (2009). The Impact of Electronic Communication Technology on Written Language, US-China Education Review, Nov. 2009, Volume 6, No. 11. Oksman, V. and Rautiainen, P. (2003). Perhaps It is a Body Part: How the Mobile Phone Became and Organic Part of the Everyday Lives of Finnish Children and Teenagers, in Machines That Become Us: The Social Context of Personal Communication Technology, ed. J. E. Katz. New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Publishers. pp. 293-308. Rheingold, H. (2002). Smart Mobs: The Next Social Revolution, Cambridge, MA: Perseus Publishing Sheereen, N. Z. and Rozumah, B. (2009). Mobile Phone Use Amongst Students in a University in Malaysia: Its Correlates and Relationships to Psychological Health, European Journal of Scientific Research, Vol. 37, No. 2, pp. 206-218 Smith, T. V. (2004, April 25). History SMS style. Sunday Star, StarMag p. 17. Tanakinjal, G. H., Hanudin, A., Nelson, L. and Jetol, Bolongkikit (2007). Mobile Devices and Communication: An Analysis. Journal of Internet Banking and Commerce, 12(3):1 Teh, E. H. (2004, January 25). Debate over influence of SMS lingo on students. Sunday Star, Ole Brats p. 3. Thurlow, C. and Poff, M. (2010). The Language of Text Messaging, in Susan C. Herring, Dieter Stein and Tuija Virtanen (eds), Berlin & New York: Mouton de Gruyter Uy-Tioco, C. (2007). Overseas Filipino Workers and Text Messaging: Reinventing Transnational Mothering, Continuum: Journal of Media and Cultural Studies , 21(2): 253-265 Wei, C. and Kolko, B. E. (2005). Studying Mobile Phone Use in Context: Cultural, Political, and Economic Dimensions of Mobile Phone Use, International Professional Communication Conference Proceedings 2005

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Appendix A Questionnaire

SMS PRACTICES IN MALAYSIA *(Instrument prepared by Supyan Hussin, 2008) A. BACKGOUND INFORMATION Instruction: Circle one only 1. Age: a. 15-20b. 21-25 40 years old. (Circle one) 2. Ethnic: Your mother tongue: . 3. Gender: Male Female (Circle one) 4. Status: one) B. SMS ACTIVITIES Instruction: We highly appreciate it if you could provide us some feedback on this quick survey. Please respond to the following statements by circling the appropriate option in the box. Do not write your name. Thank you for your cooperation. 1. Do you have a mobile phone (mobile phone)? 2. Do you SMS? 3. When you used SMS, did you shorten up the words, 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. abbreviate the words or chunk the words? Did you shorten up Bahasa Melayu words in your SMS? Did you shorten up Mother tongue words in SMS? Did you shorten up English words in SMS? Did you mix up more than one language in your SMS? Will SMS help to revive your mother tongue language? Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes No No No No No No No No Not Applicable Not Applicable Not Applicable Not Applicable Not Applicable Not Applicable Not Applicable Not Applicable a. Studying b. Working c. Both d. Not Applicable (Circle c. 26-30 d. 31-35 e. 36-40 f. more than

C. SMS ABBREVIATIONS Instruction: How would you shorten up the following words in SMS? Or How would you SMS the following expressions?
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Expressions How are you? Good morning I will call you Breakfast I love you Do you want to come with me? He had an accident last night.

Bahasa

English

D. Agree or Disagree: Instruction: Circle one only. Do you think shortening up words in SMS will corrupt your language? Yes or Optional for respondents to answer. Why did you say YES? In what way SMS corrupt the language? Why did you say NO? Please provide answers in point forms. Use the back of the page to write your responses No.

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