Hejazi Arabic

Hejazi Arabic
حجازي Ḥijāzi
Pronunciation /ħi'd͡ʒaːzi/
Native to Hejaz region, Saudi Arabia
Native speakers
6 million (1996)[1]
Arabic alphabet
Language codes
ISO 639-3 acw
Glottolog hija1235[2]

  regions where Hejazi is the language of the majority
  regions considered as part of modern Hejaz region

Hejazi Arabic or Hijazi Arabic (Arabic: حجازي ḥijāzī), also known as West Arabian Arabic, is a variety of Arabic spoken in the Hejaz region in Saudi Arabia. Although, strictly speaking, there are two main groups of dialects spoken in the Hejaz region,[3] one by the urban population who consist the majority, and another by the bedouin rural population. The term most often applies to the urban variety, spoken in the major cities such as Jeddah, Mecca, Medina, Ta'if, and Yanbu.


Urban Hejazi Arabic belongs to the western Peninsular Arabic branch of the Arabic language, which itself is a Semitic language. It includes features of both urban and bedouin dialects giving its history between the ancient urban cities of Medina and Mecca and the bedouin tribes that lived on the outskirts of these cities. The main phonological characteristic features that differentiate Urban Hejazi from the neighbouring Najdi ِdialect and other bedouin dialects in the Arabian peninsula is the absence of vowel reduction, the classical pronunciation of the letter ⟨ض⟩, the distinction between it and ⟨ظ⟩, and the pronunciation of the letters ⟨ث⟩, ⟨ذ⟩, and ⟨ظ⟩.


Also referred to as the sedentary Hejazi dialect, this is the form most commonly associated with the term "Hejazi Arabic", and is spoken in the urban centers of the region, such as Jeddah, Mecca, and Medina. With respect to the axis of bedouin versus sedentary dialects of the Arabic language, this dialect group exhibits features of both. Like other sedentary dialects, the urban Hejazi dialect is less conservative than the bedouin varieties in some aspects and has therefore shed some Classical forms and features that are still present in bedouin dialects, while retaining others. These include the internal passive form (which in Hejazi, is replaced by the pattern (أنفعل /anfaʕal/, ينفعل /jinfaʕil/), the marker for indefiniteness (tanwin), gender-number disagreement, and the feminine marker -n (see Varieties of Arabic).

Sedentary features

  1. The present progressive tense is marked by the prefix بـ /bi/ or قاعد /gaːʕid/ as in بيدرس /bijidrus/ or قاعد يدرس /gaːʕid jidrus/ ("he is studying").
  2. In contrast to bedouin dialects, the distinction between the emphatic sounds /dˤ/ ض and /zˤ/ ظ is generally preserved in a number of words.
  3. The final -n in present tense plural verb forms is no longer employed (e.g. يركبوا /jirkabu/ instead of يركبون /jarkəbuːn/).
  4. The dominant case ending before the 3rd person masculine singular pronoun is -u, rather than the -a that is prevalent in bedouin dialects. For example, بيته /beːtu/ ("his house"), عنده /ʕindu/ ("he has"), أعرفه /aʕrifu/ ("I know him").

Conservative features

  1. Hejazi Arabic does not employ double negation, nor does it append the negation particles -sh to negate verbs: Hejazi ما اعرف /maː aʕrif/ ("I don't know"), as opposed to Egyptian معرفش /maʕrafʃ/ and Palestinian بعرفش /baʕrafiʃ/.
    An Early Qur'anic Manuscript written in Hijazi script (8th century AD).
  2. The prohibitive mood of Classical Arabic is preserved in the imperative: لا تروح /laː tiruːħ/ ("don't go").
  3. The possessive suffixes are generally preserved in their Classical forms. For example, بيتكم /beːtakum/ "your (pl) house".
  4. The plural first person pronoun is نحنا /niħna/ or إحنا /iħna/, as opposed to the bedouin حنّا /ħənna/ or إنّا /ənna/.
  5. When used to indicate location, the preposition في /fi/ is preferred to بـ /b/. In bedouin dialects, the preference differs by region.
  6. Less restriction on the distribution of /i/ and /u/.
  7. The glottal stop can be added to final syllables ending in a vowel as a way of emphasising.
  8. Compared to neighboring dialects, urban Hejazi retains more of the short vowels of Modern Standard Arabic, for example:
سمكة /samaka/ ("fish"), as opposed to bedouin /smika/.
ضربَته /dˤarabatu/ ("she hit him"), as opposed to bedouin /ðˤrabətah/.
أكتب /aktub/ ("write"), Imperative mood, as opposed to bedouin /iktib/.
عندَكُم /ʕindakum/ ("in your possession" pl.), as opposed to bedouin /ʕandkum/, Egyptian /ʕanduku/, and Levantine /ʕandkun/.


Urban Hejazi Arabic has approximately 28 consonant phonemes of which two (/θ, ð/) are partially used by a number of speakers, and 8 vowel phonemes /a, u, i, aː, uː, iː, oː, eː/.[4][5] Consonant length and Vowel length are both distinctive in Hejazi. The phonemes /p/ ⟨پ⟩ and /v/ ⟨ڤ⟩ (not used by all speakers) are not considered to be part of the phonemic inventory, as they exist only in foreign words and they can be pronounced as /b/ ⟨ب⟩ and /f/ ⟨ف⟩ respectively depending on the speaker.


Consonant phonemes of Urban Hejazi Arabic
Labial Dental Denti-alveolar Palatal Velar Pharyngeal Glottal
 plain  emphatic
Nasal m n
Occlusive voiceless t k ʔ
voiced b d d͡ʒ ɡ
Fricative voiceless f θ s ʃ x ħ h
voiced ð z ɣ ʕ
Trill r
Approximant l (k) j w

Phonetic notes:


Hejazi has eight vowel phonemes;[8][9] three short /a/, /u/, /i/ and five long /aː/, /uː/, /iː/, /oː/ and /eː/ with length as a distinctive feature, and two diphthongs حروف اللين /aw/ and /aj/. Unlike other Arabic dialects, Hejazi did not develop allophones for the vowels /a/ and /aː/ in the vicinity of emphatic consonants, and retains most of the long and short vowels of Classical Arabic with no vowel reduction. Although in a few number of foreign words the long /aː/ is optionally pronounced [ɑː]. The pronunciation of word initial and medial /u/ and /i/ depends on the nature of the surrounding consonants, whether the syllable is stressed or unstressed, and on the accent of the speaker and the speech rate. As a general rule, word initial and medial /u/ is pronounced [ʊ~], but strictly as an [u] before and after /w/ and at the end of the word, and word initial and medial /i/ is pronounced [ɪ~], and strictly as an [i] before and after /j/ and at the end of the word, though this free variation is not found in all of the accents of Hejazi. Most of the two diphthongs /aj/ and /aw/ from the classical period underwent monophthongization and are realised as the long vowels /eː/ and /oː/ respectively, but they still occur as diphthongs in a number of words as in حَيْوان /ħajwaːn/ ('animal') and even contrast with the long vowels as in دَوْري /dawri/ ('league') vs. دوري /dri/ ('my turn') vs. /dri/ ('turn around!').

The vowel phonemes of Hejazi Arabic from Eman M. Abdoh (2010:84).
Vowel phonemes of Hejazi Arabic
Short Long
Front Back Front Back
Close i u
Open a

Phonetic notes:

Example words for vowel phonemes
Phoneme Allophones Example
/a/ [ɡ] فَم fam ['fam] 'mouth'
/u/ [u] قالوا gālu ['gaːlu] 'they said'
[ʊ~] حُب ħub ['ħʊb]~['ħo̞b] 'love'
/i/ [i] لوني lōni ['lo̞ːni] 'my color'
[ɪ~] طِب ib ['tˤɪb]~['tˤe̞b] 'medicine'
/aː/ [] فاز fāz ['faːz] 'he won'
/uː/ [] فوز fūz ['fuːz] 'win!' (Imperative)
/oː/ [o̞ː] فوز fōz ['fo̞ːz] 'victory'
/iː/ [] دين dīn ['diːn] 'religion'
/eː/ [e̞ː] دين dēn ['de̞ːn] 'debt'

Phonological Processes

the linking conjunction و ('and') pronounced [u] is often linked with the consonant (before it) or the vowel (before or after it) or for emphasis only left as it is  :-


Hejazi vocabulary derives primarily from Classical Arabic Semitic roots. The urban Hejazi vocabulary differs in some respect from that of other dialects in the Arabian Peninsula. For example, there are fewer specialized terms related to desert life, and more terms related to seafaring and fishing. Loanwords are mainly of Turkish, Persian, Latin (French and Italian) and English origins, and due to the diverse origins of the inhabitants of Hejazi cities, some loanwords are only used by some families. Many loanwords are fading due to the influence of Modern Standard Arabic and their association with lower social class and education.[10] Most of the loanwords are names of objects (with a change of meaning sometimes) as in : جزمة /d͡ʒazma/ "shoe" from Turkish çizme /t͡ʃizme/ originally meaning "boot" or كُبري /kubri/ "overpass" from köprü /køpry/ originally meaning "bridge".

Certain distinctive particles and vocabulary in urban Hejazi are قد /ɡid/ or قيد /ɡiːd/ "already", دحين /daħiːn/ or /daħeːn/ "now".

General Hejazi Expressions include بالتوفيق /bitːawfiːg/ "good luck", لو سمحت /law samaħt/ "please/excuse me" to a male, شكرًا /ʃukran/ "thank you", عفوًا /ʕafwan/ "you are welcome (response)", إيوه /ʔiːwa/ "yes", لأ /laʔ/ "no", لسة /lisːa/ "not yet".


Portmanteau, also called a blend in linguistics,is a combination of taking parts (but not all) of two (or more) words or their sounds (phones) and their meanings into a single new, it a common feature in Hejazi especially in making new Interrogative words examples include :


The Cardinal number system in Hejazi is much more simplified than the Classical Arabic[11]

numbers 1-10 IPA 11-20 IPA 10s IPA 100s IPA
1 واحد /waːħid/ 11 احدعش /iħdaʕaʃ/ 10 عشرة /ʕaʃara/ 100 مية /mijːa/
2 اثنين /itneːn/ 12 اطنعش /itˤnaʕaʃ/ 20 عشرين /ʕiʃriːn/ 200 ميتين /mijteːn/ or /mijːateːn/
3 ثلاثة /talaːta/ 13 ثلثطعش /talattˤaʕaʃ/ 30 ثلاثين /talaːtiːn/ 300 ثلثميَّة /tultumijːa/
4 أربعة /arbaʕa/ 14 أربعطعش /arbaʕtˤaʕaʃ/ 40 أربعين /arbiʕiːn/ 400 أربعميَّة /urbuʕmijːa/
5 خمسة /xamsa/ 15 خمسطعش /xamistˤaʕaʃ/ 50 خمسين /xamsiːn/ 500 خمسميَّة /xumsumijːa/
6 ستة /sitːa/ 16 ستطعش /sittˤaʕaʃ/ 60 ستين /sitːiːn/ 600 ستميَّة /sutːumijːa/
7 سبعة /sabʕa/ 17 سبعطعش /sabaʕtˤaʕaʃ/ 70 سبعين /sabʕiːn/ 700 سبعميَّة /subʕumijːa/
8 ثمنية /tamanja/ 18 ثمنطعش /tamantˤaʕaʃ/ 80 ثمانين /tamaːniːn/ 800 ثمنميَّة /tumnumijːa/
9 تسعة /tisʕa/ 19 تسعطعش /tisaʕtˤaʕaʃ/ 90 تسعين /tisʕiːn/ 900 تسعميَّة /tusʕumijːa/
10 عشرة /ʕaʃara/ 20 عشرين /ʕiʃriːn/ 100 ميَّة /mijːa/ 1000 ألف /alf/

A system similar to the German numbers system is used for other numbers between 20 and above : 21 is واحد و عشرين /waːħid u ʕiʃriːn/ which literally mean ('one and twenty') and 485 is أربعمية و خمسة و ثمانين /urbuʕmijja u xamsa u tamaːniːn/ which literally mean ('four hundred and five and eighty').

Unlike Classical Arabic,the only رقم [ragɪm] ('number') that is gender specified in Hejazi is one which has two forms واحد and وحدة as in كتاب واحد /kitaːb waːħid/ ('one book') or سيارة وحدة /sajːaːra waħda/ ('one car').


Subject pronouns

In Hejazi Arabic, personal pronouns have eight forms. In singular, the 2nd and 3rd persons differentiate gender, while the 1st person and plural do not.

Subject pronouns
Person Singular Plural
1st ana انا iħna احنا
2nd masculine inta َانت intu انتو
feminine inti ِانتي/انت
3rd masculine huwwa هو humma همَّ
feminine hiyya هي

Negative subject pronouns
Person Singular Plural
1st mani مني maħna محنا
2nd masculine manta َمنت mantu منتو
feminine manti ِمنتي/منت
3rd masculine mahu مهو mahum مهم
feminine mahi مهي


Hejazi Arabic verbs (فعل fiʻl; pl. أفعال afʻāl), as the verbs in other Semitic languages, and the entire vocabulary in those languages, are based on a set of three, four also five consonants (but mainly three consonants) called a root (triliteral or quadriliteral according to the number of consonants). The root communicates the basic meaning of the verb, e.g. k-t-b 'to write', ʼ-k-l 'to eat'. Changes to the vowels in between the consonants, along with prefixes or suffixes, specify grammatical functions such as :

Hejazi Has simplified the three Classical Arabic present verb moods (indicative رفع, subjunctive نصب, jussive جزم) into a single indicative present mood by adopting the Classical Arabic present subjunctive verb forms (with no /-n/ ending), except if the verbs are followed by an indirect object pronoun then they will resemble the present jussive verb conjugation of Classical Arabic e.g. أقول ('I say') becomes أقل له ('I say to him'), Hejazi Arabic also added a present progressive which is not part of the Classical Arabic grammar. And has simplified three grammatical number categories in verbs into two (Singular and Plural) instead of the Classical (Singular, Dual and Plural).

Regular verbs

the most common verbs in Hejazi have a given vowel pattern for past (a and i) to present (a or u or i). Combinations of each exist:

Vowel patterns Example
Past Present
a a raħam رحم he forgave - yirħam يرحم he forgives
a u ḍarab ضرب he hit - yiḍrub يضرب he hits
a i ġasal غسل he washed - yiġsil يغسل he washes
i a fihim فهم he understood - yifham يفهم he understands
i i ʕirif عرف he knew - yiʕrif يعرف he knows

According to Arab grammarians, verbs are divided into three categories; Past ماضي, Present مضارع and Imperative أمر. An example from the root k-t-b the verb katabt/aktub 'i wrote/i write' (which is a regular sound verb):

Tense/Mood Past "wrote" Present (Indicative) "write" Imperative "write!"
Person Singular Plural Singular Plural Singular Plural
1st كتبت (katab)-t كتبنا (katab)-na أكتب a-(ktub) نكتب ni-(ktub)
2nd masculine كتبت (katab)-t كتبتوا (katab)-tu تكتب ti-(ktub) تكتبوا ti-(ktub)-u أكتب [a]-(ktub) أكتبوا [a]-(ktub)-u
feminine كتبتي (katab)-ti تكتبي ti-(ktub)-i أكتبي [a]-(ktub)-i
3rd masculine كتب (katab) كتبوا (katab)-u يكتب yi-(ktub) يكتبوا yi-(ktub)-u
feminine كتبت (katab)-at تكتب ti-(ktub)

While present progressive and future are indicated by adding the prefix (b-) and (ħ-) respectively to the present (indicative) :

Tense/Mood Present Progressive "writing" Future "will write"
Person Singular Plural Singular Plural
1st بكتب or بأكتب ba-a-(ktub) بنكتب bi-ni-(ktub) حكتب or حأكتب ħa-a-(ktub) حنكتب ħa-ni-(ktub)
2nd masculine بتكتب bi-ti-(ktub) بتكتبوا bi-ti-(ktub)-u حتكتب ħa-ti-(ktub) حتكتبوا ħa-ti-(ktub)-u
feminine بتكتبي bi-ti-(ktub)-i حتكتبي ħa-ti-(ktub)-i
3rd masculine بيكتب bi-yi-(ktub) بيكتبوا bi-yi-(ktub)-u حيكتب ħa-yi-(ktub) حيكتبوا ħa-yi-(ktub)-u
feminine بتكتب bi-ti-(ktub) حتكتب ħa-ti-(ktub)

Example: katabt/aktub "write": non-finite forms

Number/Gender اسم الفاعل Active Participle اسم المفعول Passive Participle مصدر Verbal Noun
Masc. Sg. kātib كاتب maktūb مكتوب kitāba كتابة
Fem. Sg. kātb-a كاتبة maktūb-a مكتوبة
Pl. kātb-īn كاتبين maktūb-īn مكتوبين

Active participles act as adjectives, and so they must agree with their subject. An active participle can be used in several ways:

  1. to describe a state of being (understanding; knowing).
  2. to describe what someone is doing right now (going, leaving) as in some verbs like رحت ("i went") the active participle رايح ("i'm going") is used instead of present continuous form to give the same meaning of an ongoing action.
  3. to indicate that someone/something is in a state of having done something (having put something somewhere, having lived somewhere for a period of time).

Object pronouns

Enclitic forms of object pronouns are suffixes that are affixed to various parts of speech, with varying meanings:

Unlike Egyptian Arabic, in Hejazi no more than one pronoun can be suffixed to a word.

Possessive Pronouns (nominal)[12]
Person Singular Plural
1st -i/(-ya/-yya)2 my ـي -na our ـنا
2nd masculine m. -ak/(-k) your ـك -kum your ـكم
feminine f. -ik/(-ki) your ـكي)/ـك)
3rd masculine m. -uʰ/( -[ː]ʰ 1) his ـه -hum their ـهم
feminine f. -ha her ـها

Direct Object Pronouns (verbal)
Person Singular Plural
1st -ni me ـني -na us ـنا
2nd masculine m. -ak/(-k) you ـك -kum you ـكم
feminine f. -ik(-ki) you ـكي)/ـك)
3rd masculine m. -uʰ/( -[ː]ʰ 1) him ـه -hum them ـهم
feminine f. -ha her ـها

Indirect Object Pronouns (verbal)
Person Singular Plural
1st -li (for/to) me لي -lana us لنا
2nd masculine m. -lak you لَك -lakum you لكم
feminine f. -lik you لِك
3rd masculine m. -luʰ him له -lahum them لهم
feminine f. -laha her لها


Writing System

Hejazi is written using the Arabic alphabet, like other varieties of Arabic, Hejazi does not have a standard form of writing and mostly follows the Classical Arabic form of writing.[13] in general people alternate between writing the words according to their etymology or the phoneme used while pronouncing them, which mainly affect the three interdental letters ⟨ث⟩ ,⟨ذ⟩ and ⟨ظ⟩ and their alternatives, and writing some words that end in a vowel, whether to add a vowel at the end of the word or write its Classical Arabic form as in the word ('you' singular feminine) /inti/ which can be written as انتِ or انتي. The table below shows the Arabic alphabet letters and their corresponding phonemes in urban Hejazi :-

letter Phoneme example pronunciation
ا /ʔ/ (see ⟨ء⟩ Hamza). سأل "he asked" /saʔal/
// (shortened to /ɡ/ word-final, except in two-letter words). باب "door", (انا "I am") /baːb/, (/ana/)
ب /b/ برق "lightning" /barg/
ت /t/ توت "berry" /tuːt/
/θ/ (alternative classical phoneme) or /s/ can be written ⟨س⟩ مثال "example" /miθaːl/ or /misaːl/
/t/ can be written ⟨ت⟩ ثلاثة "three" /talaːta/
ج /d͡ʒ/ جرس "bell" /d͡ʒaras/
ح /ħ/ حب "love" /ħub/
خ /x/ خس "lettus" /xas/
د /d/ ديك "rooster" /diːk/
/ð/ (alternative classical phoneme). ذكر "male" /ðakar/ or /dakar/
/d/ can be written ⟨د⟩ ذيل "tail" /deːl/
/z/ can be written ⟨ز⟩ ذوق "taste" /zoːg/
ر /r/ رمل "sand" /ramil/
ز /z/ زبيب "Raisins" /zabiːb/
س /s/ سمكة "fish" /samaka/
ش /ʃ/ شمس "sun" /ʃams/
ص // صبّار "cactus" /sˤabbaːr/
ض // ضرس "molar" /dˤirs/
ط // طلب "order" /tˤalab/
// لحظة "moment" /laħzˤa/
// can be written ⟨ض⟩ ظل "shade" /dˤil/
ع /ʕ/ عين "eye" /ʕeːn/
غ /ɣ/ غراب "crow" /ɣuraːb/
ف /f/ فم "mouth" /fam/
ق /g/ قلب "heart" /galb/
ك /k/ كتاب "book" /kitaːb/
ل /l/ (marginal phoneme /k/ only in the word الله and words derived from it). لحم "meat", (الله "god") /laħam/, (/aɫːaːh/)
م /m/ مكتب "desk" /maktab/
ن /n/ ناس "people" /naːs/
هـ /h/ or ∅ silent only word-final in 3rd person masculine singular pronouns and some words هوا "air", (كتابُه "his book") /hawa/, (/kitaːbu/)
و /w/ وردة "rose" /warda/
// موية "water" /moːja/
// (shortened to /u/ word-final, except in two-letter words). نور "light", (ربو "asthma") /nuːr/, (/rabu/)
ي /j/ يد "hand" /jad/
// كيف "how" /keːf/
// (shortened to /i/ word-final, except in two-letter words). فيل "elephant", (سعودي "saudi") /fiːl/, (/suʕuːdi/)
Additional non-native letters
پ /p/ (can be written and pronounced as a ⟨ب⟩) پول ~ بول "Paul" /poːl/
ڤ /v/ (can be written and pronounced as a ⟨ف⟩) ڤيروس ~ فيروس "Virus" /vajruːs/


Rural Dialects

The varieties of Arabic spoken in the smaller towns and by the bedouin tribes in the Hejaz region are relatively under-studied. However, the speech of some tribes shows much closer affinity to other bedouin dialects, particularly those of neighboring Najd, than to those of the urban Hejazi cities. The dialects of northern Hejazi tribes merge into those of Jordan and Sinai, while the dialects in the south merge with those of 'Asir and Najd. Also, not all speakers of these bedouin dialects are figuratively nomadic bedouins; some are simply sedentary sections that live in rural areas, and thus speak dialects similar to those of their bedouin neighbors.


The dialect of Al-`Ula governorate in the northern part of the Madinah region. Although understudied, it is considered to be unique among the Hejazi dialects, it is known for its pronunciation of Classical Arabic ⟨ك⟩ /k/ as a ⟨ش⟩ /ʃ/ (e.g. تكذب /takðib/ becomes تشذب /taʃðib/), the dialect also shows a tendency to pronounce long /aː/ as [] (e.g. Classical ماء /maːʔ/ becomes ميء [meːʔ]), in some instances the Classical /q/ becomes a /d͡ʒ/ as in قايلة /qaːjla/ becomes جايلة /d͡ʒaːjla/, also the second person singular feminine pronoun /ik/ tends to be pronounced as /iʃ/ (e.g. رجلك /rid͡ʒlik/ ('your foot') becomes رجلش /rid͡ʒliʃ/ .[14]


The dialect of Badr governorate in the western part of the Madinah region is mainly noted for its lengthening of word-final syllables and its alternative pronunciation of some phonemes as in سؤال /suʔaːl/ which is pronounced as سعال /suʕaːl/, it also shares some features with the general urban dialect in which modern standard Arabic ثلاجة /θalːaːd͡ʒa/ is pronounced تلاجة /talːaːd͡ʒa/, another unique feature of the dialect is its similarity to the Arabic dialects of Bahrain.


  1. Hejazi Arabic at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  2. Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin; Bank, Sebastian, eds. (2016). "Hejazi Arabic". Glottolog 2.7. Jena: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  3. Muhammad Swaileh A. Alzaidi (2014:73)
  4. Eman M. Abdoh (2010:84)
  5. Margaret K. Omar (1975:xv)
  6. Eman M. Abdoh (2010:83)
  7. Watson (2002:16)
  8. Eman M. Abdoh (2010:84)
  9. Margaret K. Omar (1975:xv)
  10. Sameeha D. Alahmadi (2015:45)
  11. Kheshaifaty, Hamza M.J. (1997)
  12. Margaret K. Omar (1975)
  13. Holes, Clive (2004). Modern Arabic: Structures, Functions, and Varieties. Washington D.C.: Georgetown University Press, Washington D.C. p. 92.
  14. Aljuhani, Sultan (2008). "Spoken Al-'Ula dialect between privacy and fears of extinction. (in Arabic)".


External links

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