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BY 4.0 license Open Access Published by De Gruyter Open Access May 23, 2023

Latinate terminology in Modern Greek: An “intruder” or an “asset”?

  • Panagiotis G. Krimpas EMAIL logo
From the journal Open Linguistics


This article discusses Latinate Modern Greek (MG) terminology in the light of language planning, language contact, transliteration, registers, and speakers’ attitudes. It starts by describing sociolinguistic aspects of MG with respect to borrowing and proceeds with case studies of Latinate MG terms and their Greek-based synonyms from various science, arts, social, and technical fields. Focusing on phonological, morphological, semantic, and terminological issues such as semantic intra- and inter-linguistic transparency and consistency in the light of the long-standing cultural ties between Greece and the West, an updated approach to the form and utility of MG Latinate terms is attempted, aiming at influencing eventual language planning in Greek-speaking areas.

1 Introduction

The language of academic research, virtually tantamount to what has been variously called the “scientific register” (Taavitsainen 2001), the “academic register” (Callies and Zaytseva 2013), or “the academic research register” (Luo and Hyland 2019) of a language, is a language for specific purposes (LSP) used in academic researchers and technical experts’ communication (journal articles, technical reports, etc.). In this article, the more inclusive term “academic and technical register” (ATR) will be used to describe the register under discussion.

In natural science research, English is dominant in most countries, including Greece and Cyprus. However, at least in Greece, in academic discourse Modern Greek (MG) is still dominant (Krimpas 2013), especially in humanities, law, and social science. But, given that MG is a lesser-used language, its ATR is rather recent, which explains why MG directly or indirectly borrows terminology from other languages. This article discusses the Latinate component of MG terminology, which largely comprises internationalisms (terms, appellations, and combining forms) mostly diffused through Romance (Italian, French) and Romance-influenced languages (English, German, Russian). Latinate terminology, although current in, e.g., conversational or journalistic settings, tends to be avoided in high-register written prose, including the ATR. Moreover, due to the multiple borrowing layers and changing prestige of donor languages within the Greek-speaking societies, Latinate etymological families appear inconsistent in terms of adaptation, transliteration, and productivity when compared with the respective word families in other European languages.

Most ATR items in any language are the product of language engineering, namely neology, neosemy, semantic loan, calque, and/or lexical borrowing, and MG is no exception (Valeontis and Krimpas 2014, 209–40). In European and European-influenced languages, the classical “standards” of Attic Greek (AG) and Latin (both Classical and learned) are traditional sources and/or provide the model for many terms and sublexical units, the so-called combining forms (Pulcini and Milani 2017, 177–9), working as a parallel vocabulary for the creation of mostly scientific and technical words (Coates 1999, 27).

Admittedly, AG and Latin lend themselves to term-building by analogy to pre-existing terms, being the first languages in Europe to develop LSP terminology. Through familiar linguistic paths, experts produce neological internationalisms easily understandable to peers of various ethnolinguistic backgrounds. For example, if one knows that the Latin medical term (tunica) rētīna (literally ‘a net-like tunic’) denotes ‘the area at the back of the eye that receives light and sends pictures of what the eye sees to the brain’ (The Cambridge English Dictionary) and the AG Hippocratic term πάθος [páthos̺] denotes ‘a disease,’ the term retinopathy is semantically and inter-linguistically transparent and easily adaptable and translatable to other languages in quite expectable forms: cf. French rétinopathie; German Retinopathie; Italian, Portuguese, and Catalan retinopatia; Spanish retinopatía; Russian and Bulgarian peтинoпaтия; Swedish, Danish, Norwegian, Malay, and Indonesian retinopati, and so on.

Neo-classical terms are usually simple or compound endocentric and exocentric nouns – on the distinction, see e.g. Matthews (1981, 147–50) and Ralli (2013a, 181–5) – of high productivity. There is a tendency for Greek elements to be combined with Greek ones (e.g. antilogarithm), and for Latinate with Latinate ones (e.g. superstructure), although hybrids are numerous (e.g. antistructure).

2 The special (?) case of MG

Romance languages, being Latin-derived, are very tolerant towards Greek-based neo-classical borrowings, given that numerous Ancient Greek (Attic and Doric) lexical and sublexical elements were already an integral part of Latin. But also English and Maltese, two non-Romance, non-Hellenic languages, abound with both Latinate and AG-based borrowings due to heavy Romance influence. (Admittedly, English circles were once concerned about neo-classical over-borrowing and linguistic pretentiousness, the so-called “inkhorn controversy,” see more in McLaughlin 2011.) Other Germanic, as well as Slavic, Celtic, Albanian, and Finno-Ugric languages variously replace neoclassical internationalisms with native-based items (cf. Vočadlo 1926), ending up with doublets for the same concept, e.g. German Zuckerkrankheit/Diabetes (Pöckl 2008, 243), Norwegian ønologi/vinvitenskap.

Language has a marked symbolic power, so many lesser-used languages tend to “resist” to neo-classical borrowing in their pursuit of self-preservation (Pöckl 2008), while the democratic appeal for plain language and terminology transparent to any citizen is also involved in such language policies; cf. Icelandic sjónhimnuskemmdir ‘retinopathy’ (literally ‘sight membrane damage’), sími ‘telephone (literally ‘wire’)’ or Irish uathoibríoch ‘automatic’ (literally ‘self-operative’).

Internationalisms are numerous in MG ATR as well. Since the so-called MG Enlightenment (eighteenth to nineteenth century AD), Greek intellectuals, then immersed into French language and culture, brought into MG many borrowings and calques, including Greek- and Latin-based neo-classical terms. But since the liberation movement of Ottoman-conquered Greeks was oriented towards Ancient Greece, AG-based borrowings and calques were heavily favoured over Latinate borrowings, thus projecting the symbolic power of Greek as a link to an imagined glorious past. This practice is very much alive, cf. MG αμφιβληστροειδοπάθεια [aɱfivlis̺troiðoˈpaθia] ‘retinopathy’, based on the pre-existing Hellenistic Greek medical term αμφιβληστροειδής χιτών – roughly pronounced [aɱɸivles̺troiˈðes̺ çiˈton] in Hellenistic Greek[1] and adapted into MG as αμφιβληστροειδής χιτώνας [aɱfivlis̺troiˈðis̺ çiˈtonas̺]; the persistent desire for appropriation of Greek diachrony (see more in Markopoulos 2014, 77–80) and the chance to pay a tribute to Hellenistic Greek doctors obviously lie behind this choice.

Such terms, being neither MG nor AG or Latinate internationalisms, are not semantically transparent to either the average Greek-speaker or an international audience; thus, MG is special in comparison to both “internationalist” and “purist” languages, as it has a special genetic relationship with one of the neo-classical languages, namely AG (Petrounias 2001). But AG-based MG internationalisms have in fact been borrowed from and/or modelled on AG-based terms of influential Western European languages (Anastasiadi-Symeonidi 2001, 67, Petrounias 2001, Horrocks 2010, 421); and, as for AG-based neologisms, they are either graphically ‘revived’ AG words or based on such words (‘pseudo-Atticisms’, see Krimpas 2019, 75–82). Even Greek linguists label AG-based internationalisms as αντιδάνεια [a(n)diˈðania] ‘backloans’, since they view diachronic and diatopic Greek as a single language (see more in Petrounias 2001, 25, Joseph 2009). Actual ‘backloans’ are usually not whole AG-based words, but their respective components, first assembled into neologisms in languages other than Greek.

Some AG-based internationalisms and neologisms are to MG-speaker’s ear as foreign as Latinate ones, which is why many of them have been adapted in unexpected, etymologically, and/or semantically incorrect ways in MG (see more in Krimpas and Chaika 2022).

Partly Greek-based terms are sometimes calqued by irrelevantly ‘reproducing’ their Greek part despite being a false friend of its AG source; an example is the hybrid authentication < (to) authenticate < authentic, going back (through French authentique < Latin authenticus) to AG αὐθεντικός (AG [authentikós̺], MG [afθe(n)diˈkos̺]) ‘original, genuine, principal’ (Online Etymological Dictionary) and the Latinate -ation deverbal suffix; erroneously rendered into MG as αυθεντικοποίηση [afθe(n)dikoˈpiis̺i] (Cyb) in the sense of ‘verification of a user’s identity’, it literally reads as ‘to make someone genuine’: not quite a transparent term, indeed!

3 Greek intolerance for visible borrowing

MG speakers often face dilemmas about choosing a learned or an inherited form or structure. MG LSP and higher registers have been heavily influenced by the, once official but in fact artificial, incompletely standardised register called καθαρεύουσα [kaθaˈrevus̺a] ‘purist’, which graphically imitated the AG vocabulary and morphology but was phonemically pronounced MG-wise; moreover, it was full of French lexical and syntactic calques (Contossopoulos 1978, Petrounias 2001), normally imperceptible to the average Greek speaker. Due to a prolonged period of socio-political diglossia and the concomitant γλωσσικό ζήτημα [ɣlos̺iˈko ˈz̺itima] ‘language issue’, ‘purist’ Greek exerted a strong influence on the then emerging Standard MG, still visible in higher registers (Banfi 2010, 160–6, Krimpas 2019, 57–61). Thus, Standard MG – perhaps more so than most standardised languages – is a partially engineered, mixed register, where purist, inherited, and hypercorrected forms compete at all language levels (Mackridge 1995, 50, Joseph 2011, Krimpas 2019); legal LSP is particularly affected by this process (Mattila 2006, 60–4). But MG ‘purism’ differs from, e.g. the abovementioned ‘inkhorn’ controversy, since the former tries to alter the average people’s language, while the latter was directed against the elites’ linguistic (and social) pretentiousness.

A characteristic feature of high-register Standard MG inherited by its ‘purist’ component is intolerance to perceptible borrowing (cf. Anastasiadi-Symeonidi 2001, Mackridge 1995, 53). This phobia for borrowing explains why, e.g., Greek judges and lawyers call a door θύρα [ˈθira] instead of πόρτα [ˈporta] (a Latin borrowing) or why Greek physicians call a neck αυχένας [aˈfçenas̺] instead of σβέρκος [ˈz̺verkos̺] (an Albanian borrowing). Interestingly, this prescriptive sociolinguistic stance has found its way into institutional texts, a suggestive example being the Legislation Codification Guideline Manual issued by the Secretariat General of the (Hellenic) Government, which explicitly suggests the avoidance of ‘foreign’ terms or words when their use is ‘not necessary’ (Secretariat General of the Government 2006, 14), without distinguishing between true foreignisms and assimilated loanwords.

Admittedly, although ‘unnecessary borrowing’ (Clark 2004) alone cannot induce structural borrowing and language change (Thomason and Kaufman 1988, 78), in prolonged situations of prestige imbalance language change is very possible (cf. McLaughlin 2011). What is more, when such change happens massively and in short time, it may lead to insecurity in language use and diminished systemic transparency; this is what I call adverse language change (Krimpas 2017a, 399, 411, Krimpas 2019, 76, 84, 113).

However, at least in MG, the risk of adverse language change has never been posed by the long contact with Latin’s descendants Venetian and Italian, as they were phonologically, morphophonologically, and syntactically compatible with MG (due to shared retentions and contact-induced mutual convergence), but rather by English (Petrounias 2006, cf. Ralli 2013a, 248–67, 2013b, 193–4) and, to a lesser extent, French (due to its phonology that greatly differs from that of Greek); an example is the reversal of the noun modifier slot in English-influenced multiword terms, e.g. MRNa εμβόλιο [ˈemareˌnei eɱˈvolio] (<MRNa-vaccine) instead of εμβόλιο MRNa [eɱˈvolio ˈemareˌnei]. Concerns over such issues are reflected in the linguistic correctness principle promoted by international and national standards (ISO 704:2022, 56, 59, ELOT 402:2010, 39, 40).

English-borrowed terminology is indeed omnipresent in MG LSP of finance, banking, informatics, fashion, and other modern-life subject fields, and is often used in the media and youth slang to show off ‘coolness’ and ‘up-to-date-ness’, a situation that is partly translation-induced and has indeed influenced MG phonology, semantics, morphology, and syntax (Petrounias 2006, 356–7). The fact that English borrowing is not anymore seen as socially undesirable, while borrowing from traditional sources is frowned upon is at least alarming.

4 Notes on adaptation of Latinate loanwords into MG

As argued by Dickey (2012, 68), “Latin loanwords were not confined to or even largely concentrated in a few peripheral areas of vocabulary; instead they were found in virtually all semantic areas including basic vocabulary.” Indeed, extensive language contact and bilingualism in both Italy and Greece gradually promoted recognition of shared and equivalent patterns between Greek and Latin.

This is why Latin loanwords and proper names (such as names of Roman cities, emperors, philosophers, and Christian saints) were regularly adapted to the AG morpho(phono)logical and phonological system. Thus, Latin words and proper names such as Aurēlius, centuriō ‘centurion’, custōdia ‘custody, guard’, praetor ‘praetor’, and Quintīliānus became, respectively, Aυρήλιος [au̯rέ:lios̺] (gen.sing. Aυρηλίου [au̯rε:líu:]), κεντυρίων [centyríɔ:n] (gen.sing. κεντυρίωνος [centyríɔ:nos̺]), κουστωδία [ku:s̺tɔ:día:] (gen.sing. κουστωδίας [ku:s̺tɔ:día:s̺]), πραίτωρ [prái̯tɔ:r] (gen.sing. πραίτορος [prái̯torοs̺]), and Kοϊντιλιανός [kointi:lia:nòs̺] (gen.sing. Kοϊντιλιανού [kointi:lia:nù:]). In all such cases, Greek, by recurring to some perceived inter-language, has approximated Latin morphology and pronunciation by using exclusively Greek graphs, endings, and sounds, a practice that will be hereinafter called Hellenisation for the purposes of this article and whose details are illustrated in Table A1 (Appendix I). Of course, MG pronunciation differs from that of AG, which is why, e.g., Kοϊντιλιανός and Aυρήλιος are pronounced, respectively, [koi(n)diliaˈnos̺] and [aˈvrilios̺]; however, this change does not affect the words’ graphic shape, since MG applies historical rather phonetic orthography and even reads AG in MG pronunciation (Petrounias 2001).

Long-standing language contact between Greek and Latin continued well into the Proto-Romance and Romance period, when Greek and Romance were long interacting (Ralli 2019) to finally converge at all language levels (Banfi 2011, Krimpas 2017b, 44–5, 53–4); indeed, Venetian and Italian have greatly contributed to Greek (see e.g. Fanciullo 2008) as the latter has to Latin. Medieval Greek borrowed lots of Venetian and Italian terms of seafaring, agriculture, army, commerce, medicine, gastronomy, clothing, politics, administration, religion, plant and animal names, Christian and family names, toponyms, demonyms, most of them still in everyday use (but still avoided in higher registers), as well as some Venetian and Italian morphological (Ralli 2019) and (morpho)syntactic (Markopoulos 2014, 84–5, 92–8) structures, most of which are still active. Borrowing was facilitated also by shared traits, including a tendency to open syllables, /a e i o u/-type vowel systems, retention of Indo-European (historically) thematic endings in nouns, free syntax with subject–verb–object (SVO) basic type, etc. As with Latin, Italian and Venetian words were easily adapted and/or assimilated to Medieval and/or MG system, cf. Italian maffioso > MG μαφιόζος [maˈfçoz̺os̺] (gen.sing. μαφιόζου [maˈfçoz̺u]) ‘gangsta, thug’, Venetian timonièr > MG τιμονιέρης [timoˈɲeris̺] (gen.sing. τιμονιέρη [timoˈɲeri]) ‘helmsman’; for a detailed account of such adaptation phenomena, see Ralli et al. (2015).

5 Inconsistencies in Latinate MG terminology: some case studies

To various extents, Hellenisation practices tend to be partially retained in MG. However, given the English and French interference, as well as the aforementioned unenthusiastic stance towards non-English looking MG loanwords, the form and etymological families of MG Latinate terms are more inconsistent and untended in comparison with both their AG-based rivals and their counterparts in other European languages.

A first source of inconsistency is the multiplicity of donor languages and periods of borrowing. English and, to a lesser degree, French mediation of Latinate terms is particularly problematic in this respect, since Greek speakers’ familiarisation with English and French phonology and orthography challenges the traditional, largely predictable Graeco-Latin (morpho)phonological correspondences (see Appendix I). Indeed, Latinate words borrowed into MG in the last two centuries tend to diverge from classical Graeco-Latin Hellenisation conventions.

The English Latinate term media (Com) has given MG μίντια [ˈmidia] instead of *μέδια [ˈmeðia], even though the latter, apart from recalling its Greek cognate μέσα [ˈmes̺a] (, would also be consistent with an older rendering of the same Italo-Celtic stem, found in the toponym Mediolānum > Greek Mεδιόλανα (AG [medióla:na], MG [meðiˈolana]).

French impressionisme (Art) has been borrowed as both ιμπρεσιονισμός [i(m)bres̺ioniˈz̺mos̺] (prevailing variant) and εμπρεσιονισμός [e(m)bres̺ioniˈz̺mos̺], the latter approximating the sound of French im- before a consonant, i.e. [ɛ̃].

French pacifisme (Pol) (<pacifier ‘to make peace’ < Latin pācificāre ‘id.’ < pāx/-cis ‘peace’) ‘pacifism’ and Italian fascismo (Pol) (<Latin fasces [ˈfas̺ces̺] ‘bundle of rods containing an axe with the blade projecting’, literally pl. of fascis ‘bundle, e.g. of wood’) have given, respectively, MG πασιφισμός [pas̺ifiˈz̺mos̺] and φασισμός [fas̺iˈz̺mos̺], both retaining the sibilantised Romance pronunciations of originally Latin c /k/. If MG LSP was consistent towards its Latinate component, the forms *πακιφισμός [pacifiˈz̺mos̺] and *φασκισμός [fas̺ciˈz̺mos̺] would be expected, cf. English bacitracin (Med) < MG βακιτρακίνη [vacitraˈcini], or Latin Scipiō < AG Σκιπίων [s̺cipíɔ:n], MG Σκιπίωνας [s̺ciˈpionas̺].

The English Latinate term forum (Pol, Inf), recently borrowed into MG as φόρουμ [ˈforum], competes with the already existing, adapted Medieval Greek Latin borrowing φόρο [ˈforo] (nt.sing.) ‘a market’, which is consistent with the traditional morphophonological Hellenisation rules (Table A1, Appendix I, section Ib) and, of course, declinable, in contrast with φόρουμ, which, apart from its optional nom./ φόρα [ˈfora], is otherwise indeclinable (or pluralising English-wise as φόρουμς [ˈforums]).

Another source of inconsistency with respect to MG Latinate terms is the fact that the latter have often been variously replaced by calques or loan translations based on graphically revived AG words or compounds thereof, at least in higher registers; this results in doublets and triplets rather incompatible with the principles of terminological mononymy and transparency (ISO 704:2022, 56–8, 60) normally favoured in LSP registers. The following examples are sufficient to clearly illustrate the situation; they are accompanied by Google and Google Scholar search results just to give some preliminary information about their (co-)existence and popularity with average and expert users, since a complete study of use frequency would be of little benefit for this language planning-oriented article (G stands for Google, GS stands for Google Scholar; all results are based on a nom.sing. search and the numbers are as of 16 February 2023):

French mercantilisme (Econ) (<Medieval Latin mercantīle ‘trading-’) gave MG μερκαντιλισμός [merkandiliˈz̺mos̺] (G 5,900, GS 145), a rendering that respects traditional phonological and morphological correspondences. However, its semantically oriented Greek-based synonyms εμποροκρατία [e(m)borokraˈtia] (G 2,150, GS 54), εμποροκρατισμός [e(m)borokratiˈz̺mos̺] (G 303, GS 18), and εμποριοκρατία [e(m)boriokraˈtia] (G 214, GS 3), aspire to replace the Latinate term. However, the first two synonyms are not semantically accurate, as they read as ‘tradesmen’s dominance’ rather than ‘devotion (or excess devotion) to trade and commerce’. Moreover, the second one is also problematic as it recalls κρατισμός [kratiˈz̺mos̺] ‘etatism, étatisme’, a rather unhappy semantic connection. The third synonym is a semantically more accurate Greek-based rendering, since it literally translates as ‘dominance of commerce’.

French libéralisme (Pol, Econ) (< Latin līberālis ‘noble, generous; pertaining to a free person’ < līber ‘free’) gave MG λιμπεραλισμός [liberaliˈz̺mos̺] (G 3,390, GS 9), almost totally replaced by the Greek-based synonym φιλελευθερισμός [filelefθeriˈz̺mos̺], literally ‘love for freedom’ (G 194,000, GS 380). A native term for liberalism is nearly unique among European languages, with Icelandic frjálshyggja and Estonian vabameelsus being notable exceptions (although Estonian has liberalism as well). But in terms of consistency with traditional Hellenisation rules, the term λιμπεραλισμός is not without issues, since the expected form would be *λιβεραλισμός [liveraliˈz̺mos̺], given that Latin [b] normally corresponds to MG β [v] (originally pronounced [b] in AG). Romanisation of λιβεραλισμός according to ISO 843:1997 and ELOT 743:2001 would give limperalismós, which appears to make less readily recognisable an otherwise interlinguistically transparent internationalism.

French structuralisme (Pol; Art, Ling) gave MG στρουκτουραλισμός [s̺trukturaliˈz̺mos̺] (G 7,120, GS 186), consistent with traditional Hellenisation conventions. However, this term is increasingly being replaced by its Greek-based synonym δομισμός [ðomiˈz̺mos̺] (G 19,500, GS 418), while the Greek-based synonym δομολειτουργισμός [ðomoliturʝiˈz̺mos̺] (G 1,790, GS 80) also exists. The first synonym is an incomplete calque of the French one, made up of learned Greek δομή [ðoˈmi] ‘structure’ and -ισμός [iˈz̺mos̺] ‘-ism’ with no rendering of the adjectival -al- element, which, if taken into account, results in the rare (although etymo-semantically more accurate) form δομικισμός [ðomiciˈz̺mos̺] (G 393, GS 1). The second synonym is a concept-oriented compound made up of learned Greek δομή [ðoˈmi] ‘structure’ and λειτουργία [liturˈʝia] ‘function’ plus the -ισμός ‘-ism’ suffix.

The Russian Latinate term кoнcтpyктивизм ‘constructivism’ (Soc) (<Latin constrūctiō ‘construction, building’ < construēre ‘to construct, assemble, build’) gave MG κονστρουκτιβισμός [kons̺truktiviˈz̺mos̺] (G 33,600, GS 1,370). However, there are also two Greek-based synonyms, namely εποικοδομητισμός [epikoðomitiˈz̺mos̺] (G 23,300, GS 676) and εποικοδομισμός [epikoðomiˈz̺mos̺] (G 10,400, GS 682), both based on the learned verb εποικοδομώ [epikoðoˈmo] ‘to build upon’. These synonyms are not very successful, since the con- element of Latin constrūctiō denotes an ‘assemblage’ rather than ‘accumulation’. (I wonder whether they suggest a certain stance of the Greek education system towards knowledge, viewing it as a pile-up of pieces of information rather than as a functional combination thereof.)

The English, German, and French Latinate terms determinism, déterminisme, and Determinismus (Phil, Rel) (<Latin dētermināre ‘to enclose, bound, set limits to’) gave MG ντετερμινισμός [determiniˈz̺mos̺] (G 33,900, GS 491), rivalled by the Greek-based synonym αιτιοκρατία [etiokraˈtia] (literally ‘dominance of cause’) (G 20,100, GS 362), made up of the learned items αιτία [eˈtia] ‘cause’ and -κρατία [kraˈtia] ‘-cracy, dominance of’. In terms of Hellenisation conventions, the Latinate term is not without issues, as its initial ντ- [d] and -ε- [e] betray its recent date in MG, since one would otherwise expect *δητερμινισμός [ðiterminiˈz̺mos̺], cf. Latin dēnarius > AG δηνάριον [dε:ná:rion], MG δηνάριο [ðiˈnario]. But αιτιοκρατία does not cover all meanings of the source term, which means both ‘doctrine that everything that happens is determined by a necessary chain of causation’ and ‘doctrine of the necessitarian philosophers’; moreover, it collides with the Greek-based rendering of French causalisme ‘causalism’ (Phil), which has similarly been rendered as αιτιοκρατία.

French réalisme (Phil, Pol, Art; Art) (<Latin reālis ‘real, true’ < rēs ‘thing’) gave MG ρεαλισμός [realiˈz̺mos̺] (G 284,000, GS 2,820), but the competing term πραγματισμός [praɣmatiˈz̺mos̺] (<learned Greek πράγμα [ˈpraɣma] ‘thing’ < AG πρᾶγμα [prâŋma]) (G 35,100, GS 17,100) is also current, although much less used. The Latinate term is compatible with traditional Hellenisation conventions. The second is problematic as it collides with the homonymous MG rendering of French pragmatisme ‘pragmatism’.

French surréalisme (Art) (<Latin super ‘over, above, on top of’ + reālis) gave MG σουρ(ρ)εαλισμός [s̺urealiˈz̺mos̺] (with single ρ: G 434,000, GS 290; with double ρ: G 17,500, GS 59), with its almost obsolete variant συρ(ρ)εαλισμός [s̺irealiˈz̺mos̺] (with single ρ: G 26, GS 1; with double ρ: G 731, GS 7), approximating the French u [y]-sound (and shape). Due to the simplified MG orthography of the last three decades, the double-ρ forms are now considered obsolete. On the other hand, a widely used hybrid synonym is υπερρεαλισμός [iperealiˈz̺mos̺] (G 89,200, GS 345), which prefixes ὑπέρ (AG [hypér], MG [iˈper]), the Greek equivalent and cognate of (the somewhat obscure) Latin super, to the Latinate stem. If French mediation were not taken into account, the expected form would be rather *σουπερρεαλισμός [s̺uperealiˈz̺mos̺], cf. supernova (Astr) > σουπερνόβα [s̺uperˈnova].

The English Latinate term compressor (Mech) (<Latin compressum, supine of comprimere ‘to compress’) gave MG κομπρέσ(σ)ορας [ko(m)ˈbres̺oras̺] (with single σ: G 82,600, GS 18; with double σ: G 16,500, GS 7), but this Latinate term, not current in higher registers, has almost completely been replaced by the Greek calque συμπιεστής [s̺i(m)bieˈs̺tis̺] (G 565,000, GS 1,460). In this case, the Greek-based term is absolutely transparent even to average Greek speakers, given that the learned verb from which it derives, συμπιέζω [s̺i(m)biˈezo] ‘to compress’, is also used in the general language. However, the Latin-based term is more transparent from an interlinguistic point of view and forms an etymological family with the rather conversational Latinate MG term κομπρέσ(σ)α [ko(m)ˈbres̺a] (Med) ‘a compress’.

The English Latinate term cursor (Inf) (<Lat. cursor ‘a runner’ < currere ‘to run’) gave the conversational MG term κέρσορας [ˈcers̺oras̺] (G 76,400, GS 638). Its έ [e] approximates the English than the Latin pronunciation of u (the latter being [‘kʊrs̺or]). On the other hand, its Greek-based semantic equivalent δρομέας [ðroˈmeas̺] (G 542,000, GS 2,200, but obviously reflecting also the meanings ‘a runner (person)’ and ‘a glider’; also an office equipment brand name) is more widely used in higher registers. Eventual Romanisation of the Latinate term (kérsoras) would blur its internationally easily recognisable Latin source. A traditional Hellenisation would result in *κούρσορας [ˈkurs̺oras̺], the expected MG evolution of the well-documented Hellenistic and Medieval Greek Latinate word κούρσωρ [ˈkurs̺or], denoting inter alia ‘a runner; messenger, herald’, which forms an etymological family with MG κούρσα [ˈkurs̺a] ‘a run; (old-fashioned slang) a car’.

Apart from the aforementioned representative (although randomly chosen) examples, there are lots of other Latinate MG terms from almost any academic thematic area (examples are given in Table A2, Appendix II), despite their being usually rivalled/replaced by learned Greek-based calques, semantic loans, and graphically ‘revived’ AG words.

6 Conclusions

Latinate terminology entering MG mostly from English and French in the last two centuries has challenged the centuries-long conventions of Hellenising Latin borrowings. This obscures the regular graphic and/or (morpho)phonological correspondences of same-etymology Latinate items usually seen in other European and European-influenced languages. A consequence of this is the low attractiveness of Latinate terminology to de facto language planners in Greece and Cyprus. In a sociolinguistic context, phobic stances towards loanwords, ultra-nationalist and isolationist ideologies are also important factors that discourage the high-register use of Latinate MG terminology. However, many Latinate terms are rather popular with MG speakers, despite that others have been virtually replaced by Greek-based ones, at least in higher registers. Phobia towards even easily adaptable loanwords in higher registers is at least strange, when non-adaptable English foreignisms (e.g. in financial or banking LSP) abound in such registers. Through adequate language planning, MG Latinate ATR could be made more homogeneous along the lines of already ‘tested’ traditional Hellenisation conventions (comparable to the ones through which Greek-based terminology is regularly adapted to Latin-script and Cyrillic-script languages) and possibly so supplemented as to make up more complete and productive etymological and semantic families; thus, MG would count with a wide range of fully productive and inter-linguistically functional Latinate terminology, aiming not necessarily at replacing Greek-based one but rather: a) at offering a model for consistently adapting new Latinate borrowings as an alternative to the model of recourse to purist Greek calques and/or graphically revived AG items; and b) at being used as the preferred synonyms in e.g. multi-lingual concept-oriented communication settings, where the pursuit of translation- and interpreting-friendly terminology, itself of paramount importance for conceptual safety and terminological consistency, co-exists with the respect for diversity and inclusion rather than with the uncritical use of English terms. The above discussion – preliminary as it may be in some aspects – suggests that Latinate MG terms are not an intruder but definitely an academic and cultural asset that needs more attention. To this end, the Appendices to this article provide an extra tool for further relevant research.







any field


Attic Greek






academic and technical register


















Google (results)


Google Scholar (results)


Hellenic Standardization Organization














language for specific purposes













































  1. Funding information: The author states that no funding was involved.

  2. Author contributions: The author has accepted responsibility for the entire content of this manuscript and approved its submission. PGK is the sole author of the content of the manuscript.

  3. Conflict of interest: The author states no conflict of interest.

  4. Data availability statement: Data sharing is not applicable to this article as no datasets were generated or analysed during the current study.

Appendix I

Table A1

Basic Hellenisation of Latin

Latin examples AG and traditional Hellenisation-oriented MG (examples of Hellenised Latin proper names and current Latinate words) English-/French-influenced and/or orthographically simplified MG renderings in current Latinate terms/appellations (see in combination with Appendix II)
Ia: Basic Hellenisation
a [a] Antōnius α [a] MG [a] or [ɐ] Aντώνιος
ā [a:] Donātus α [a:], MG [a] or [ɐ] Δονάτος
b [b] bacillus β [b], MG [v] βάκιλλος μπ [(m)b] ρεπουμπλικανός
c [k] bacillus κ [k], before front vowels [c] βάκιλλος σ [s̺] πασιφισμός
d [d] Donātus δ [d], MG [ð] Δονάτος ντ [(n)d] μίντια
e [ε] Cicerō ε [e] or [e̞] Kικέρων ι [i] μίντια
ē [e:] dēnarius η [ε:], MG [i] δηνάριο(ν) ε [e] or [e̞] ντετερμινισμός
f [f] Fēlix φ [ph], MG [f] Φήλιξ
g [g] Gallus, Germānus γ [g], MG [ɣ], before front vowels [ʝ] Γάλλος, Γερμανός γκ [(ŋ)g], τζ [dz̺] αγκιτάτορας, ατζέντα
h [h] Hadriānus In polytonic Greek orthography, this graph corresponds to a spiritus asper (pronounced [h]) word-initially and to nothing elsewhere; in MG it is silent whether written or not Aδριανός χ [x], before front vowels [ç] νιχιλισμός
i [ɪ] bacillus ι [i] βάκιλλος
ī [i] Cōnstāntīnus ι [i:], MG [i] Kωνσταντίνος
(j) [j] Jūlius, juniperus ι [i], MG [i], before vowels also [ʝ] Iούλιος, γιουνίπερος τζ [dz̺] προτζέκτορας
l [ɫ], before/i/[l] bacillus, Licinius λ [l], MG also [ʎ] before /i/ βάκιλλος, Λικίνιος
m [m] but, before a pause and in some other positions, it just nasalised the preceding vowel maurus μ [m] μαύρος
n [n] supernova ν [n], MG also [ɲ] before /i/ σουπερνόβα
o [ɔ] supernova ο [o], MG also [o̞] σουπερνόβα
ō [o:] Antōnius ω [ɔ:], MG [o] or [o̞] Aντώνιος ο [o] or [o̞] νεποτισμός
p [p] patricius π [p] πατρίκιος
r [r] Cicerō ρ [r] or [ɾ] Kικέρων
s [s̺] Sēquana σ/ς [s̺], before voiced consonants [z̺] Σηκουάνας
t [t] Titus τ [t] Tίτος
u [ʊ] centuriō, Urbānus υ [y] (in older loanwords) or ου [o:] or [u:] MG [i], [u] κεντυρίων (MG κεντυρίωνας), Oυρβανός ε [e] or [e̞] κέρσορας
ū [u:] Brūtus ου [o:] or [u:] MG [u] Bρούτος
(v) [w] Valentīnus ου [o:] or [u:] MG mostly β [v] Oυαλεντίνος, Bαλεντίνος β [v] βιταμίνη
x [ks̺] Maximus ξ [ks̺] Mάξιμος
y (in Greek-based items) Ypsilandra υ [y], MG [i] Yψιλάνδρα γιου [ʝu] Γιούκα
z [dz] (in Greek-based items) zōnārius ζ [ʣ]/[zd], MG [z̺] ζωνάριος
ae [ae̯] or [ɛː] Aemilius αι [ai] or [ae̯], MG [e] or [e̞] Aιμίλιος ε [e] or [e̞] πρελούδιο
au [au̯] Faustus αυ [au̯], MG [av], before unvoiced consonants [af] Φαύστος αου [au] O, ο [ο] or [o̞] Ω, ω [ο] or [o̞] παουπερισμός, ποπερισμός, πωπερισμός
eu [eu̯] (mostly in Greek-based items) Eurōpa ευ [eu̯], MG [ev], before unvoiced consonants [ef] Eυρώπη ε [e] νετρόνιο
oe [oe̯] or [e:] foederātus οι [oi] or [oe̯], later also [y], MG [i] φοιδεράτος φεντεραλισμός, φεδεραλισμός
mb Umbria μβ [mb], MG (learned) [mv]1 Oυμβρία μπ [(m)b] κομπιναιζόν, κομπινεζόν
mp imperātōr μπ [mp], MG [(m)b] ιμπεράτωρ
nc conclāve γκ [ŋk], MG [(ŋ)g] κογκλάβιον νκ [ŋk] κονκλάβιο
nd calendae νδ [nd], MG (learned) [nð]1 καλένδαι, καλένδες ντ [(n)d] ρεφερέντουμ
ng Longīnus γγ [ŋg], MG [(ŋ)g] Λογγίνος γκ, νγκ [(ŋ)g] Λογκίνος, Λονγκίνος
nt mantīlium/mantēlium ντ [nt], MG [(n)d] μαντίλιον, μαντήλιον νδ [nð] μανδήλι(ον)
ps sōlipsismus ψ [ps] σολιψισμός
qu Sēquāna κου [ko:] or [ku:], MG [ku] or [kw] Σηκουάνας κβ [kv] κβάντο (German influenced)
qui [kᶣi] Aquisgrānum, Aquila κυϊ [kyi] or κυ [ky], MG [ci] Aκυίσγρανο(ν), Aκύλας
Special case: Luc- Lūcius Λευκ- [leuk/c-], Λουκ- [lu:k/c-] MG [lefk/c-] Λεύκιος, Λούκιος
Special case: Publ- Publius Ποπλ [popl-], Πουβλ- [publ-], MG [puvl-] Πόπλιος, Πούβλιος Πουμπλ [publ-] Πούμπλιος
Special case: Quint- Quintus Kοϊ [koi-] Kόιντος κουϊ [kui-], [kwi-] κβι [kvi-] Kουΐντος, (rare) Kβίντος (German influenced)
Ib: Basic morpho(phono)logical adaptation
-a (m./f.) Seneca; Jūlia, Agrippīna -ας (m.) Σενέκας, -α or -η Iουλία, Aγριππίνα/Aγριππίνη (f.); MG mostly -α (f.) Aγριππίνα
-ālis/-e Jūvenālis, Pasquālis, manuāle; pasquālis (adj.), sexuālis -άλης (noun) Iουβενάλης, Πασχάλης, μανουάλι(-ο/-ον); -αλινός/-ή/-ό(ν) πασχαλινός; -αλικός/-ή/-ό(ν) σεξουαλικός
-ānus/-a/-um Grātiānus -ανός/-ή/-ό(ν) Γρατιανός
-āns Constāns -ας Kώνστας; MG -αντας Kώνσταντας
-culus/-a/-um baculum -κλος/-α/-ο(ν) βάκλον
-ellus/-a/-um Marcellus, Marcella, Coccinella, sacellum -ελλος, -έλλα/-έλλη, -ελλο(ν) Mάρκελλος, Mαρκέλλα, Kοκκινέλλη, σάκελλον
-er Silvester -ρος Σίλβεστρος, Σιλουέστρος
-eus/-a/-um Caesareus -ειος/-α/-ο(ν)– Kαισάρειος
-ēns Clēmēns, Valēns -ης Kλήμης, Oυάλης; MG -εντας Kλήμεντας, Oυάλεντας
-ēnsis/-e castrēnsis -ήσιος/-ία-/-ιο(ν) καστρήσιος -ίσιος Kαστρίσιος
-icus/-a/-um Gallicus -ικός/-ή/-ό(ν) Γαλλικός
-illus/-a/-um bacillus, Priscilla, myrtillum -ιλλος/-ίλλα or -ίλλη/-ιλλο(ν) βάκιλλος, Πρισκίλλα, μύρτιλλο(ν) -ιλος, -ιλο(ν) βάκιλος, μύρτιλο
-(i)ō (m./f.) Scipiō/-nis; legiō/-nis -(ί)ων (m.) Σκιπίων, Kάτων, -(ε)ών (f.) λεγιών, λεγεών; MG -(ί)ωνας (m.) Σκιπίωνας, Kάτωνας, -(ε)ών(α) (f.) λεγεώνα
-ius/-a/-um Aemilius, Aemilia -ιος/-ία/-ιο(ν) Aιμίλιος, Aιμιλία
-īlis/-e Aprīlis -ιος/-ιο(ν) Aπρίλιος, μαντίλιο(ν), MG also -ης/-ι Aπρίλης, μαντίλι
-īnus/-a/-um Jūstīnus; tridentīnus -ίνος/-α or -η/-ο(ν) (n.) Iουστίνος; -ινός/-ή/-ό(ν) (adj.) τριδεντινός
-or -ωρ, MG –ορας
-ulus/-a/-um Rōmulus; Garrulus -ύλος/-α or -η/-ο(ν) Pωμύλος; MG also -ουλος/-α/-ο Γάρ(ρ)ουλος
-ullus/-a/-um Catullus -oύλλος/-α or -η/-ο(ν) Kάτουλλος -ουλος/-α or -η/-ο Kάτουλος
-um pisum -ο(ν) πίσο(ν) -ουμ μάξιμουμ
-us Mārcus -ος Mάρκος
  1. 1

    Although μβ and νδ are graphically preferable to, respectively, μπ and νδ on etymological and transliteration grounds, their learned MG, non-inherited respective pronunciations [mv] and [nð] are problematic, cf. Krimpas (2019, 90–2).

Appendix II

Table A2

Examples of Latinate MG internationalisms

Latinate stems Thematic area Current MG Latinate terms and term families MG terminology adapted to Graeco-Latin tradition (extant and/or engineerable variants)
actu(-āli)- (>Fr./En. actual-) Phil ακτουαλισμός/-τής1
ag(-enda) (>En. agenda) Pol ατζέντα (as f.sing.) *αγένδα (as
agitāt(-ōr) (>Rus. aгитaтop) Pol αγκιτάτορας *αγιτάτορας
alternāt(-īv)- (>Rus. aльтepнaтивa, Fr. alternative) Phil αλτερνατίβα
altrui- (Fr.) Phil αλτρουϊσμός/-τής,
anim- (En.) Rel ανιμισμός/-τής
atav- (En.) Biol αταβισμός/-τής
baculum (>En.) Biol βάκλον
bonus (>En.) Econ μπόνους *βόνος
casu- (En.) Phil καζουϊσμός/-τής *κασουϊσμός/-τής
cēns- Pol κήνσορας
compan- (>It. compagnia, accompagnamento) Mus κομπανία, ακομπανιαμέντο
compress- (>It. compressa; > En. compressor) Med; Mech κομπρέσ(σ)α; κομπρέσ(σ)ορας κομπρέσσα, κομπρέσσορας
con + clāvi- (<It. conclave) Rel κονκλάβιο, κογκλάβιο κογκλάβιο, *κογκλαύιο
constrūct(-īv)- (Fr.) Art, Ling κονστρουκτιβισμός/-τής
crēsc- (<It. crescendo) Mus κρεσέντο *κρήσκενδο
curs(-ōr) (>En. cursor) Inf κέρσορας *κούρσορας
dētermin- (>Fr. détermin-) Rel ντετερμινισμός/-τής *δητερμινισμός/-τής
Deus (>Fr. dé-isme) Rel ντεϊσμός/-τής, δεϊσμός/-τής δεϊσμός/-τής
dictāt(-ōr) Pol δικτάτορας, δικτατορία
direct(-īva) (>Rus. диpeктивa) Pol ντιρεκτίβα *διρεκτίβα
ēdict- Pol έδικτο, ήδικτο ήδικτο
express(-iōn)- (>Fr. expression-) Art εξπρές, εξπρεσιονισμός/-τής *εξπρεσσιωνισμός/-τής
extrēm- (>Fr. extrém-) Pol, Soc εξτρεμισμός/-τής
fanat- (Fr.) Pol, Soc φανατικός, φανατισμός
fasci- (It.) Pol φασισμός, φασίστας *φασκισμός/-τής
fēmin- (>Fr. fémin-) Soc φεμινισμός/-τής *φημινισμός/-τής
fest(-īv-āli)- (>Fr. festival-) The, Mus φεστιβάλ *φεστιβάλι(ο)
foeder(-āli-) (>Fr. fédéral-) Pol φεντεραλισμός/-τής aka φεδεραλισμός/-τής *φοιδεραλισμός/-τής
form(-āli)- (>Fr. formal-) Phil, Art, Sci, Law φορμαλισμός/-τής
forum (En.) Pol φόρουμ, φόρο φόρο
fruct(-ōsa) (En.) Chem φρουκτόζη *φρουκτώση
imperiāli- (>Fr. impériali-) Pol ιμπεριαλισμός/-τής
impress(-iōn)- (>Fr. impression-) Art ιμπρεσιονισμός/-τής aka εμπρεσιονισμός/-τής *ιμπρεσσιωνισμός/-τής
institūt- Pol, Sci ινστιτούτο
instruct(-or) (>Rus. инcтpyктop, En. instructor) Pol ινστρούκτορας, ινστρούχτορας, (rare) ινστράκτορας ινστρούκτορας
insul(-īna) (En./Fr.) Med ινσουλίνη
intellig(-entia) (>Rus. интeллигeнция) Pol, Soc ιντελλιγκέντσια *ιντελλιγέντια
interlūdi- (>It. interludio) Mus, The ιντερλούδιο, ιντερλούντιο ιντερλούδιο
intermedi- (>It. intermedio, intermezzo) Mus, The ιντερμέδιο, ιντερμέντιο, ιντερμέτζο ιντερμέδιο
invert- (En.) Chem ιμβερτοσάκχαρο, ινβερτοσάκχαρο *ινουερτοσάκχαρο, ιμβερτοσάκχαρο
lact(-ōsa) (En.) Chem λακτόζη *λακτώση
līberāli- (>Fr. libérali-) Pol, Econ λιμπεραλισμός/-τής *λιβεραλισμός/-τής
lib(-īdō) (Ger.) Med λίμπιντο *λιβιδώ, *λιβιδόνα
manu(-āle) Rel μανουάλι(-ο/-oν)
maximum, maxim(-āli)- (>Fr. maximali-, En. maxi) AF; Phil, Pol μάξιμουμ; μαξιμαλισμός/-τής *μάξιμο
medium (It.), media (En.) Psy; Com μέντιουμ; μίντια *μέδιο, *μέδια (
mercant(-īli)- (>Fr. mercantili-) Econ, Pol μερκαντιλισμός/-τής
milit(-āri)- (>Fr. militari-) Pol μιλιταρισμός/-τής
minimum, minim(-āli)- (>Fr. minimali-, En. mini) AF; Art, Phil μίνιμουμ; μινιμαλισμός/-τής *μίνιμο
modern- (Fr.) Art, Phil, Soc μοντερνισμός/-τής, (obs.) μοδερνισμός/-τής μοδερνισμός/-τής
mōr(-āli)- (>Fr. moral-) Phil, Rel μοραλισμός/-τής *μωραλισμός/-τής
nāt(-īv)- (>En. nativ-) Pol νατιβισμός/-τής
neg(āt-īv)- (>En. negativ-) Psy νεγκατιβισμός/-τής *νεγατιβισμός/-τής
nepōt- (>Fr. népot-) Pol νεποτισμός/-τής *νεπωτισμός/-τής
neutr- (>Fr. neutron) Phys νετρόνιο νευτρώνιο, νεουτρώνιο
nihil- (Fr.) Phil νιχιλισμός/-τής νιιλισμός/-τής
offic(-iāli)- Rel, Pol οφ(φ)ίκιο, οφ(φ)ικιάλιος, οφίτσιο οφφίκιο, οφφικιάλιος
patent- (>It. patente) Law πατέντα
pauper- (Fr.)- Econ, Soc παουπερισμός/-τής, ποπερισμός/-τής, πωπερισμός/-τής *παυπερισμός/-τής, παουπερισμός/-τής
persōn(-a, -āli-) (>Fr. personn-) The, Psy; Phil; Com περσόνα; περσοναλισμός/-τής; τηλεπερσόνα *περσώνα; *περσωναλισμός/-τής; *τηλεπερσώνα
plūr(-āli)- (>Fr. plural-) AF, Pol, Soc πλουραλισμός
pos(-it-īv)- (>Fr. positiv-) Phil, Pol, Sci, Rel, Law ποζιτιβισμός/-τής, ποσιτιβισμός/-τής ποσιτιβισμός/-τής
praelūdi- (>It. preludio) Mus, The πρελούδιο, πρελούντιο, πραιλούδιο πραιλούδιο
prōject- (>En. project/-) Mech; Bus προτζέκτορας; πρότζεκτ *πρωιέκτορας, *πρωίεκτο, *πρώιεκτο
public(-iān)- Law πουβλικιανή (αγωγή), ποπλικιανή (αγωγή), πουμπλικιανή (αγωγή) ποπλικιανή (αγωγή) (now obsolete), πουβλικιανή (αγωγή)
pūr(-itā)- (>Fr. pur-; En. puritan-) Art, Ling; Rel πουρισμός/-τής; πουριτανός, πουριτανισμός
quantum Phys κβάντο *κουάντο
re(-āli)- (>Fr. réali-) Phil, Pol, Art; Art ρεαλισμός/-τής; υπερρεαλισμός/-τής aka σ(ο)υρ(ρ)ρεαλισμός/-τής υπερρεαλισμός/-τής, σουπερρεαλισμός/-τής
referendum (Fr.) Pol ρεφερέντουμ *ρεφερένδο
republic(-ān)- (>En. republican/-) Pol ρεπουμπλικάνος/-ανός, ρεπουμπλικανισμός *ρεπουβλικανός, *ρεπουβλικανισμός
retrospect(-īva) (>En. retrospective) Art ρετροσπεκτίβα
sect(-āri)- (>Fr. sectari-) Rel, Pol σεκταρισμός/-τής aka σεχταρισμός/-τής σεκταρισμός, σεκταριστής, σεκταριστικός
sex/u(-āli)- (>En. sex, sexual-) Biol; Soc; Med σεξ; σεξισμός/-τής; σεξουαλικότητα, σεξουαλισμός *σέξος, *σέξο
sōlus + ipse (>Fr. solips-) Phil σολιψισμός/-τής *σωλιψισμός/-τής
structūr(-a, -āli)- (>Rus. cтpyктypa, Fr. structural-) Pol; Art, Ling στρουκτούρα; στρουκτουραλισμός/-τής
studi(-ō) (>It. studio > En.) Mus, Art στούντιο *στούδιο
super- + nov(-us/-a/-um) (>En. supernova) Astr σουπερνόβα
titul(-āri)- Rel τιτουλάριος
ūncia Met ουγκιά, ουγγιά ουγκιά
vic(-āri)- (>It. vicario) Rel βικάριος *ουϊκάριος, βικάριος
  1. 1

    For space limitations, the -isme/-iste suffixes of the English and French source words are omitted in the first column, as are the derivative adjective in -ιστικός/-ή/-ό in the third column.


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Received: 2022-02-13
Revised: 2023-03-05
Accepted: 2023-04-23
Published Online: 2023-05-23

© 2023 the author(s), published by De Gruyter

This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

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