Author: Clare Harshey

Featured Staff: Meet Everett Green

Dear LINGUIST List Subscribers,

My name is Everett Green and I am a new editor here at the LINGUIST List. I work on calls and conferences along with Ken and I will also be editing a number of other miscellaneous sections on the website as time goes on. I am a PhD student in Computational Linguistics here at Indiana University and thoroughly enjoy the work we do in the department.

As a relatively new linguist (my undergraduate degree was in Psychology) working at the LINGUIST List has shown me just how vibrant the international linguistics community is. The sheer number of conferences posted to our website each day is far beyond what I would have estimated it to be prior to beginning work here. Being privy to such information has only helped me to further appreciate the opportunity to perform such critical work for the linguistics community. It is quite the honor to help scientists and researchers around the world to collaborate on a vast number of projects that may have major impacts on the ways in which we navigate even the most minute moments of our lives. Resources like those hosted on the LINGUIST List help to speed the rate of progress in the field of linguistics and spread the word about the great conferences that you are all hosting and attending. The fact that we can make these resources available to so many people is a testament to just how effective the internet has been in connecting us with others around the world.

As some of our other staff members have mentioned in their posts, the work we do here at the LINGUIST List would not be possible without donations from scientists, researchers, and interested individuals like yourself and I express my deepest gratitude for your patronage. If you find any of our services useful, please consider making a donation so that we can continue making the website an awesome, ever more useful resource for people like you.

Thanks for reading and have a great day,

– Everett Green

Support the LINGUIST List Year Round with Amazon Smile

Dear Readers,

We are approaching 70% of our Fund Drive goal! Thank you so much to all of our donors who have generously supported us so far. If you haven’t yet, we ask that you consider joining their ranks by visiting our Fund Drive homepage and helping us reach our goal!

Did you know you can support us anytime through Amazon Smile? When you use Amazon Smile to shop online, Amazon donates a portion of your purchase to the eLinguistics Foundation, the non-profit behind the LINGUIST List. The best part: this donation is made at no extra cost to you! Visit Amazon Smile today to support us year-round!

Yours Gratefully,

The LINGUIST List Team

The LINGUIST List: hosting linguistic discussion since 1990

Dear Readers,

Did you know that the LINGUIST List hosts 86 mailing lists for various subfields and organizations around the world? To see the long list of lists we host check out:

https://listserv.linguistlist.org/

We host these mailing lists for free, because we believe it’s important to support open dialogue in our field–not just on the LINGUIST List, but on other lists too! Although we have always offered this service free of charge, the IT infrastructure on which we host these mailing lists is not free! In order to continue to provide such services, we need your help to meet our fundraising goal!

Visit our Fund Drive homepage today to learn more about us and support us with your donation.  We want to continue serving you the best we can but for that – we need your support!

https://funddrive.linguistlist.org/

Sincerely yours,

The LINGUIST List Team

Featured Staff: Meet Becca Taylor

Dear LINGUIST List Subscribers,

Hello! My name is Becca and I am one of the student editors at LINGUIST List. I am the Managing Editor and I am also responsible for posting jobs, supports, and internships. I am a new hire here at LINGUIST List so if you’ve submitted something very recently we have met via email.

I very recently received my MA in Computational Linguistics and am currently a PhD student. I came to IU without any funding for my MA and I am very fortunate that LL has offered me a Graduate Assistantship so that I can continue my PhD here at IU. Because of your continued support LL is able to help me reach my academic goals and for that I am very grateful, so thank you so much!

Even though I found my graduate program through LL, I didn’t realize just how broad our reach is until I was hired here. Through editing jobs, supports, and internships I see firsthand how vast the community of linguists is and how far reaching LL is an organization. LL is a great resource that is accessible to a large number of people and the editors and programmers couldn’t do it without your support.

When you support the LINGUIST List, you are also supporting not just the students that work here, but you are also supporting the open access to the wide array of knowledge that is accessible through LL, anyone in the linguistics community that uses LL, and also the future of an organization that has been supporting linguists for almost three decades.

Thank you again for all of your support, everyone here at LINGUIST List is forever grateful to all of you. If would like to help us to continue providing resources to the linguistic community please visit our fund drive page and donate today.

Thank you again!

Sincerely,
Becca Taylor
Managing Editor

LINGUIST List的使命

尊敬的各位语言学家:

在这个瞬息万变的世界里,科技正在改变我们的生活。人工智能透入生活的方方面面,社交网络正在改变信息传播和发散的方式,而网络已经重新定义了接触信息的方式,在高等教育和学界亦是如此。语言学作为一个学科的范围也逐渐扩大,无论是从事语言工作的人数还是研究主题与方法的广度都大大增加。 语言学现已成为科技革新、人机交互的前线。近三十年来,LINGUIST List(语言学家列表)连接了世界各地的被国境、框架和政治分隔的语言学家,共同组成一个语言学的社群。

LINGUIST List的使命简单而特别:做一个连接全世界语言学家的平台。去年,我们发布了2000个分布于六个大洲的会议通知、超过100个暑期学校的信息和近1000本著作的广告。我们是一个有全球视野语言学组织,并不局限于某个话题或某种语言。我们提供经过验证的信息,而非“虚假新闻”。我们是语言学家研究之路上的好伙伴。随着学科和世界的变化,我们也在自我升级。在过去的几年中,我们的社交平台吸引到了更多的关注,我们也增加了多种新的服务来为语言学家提供新的交流的方式。例如 GeoLing  就是一个旨在为语言学家提供当地的活动信息的平台。我们正努力提升搜索和个性化内容方面的用户体验。您目前可以通过Alexa应用来订阅我们的最新通知,并可以选择特定主题的内容。最后,我们很快将发布全新的网站,它在视觉上更美观,也更便于读者浏览和获得重要的信息。

如果您想要支持这个语言学家的全球性社群,我们希望您能考虑为LINGUIST List捐款 。我们热切盼望能继续为您服务,但是我们非常需要您的支持和帮助。无论数额多少,我们都会心存感激。谢谢!

LINGUIST LIST 团队
Malgosia, Damir, Clare, Ken, Sara, Yiwen, Mike, Peace, Page, Helen, Robert

Featured Staff: Meet Yiwen Zhang!

LINGUIST List Programmer Yiwen posing with her MINI!

Dear LINGUIST List Subscribers,

This is Yiwen Zhang, a new-bee programmer at LINGUIST List. I’m one of the student programmers that take care of the tech side after our wonderful Lwin left (sadly!). My journey as a LINGUIST List staff member just started at the beginning of this year, so right now I’m focusing on figuring out how everything works, and thankfully I have been making progress!

One of my major tasks currently is to “renovate” the issues published on the LINGUIST List website. As you have probably noticed, our website has maintained a vintage 90s design for a while (which is rarely seen elsewhere now!). This is a crucial part of our recent project to update our main website so that it will provide a better user experience for our subscribers. While doing my job, I had a chance to look back to all those “historical” issues published by the LINGUIST List that date all the way back to 1990. It is amazing to look at the names of the linguists that have published information from various fields of linguistics and how they represent generations of linguistic research. Also, it makes me realized that the LINGUIST List has been a platform that serves the community constantly in nearly 30 years, and how important my job is to keep it in the way as it is for decades.

Aside from my job at the LINGUIST List, I am pursuing a Ph.D. degree in general linguistics with a focus in Semantics and Chinese. I am lucky enough to have support from the Linguistic department at Indiana University and the LINGUIST List which largely facilitate my learning and research, and this could not happen without your support. Thank you! All of our staff are really grateful and we are working hard to sustain the services we provide to the linguistic community.

For this year’s fund drive, your support is very much needed so that student programmers and editors like me can be supported continually. If you think our services are meaningful and valuable, please kindly contribute to our fund drive. We will really appreciate your support!

Best,
Yiwen

Take a cool picture somewhere on the planet, and you could help us win a prize!

Dear LINGUIST Listers,

Although we are located at Indiana University in the United States, we know that our 30,000+ readers are located in almost every country on the planet! We love that we get to foster connections between linguists all over the world! Now, wherever you are, we need YOUR help winning a photo contest!

As part of our host institution’s annual fundraising day, called IU Day, we need readers all over the world to find a unique or fun locale–the Grand Canyon, the Great Wall of China, the Eiffel Tower, or whatever fantastic sights are near you–and take a picture of yourself holding our sign! Download the picture above, print it out, and hold it proudly to show your support wherever you are!

When you have your picture, post it to social media with the hashtag #IUday! The IU Day team will choose a winner, and they’ll donate $2,000 to the organization of the winner’s choice. (We hope that if you win, you will choose the LINGUIST List!!)

The competition ends on April 18, so post your photo before that date! When you post it, use the hashtag #IUday to enter it in the contest, and then tag us or use the hashtag #whyilovethelinguistlist so we can see your photo and share it on our social media pages!

If you have any questions about this contest, email [email protected] for more info. We look forward to seeing the amazing places our readers live around the world!

Gratefully yours,

The LINGUIST List Team

Rising Stars: Meet Jennifer Hu!

Dear Readers,

For several years, we have featured linguists with established careers and interesting stories to tell. This year, we will also be highlighting “Rising Stars” throughout our Fund Drive, undergraduates who were nominated by their mentors for their exceptional interest in linguistics and eager participation in the global community of language researchers.

Selected nominees were asked to share their view of the field of linguistics: what topics they see emerging as important or especially interesting, what role they see the field filling in the coming decades, and how they plan to contribute. We hope you will enjoy the perspectives of these students, who represent the bright future of our field.

Today we are excited to share with you the perspective of Jennifer Hu, a senior at Harvard University. Jennifer studies Linguistics and Mathematics, and is highly involved in several research projects. Her own honors thesis focuses on cross-linguistic investigation of Bayesian models of pragmatics.

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With the recent revolution in robotics and machine learning, linguistics is playing an increasingly important role as we develop and interact with systems of artificial intelligence. Just as we communicate with other humans through language, it is most natural for us to communicate with robots and other automated systems through speech, text, and sign. These new types of interactions will demand a robust understanding of linguistics, as language processing poses many unique challenges for machines.

We have already made significant progress in developing systems for speech recognition, question answering, and other language processing tasks. If one analyzes the errors produced by state-of-the-art systems, however, one finds that many of these models – while obtaining high performance on the tasks for which they are designed – are not fully capable of language understanding. For example, the Story Cloze Test requires a system to choose the correct ending to a simple four-sentence story as a way of approximating understanding of causal relationships between events. The best model achieves an impressive 75% accuracy on the Story Cloze Test, but is able to achieve 72% accuracy without even being exposed to the stories! These results suggest that the success of the model might not reflect genuine understanding of the events in the stories, but other confounds latent in the task. This should lead us to inquire whether other models have truly learned the linguistic abilities that their tasks were designed to measure. Similarly, the type of training data that these models require to achieve reasonable performance is cognitively implausible, given what we know about the input to which human learners are exposed. With very little exposure to negative data, children produce linguistic errors in a systematic, predictable way. These two issues in the design of current models suggest that knowledge of the theoretical underpinnings of language can help bring us closer to building systems that truly approximate human intelligence.

There is no better time for linguists to take advantage of and contribute to concurrent advances in the computer and cognitive sciences. With increasing large-scale datasets, computing power, and understanding of the human brain, linguists have more tools than ever to pursue the scientific study of language. In the coming years, I expect and hope to see growth in the subfields of computational linguistics and psycholinguistics. I am excited by the prospect of being able to reverse engineer our capacity for language, and through collaboration with computer science and cognitive science, I believe we can achieve this goal in the coming decades.

By studying linguistics, we can not only develop new insights into the structure of language, but also shape the way humans will interact with systems of artificial intelligence in the years to come. I plan to continue contributing to this exciting field by obtaining a PhD and ultimately pursuing a career focused on research, education, and outreach.

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If you have a student who you believe is a “Rising Star” in linguistics, we would love to hear about them! We are still accepting nominations for exceptional young linguists. Please see the call for nominations for more information.

If you have not yet–please visit our Fund Drive page to learn more about us and why we need your help! The LINGUIST List relies on your generous donations to continue its support of linguists around the world.

Gratefully,
The LINGUIST List Team

Featured Linguist: Wannie Carstens

MY CAREER IN (AFRIKAANS) LINGUISTICS

I grew up in Namibia (in the 1950’s and 1960’s) where I was exposed to a real multilingual world: German (as Namibia is a former German protectorate, end of 19th and beginning of 20th century), Afrikaans (due to the historical connection to South Africa where Afrikaans at that stage was the primary language), English, and many indigenous languages: Oshiwambo, Otjiherero, Nama, Damara, Kavango, San, etc. My father worked for the government and he travelled a lot. During school holidays I accompanied him and experienced these languages and their speakers in their actual settings. It opened a multicultural and multilingual world to me, a world in which I felt comfortable, the world of languages.

But I had a very good Afrikaans teacher in my high school in Windhoek, and this eventually motivated me to take Afrikaans (in combination with Dutch) and German as my majors for my BA degree at the University of Stellenbosch in South Africa. During my first year (1971) I took an extra course in General Linguistics (Algemene Taalwetenskap), taught by Prof Rudolph P Botha, one of South Africa’s best linguists ever. This where I really felt at home – hearing more about syntax, semantics, pragmatics, etc. But due to my interest in Afrikaans (and the possibility of becoming a teacher in Afrikaans) I continued with my study in Afrikaans and eventually obtained a MA degree in Afrikaans linguistics.

I was fortunate enough to be appointed as a temporary lecturer in Afrikaans linguistics at the University of Stellenbosch (SU), and it dawned upon me that I probably would not become a school teacher any more. (The fact the my girl friend of that time – now my wife of more than 40 years – was still studying at SU naturally had no effect on my decision to accept the position …) This also motivated me to enrol for a DLitt degree at SU under the guidance of Prof Fritz Ponelis, the foremost scholar in Afrikaans syntax. In my thesis I focussed on a combined semantic-syntactic study of Afrikaans definite pronouns and researched the influence the context of various written texts had on the use of these pronouns in Afrikaans.

At this time I already was a lecturer in Afrikaans linguistics at the University of Cape Town, where I eventually spend 11 and a half years before moving to the former Potchefstroom University for Christian Higher Education (since 2004 the Potchefstroom campus of the North-West University) where I retired (after a full career of 41 years) at the end of 2017 as professor in Afrikaans linguistics.

At UCT I wrote my first book, a book on normative linguistics for Afrikaans (Norme vir Afrikaans (“Norms for Afrikaans”)), as I had to develop material for my second and third language speakers of Afrikaans for one of my courses. When a publisher came around asking for manuscripts I told them about the work I was doing and I was invited to submit the manuscript. To my astonishment this book (published in 1989) became a best-seller in Afrikaans linguistics and it has been used since then as a handbook in many courses in South Africa. The 6th revised edition of this book was published in January 2018. It still amazes me that this book had this success!

Due to my interest in text linguistics, of which I took note while busy with my DLitt, and after meeting Prof Nils Erik Enkvist from Turku in Finland, and the great Robert de Beaugrande himself, who at that stage was teaching at the University of Botswana, in Gaborone, Botswana, I in due time completed the first book on text linguistics in Afrikaans in 1997 (Afrikaanse Tekslinguistiek (“Afrikaans Text Linguistics”)). This enabled me to combine my interest in syntax, semantics, pragmatics, discourse analysis and text linguistics into one book. This eventually led to my next book on text editing (Afrikaanse Teksredaksie (“Afrikaans text editing”)– together with Prof Kris van de Poel of the University of Antwerp in Belgium) where I was able to use the knowledge gained from normative grammar and text linguistics to develop a model – based upon Prof Jan Renkema of the University of Tilburg’s well-known CCC model – for the training of a new generation of copy/text editors in Afrikaans. Again a first for Afrikaans. Since then this book has been adapted for use in English (Text Editing, 2012), Sesotho (2016) and the IsiZulu version should be finalized this year and the IsiXhosa version next year. Versions in German and Dutch are also underway. (We are looking for candidates to adapt this book also for their own languages – scholars in Mandarin, Spanish, Hindi, Russian, etc. are more than welcome to contact me in this regard.) I am glad my work had this effect! This was an effort on my side to transfer my skills and knowledge to other languages.

My last project was just concluded when I submitted the final manuscript for Part 2 of a book on the history of Afrikaans (together with Prof Edith Raidt). This book, titled Die storie van Afrikaans: uit Europa en van Afrika. Biografie van ‘n taal (“The story of Afrikaans: Out of Europe and from Africa. Biography of a language”) is the result of the last five years of my career. I had the privilege to be part of the last 48 years of the history of Afrikaans (and the way it developed) and I recorded this for the next generation. There is a good possibility that the last two books (Part 1 and 2 of STORIE) will be translated into English in the near future.

My whole career was in and about Afrikaans. It was a decision I made early on in my career. Rather than trying to be a scholar in a language I am not fluent in (English) my choice was to make a contribution to my home language, Afrikaans – despite what so many people said about this language and its complex history. Looking back I think I made a small contribution in developing Afrikaans linguistics as a discipline in a few fields: normative grammar, text linguistics, text editing, language politics, the history of Afrikaans. At least I do hope it is experienced as such by colleagues in South Africa!

TIPS FOR THE NEXT GENERATION OF LINGUISTS

  1. Do not be afraid to follow your passion. (It worked for me.)
  2. Read, read and read as wide as possible at the beginning of your career. It helps you to make an informed choice regarding the field you want to specialize in, whatever it may be.
  3. Look for the gaps in your selected field and then make yourself the expert regarding that specific gap.
  4. Never be afraid to tackle something new. Be bold. (All the famous linguists followed this route.) You might become the real expert in that field. (And eventually a famous linguist …)
  5. Do not be afraid to follow your gut. (It will not always work out but how will you know if you do not experiment with something?)
  6. It makes no sense to do exactly what someone else already did. It is just repetition and not something new. When you look back over your career, can you say: “I think I really made a difference”? This is the real test.
  7. Remember that every generation stands on the shoulders of the previous generation(s). This means that you can and may (!) use the work of a previous generation(s) as point of departure for your own work. Therefore do not be afraid to criticise the work of the previous generation. (It happened that some of my former students criticized some of my earlier work and it meant a lot to me: as (a) it meant they found it worthwhile enough to criticize and (b) I thoroughly enjoyed it as it helped to sharpen the knowledge on the specific topic. (c) It even ‘gave me a kick’ to know that my students were not afraid to be critical of their former teacher.)
  8. Make a serious effort to establish a good and wide network (friends, contacts) in your discipline and specific field. No academic / linguist can survive without a network. (Hi! to Bob at UCLA, Gary at UNLV in Las Vegas, Paul at UNC Chapel Hill, Jacques at Univ Ghent, Kris at Univ of Antwerp, Marijke and Gijsbert at Leiden, Rina in Vienna, Sanna in Turku, Eric in Aruba, etc.)
  9. If you get an opportunity to spend time in other countries (as post doc, visiting scholar) make use of this opportunity as it will broaden your horizon as academic. Networks make this possible and feasible.
  10. Share information (new books, an article they/he/she might be interested in, information on a possible relevant conference or event, etc.) with your network. Because of this someone in your network might be willing to read your first draft of papers and even give critical feedback. This is priceless!
  11. Attend conferences nationally and internationally. Otherwise no one will know about your work. You do not always have to read a paper, as attendance of these conferences is part of experiencing the world of linguistics.
  12. Publish in good international journals as much as possible, but also do not be afraid to publish in local journals as the local linguistics’ industry of your country must also be maintained.
  13. Remember that you have a responsibility to develop the field and discipline in your own country and in your own language.
  14. Do not be afraid to publish in your own language. English is NOT the only language of science. But also publish in English if it is possible for you as it probably will be read wider.
  15. You really do not have to be the most important international scholar. It is a bonus if it is the case. But it is important to be a recognized scholar in your own context because this is where you work and stay and function.
  16. If your work is regarded as good/exceptional translate it in English if you are a scholar in another language.
  17. Take a business card (linked to your institution) to conferences and hand it out if there is an opportunity. And when you get back home keep the cards you got and make contact with persons in your field. (It takes time and effort, but trust me: it really is worthwhile!)
  18. Attend at least one LSA. Two will be even better. This is very important! This will make a difference to the way you approach what you do and the way you think about language and linguistics. (And take a picture of yourself with some of the ‘big names’ and put it against your wall to look at when you feel discouraged and tired.)
  19. Make provision in your annual research budget for a financial contribution to the LinguistList (LL). Or make certain that your institution makes an annual (worthwhile!) contribution to the List. Without it you will be in ‘linguistic darkness’. We talk about pre- and current LL. You are lucky that you are in the current LL period. Enjoy the benefits of this.

MY ASSOCIATION WITH THE LINGUIST LIST

I think I am actually one of the first linguists in South Africa who started to make use of the List. Even in the early days of email in South Africa (1992!) I was a member of earlier versions of the list. And to be honest – I am proud that I realised the enormous potential of the List. It opened a world wide network of linguists (wwnl) to me. I could read their informal thoughts about topics in linguistics, and I learned about new publications. It also opened linguistics as an international discipline to me, and it helped me immensely in my own career in various ways:

  1. It helped me to sharpen my own thinking about linguistics as a discipline, and also specific issues in linguistics.
  2. It informed me about conferences of which I would not have known otherwise. It made it possible for me to attend conferences all over the world (such as in the USA, the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, Finland, Russia).
  3. It informed me about publications I would not have seen otherwise. (Due to the cultural and academic boycott in the 1970’s and 1980’s we in South Africa could not always get the books we wanted but at least we could take note of it and get copies through other means.) I ordered it for our university library and in this way it helped to build a trusted and respected library for the field.
  4. This library enabled me to read more then would have otherwise been the case.
  5. It enabled me to share information from the List (about conferences, workshops, books, etc.) with colleagues all over the country, and even in other parts of the world. In this way my own network grew. And then colleagues again started to share their ideas, publications, etc. with me. Therefore beneficial to both parties.
  6. For many years I was a manager and had to establish a new generations of linguists in South Africa, not only in Afrikaans, but in general – the information I got from the List helped me to shape their careers (send them to conferences, order books for them, help them to select topics for further study, etc.).

FUNDING FOR THE LL

Lastly. When I became a manager (some of us get to be managers…) and the List asked for funding to support the various services of the LL, I was in a position to start a funding campaign in my own institution (money from the institution itself but also from individual researchers) and it enabled us as group to make a contribution. For many years the NWU was the Africa and South African champion regarding our contributions! The exchange rate of the SA rand unfortunately had an effect on the actual amount in US dollar bit at least we tried. I also tried to get other South African institutions to buy in regarding fun ding support but I was not too successful in this regard. A pity.

Now that I have retired there is no guarantee that the linguists at my institution will continue to contribute, but I did my best to convince the new managers to continue with the project. I also requested the Linguistic Society of Southern Africa (LSSA) to become more involved in the funding campaign. Let us hold thumbs that there will be success in both cases.

I find it really strange that the LL have to actually plead for support! There are so many benefits for linguists that even an annual contribution equivalent to $20 from ALL linguists around the world should just be a formality. There are 10 000 people regularly using the List and I think $200 000 will enable the staff to even add more services. Therefore: help to keep the LL going at all costs! As long as I as retired linguist have access to research funding I certainly will make a contribution, every year, even if it is a small amount. The LL should maybe consider asking a fee for enrolment – I know it will take a lot of effort but it might just be the solution to the problems.

I thank the staff maintaining the List for enabling me to be part of an international network and this over a long time. I do wish you the best and I will continue consulting the List as long as I am still active as linguist. I am and will remain a true supporter of the List!

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Please support the LINGUIST List student editors and operations with a donation during the 2018 Fund Drive! The LINGUIST List needs your support!

Linguistics and Pop Culture: Language, Culture, and Black Panther

Black Panther has been a phenomenon in the box office. Since its release in the middle of February, the movie has been vaulted to the 10th biggest movie in history by ticket sales grossing over $1.28 Billion worldwide. The film’s stunning depiction of the fictional country of Wakanda wouldn’t be the same without the cultural elements introduced. The religion of Wakanda, which borrows heavily from the pantheon of ancient Egypt, the surrounding landscape, and the material culture depicted bring afrofuturism to the silver screen. The linguistic elements of the film are perhaps the most striking part of Wakanda (perhaps we’re biased though).

 

If you’re really worried about Spoilers, don’t keep reading. Key plot points are not divulged but you could maybe piece something together if you tried hard enough.

 

Marvel Studios’ BLACK PANTHER..Black Panther/T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman)..Ph: Film Frame..©Marvel Studios 2018

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