The Language of Tourism: Translating Terms in Tourist Texts | October 2015 | Translation Journal

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The Language of Tourism: Translating Terms in Tourist Texts

1. Introduction.

International tourism, as one of the biggest and the most dynamic industries in the world, inevitably influences all the aspects of social life, including language. The development of international tourism has given rise to increase in professional communication in the field. The common parties of communication process in tourism are tourism professionals, tourists and local population “tourees” (Dann, 2012). The communication process itself can take place between all the parties in different combinations. The present investigation seeks to address only the written form of tourist communication. The latter includes communication between incoming and outgoing travel intermediaries. However, communication between industry professionals/ tourists and tourees lies beyond the scope of the present research. It is by all means interesting topic for further research, but contains little terminology. Furthermore, this topic is more relevant for the investigation of intercultural aspects of translation process of tourist texts. The large number of tourism terms is continually coined, increasing scientific interest in the questions of translating tourist terminology into different languages.

The present research aims at investigating tourist terms found in different types of tourist texts. By tourist texts we mean all types of written address to tourist or tourist professionals be it a brochure, a leaflet, a price-list, or a catalog. The present paper makes an attempt to analyze the language of tourism used to create a tourist text and particularly tourism terminology used in the process.

Here we address the question of defining the degree of specialization of language of tourism, mentioned in the works of different researchers (Agorni, 2012; Muñoz, 2012; Calvi, 2005 to mention but few). We make an attempt to classify the degree of specialization by means of discriminating between different types of tourist texts starting with those describing the destination (country, region, resort etc) through the texts, aimed at providing detailed information, to the professional-oriented tourist texts (price lists, newsletters, special offers etc). The term density of different types of tourist texts will be calculated and compared. Part of the research deals with the division of abbreviations into categories according to their function and gives general review of the approaches to acronym translation. Almost everybody at least once in their lives has encountered tourism-related acronyms (e.g. in tickets, bookings, reservations, advertisements). Nevertheless, there is no, to the best of our knowledge, comprehensive investigation into the subject of translating tourist abbreviations. This is an important issue for future research which is already underway.

2. Literature Review.

A recent review of the literature on the topic of translating tourist texts as the type of specialized discourse has found that there is a considerable amount of literature on translating specialized texts. Eugene Nida (1964), Peter Newmark (1993) have made thorough research into translation of different types of specialized discourse.

The study of terminology by Juan Sager (2001), M. Teresa Cabré (2010), Márta Fischer (2010) and others provide an in-depth studies and background information pertaining to terms and their translation.

Peter Newmark (1993), Alan Duff (1981), Mary Snell-Hornby (1999) make rather negative comments regarding the quality of translation in the tourism sector of economy. Patrizia Pierini (2007) investigates the quality of translation of online tourist texts and makes some suggestions concerning approaches to translating tourist texts. Dorothy Kelly (1997) deals with some constraints the translator of the tourist literature is challenged with. She emphasizes the need to professionalize the translation process in the sector of international tourism. Gloria Cappelli (2006) devotes a number of her works to different aspects of tourism texts and their translation. She investigates inter alia the degree of specialization of tourism discourse and translation of tourism-related websites.

Mirella Agorni (2012), Elena Manca (2004), Isabel Durán Muñoz (2012), He Sanning (2010), have carried out a number of investigations into different dimensions of translating tourist texts and the language of tourism. He Sanning (2010) suggested the new strategy for translation of tourist texts, the neutralizing strategy, as opposed to domesticating and foreignising strategies.

Graham M.S.Dann has carefully investigated the language of tourism and the way it helps to “convert…[tourists] from potential into actual clients” (Dann, 1996,2). The scholars from different countries (M.Gotti, 2006; M.G.Nigro, 2006; R.Mocini, 2005 to name but some) have carefully investigated and proved that the language of tourism can indeed be considered as the specialized discourse.

Few researchers have addressed the issue of tourism terminology (N.Ivanova, O.Maslennikova, 2013). A number of studies have been published on the question of translating tourism terms with a few lines devoted to tourism abbreviations (G. Denisova, A. Drozd, R. Romanovich, 2011).

However, there is still a need for the careful investigation into the types of tourist terms, degree of their specialization and means of their translation. Moreover, the specific area of tourist acronyms and means of their translation has been overlooked in the previous studies.

3. Methods.

In order to investigate the degree of specialization of language of tourism in different kinds of tourism-related texts, the total number 150 tourist texts were analyzed. For our research we used English tourist texts and their Ukrainian or Russian translations. As mentioned before, by tourist texts we understand any type of written tourism-oriented material aimed at describing, informing, or otherwise promoting travel product through print or web-based media. It can be an information booklet, hotel brochure, excursion itinerary, travel guide, terms of booking, reservation system including all but not limited to above.

In the first part of our empirical investigation we compare term density of three kinds of tourist texts: destination/ tour descriptions, hotel/ tour/ cruise information and professional tourist material. The latter comprises price-lists, itinerary details, agreements, reservations requests and reservation systems etc. We calculate the term density (Taylor, 1998:38) of the above texts in two stages. Firstly, we use the open online tool Textalyser to calculate the lexical density of an English text and open online tool Advego to analyze Russian and Ukrainian texts. Unfortunately, the latter resource does not calculate the lexical density automatically. The analysis results are used to calculate the lexical density with the help of the formula Ld = (Ndw/Nw)*100, where Ld is the lexical density, Ndw – the number of different words and Nw is the number of words. Furthermore, we used the lexical density rates to calculate term density by means of the adopted formula Td=(Nterm/Nw)*100, where Td is the term density of the analyzed text, Nterm is the number of terms in the text and Nw is the total number of words in the analyzed text. By this we attempt to prove that the more professional-oriented text is the higher term density would be. Thus we hope to confirm our hypothesis that the degree of specialization of tourist texts depends on the target reader. In the next stage we compare the results of the calculation of English and Ukrainian/ Russian tourist text to find out the difference in term density in different languages, if any.

In the second phase of our investigation we examine methods, used for translation of English tourist terms into Ukrainian or Russian. To create parallel terminology corpus in English, Ukrainian and Russian, the open resource corpus analyzer CATMA 4 is used.

Tourist terms are first divided into groups, based on the area of their usage. In this phase we try to confirm our second hypothesis that the strategy of terms translation depends on the target reader i.e. tourist or professional.

In the third phase of our research we make an attempt to assess the quality of tourist terminology translation. We analyze mistakes, encountered in target tourist texts, roughly dividing them into grave and easy. For the purpose of this paper we consider grave mistakes as those which lead to the breakdown in communication (D.Kelly, 1997) and easy as those which lessen the communicative effect. The criteria for their assessment are based on K.Reiss’ text typology (Reiss, 1971) and P.Newmark’s categorization of translation mistakes (Newmark, 1993).

Finally, we examine the possibilities for standardization of tourist terminology: motivation, benefits, and limitations.

4. Results and Discussion.

4.1 Language of Tourism. Degree of Specialization.

To evaluate the degree of specialization of different types of tourist texts the total of 150 tourist texts were analyzed, English text as the source text and Ukrainian/ Russian text as the target one. The texts were divided into 3 main types, 50 texts in each type:

- description (tourist texts, giving general descriptions of a destination, a sight, type of holiday, including destination description, e.g. countries, areas, regions; vacation descriptions, e.g. beach vacation, sightseeing holiday; tour description, e.g. cruise, excursion)
- information (tourist texts, giving practical information on facilities, appliances and services used and offered, including hotel descriptions, cruise ship descriptions, excursion itinerary, terms and conditions of service, visa and documents information etc)
- professional communication (tourist texts, used to communicate information between tourism professionals, including price lists, application forms, reservation systems, ticketing terms and conditions, booking manuals etc)

Table 1 shows the results of calculations of lexical and term density of all 3 text types:


1st type, description

2nd type, information

3rd type, professional communication





















Table 1. Mean score for lexical and term density of tourist text, where Ld – lexical density, Td – term density, ST – source text, TT – target text.

The analysis reveals that lexical density rate drops in more professional-oriented texts whereas term density rate increases with the degree of professionalization. Some source texts of the 3rd type had the term density rate of about 96%. Some difference was also observed in term density rate between source and target texts of all types. Further analysis showed that the discrepancy has mainly occurred due to the fact that target texts had significantly larger number of words. The difference in language structure rather than the lack of appropriate translation of tourist terminology made for the divergence. The question of translation of tourist terminology remains nevertheless uninvestigated at this stage of the research.

As expected, our analysis proved that the tourist texts, created to convey the information between industry professionals, contain more terminology and less general lexis than those created for the purpose of convincing or informing tourists.

4.2 Tourism terminology. Division into groups.

In order to proceed to the corpus-based study of translation strategies used in tourism, we need to make a distinction between different types of tourism terms. Having analyzed the terms used in the above selected tourist texts; we divided them into the following groups:

- Types of tours and tourism (e.g. agro tourism/ agro tour, incentive tour, rural tourism, space tourism, extreme tours, sustainable tourism, independent travel, self-guided tour, package tour, culinary tourism, Tolkien tour, week-end tour, day trip etc)
- Industry professionals (e.g. guide, event organizer, chef, travel agent, kitchen assistant, airport baggage handler, car valet, tourist information center assistant, delivery assistant, sports therapist, resort representative, outdoor pursuits leader, air traffic controller etc)
- Accommodation (e.g. standard room, daily average rate (DAR), net rate, rack rate, reservation, cancellation, to book, room facilities, SPA, air-conditioning, limited-service hotel, mezzanine, occupancy, vacant, franchisee, staff department, check in, prepaid room etc)
- Catering (e.g. full board, American plan (AP), waiter, white glove service, buffet, a la carte, back of the house, all inclusive, expediter, in the weeds, front of the house, coffee shop, side station, tip, bev nap, cover, comp, half board, table turn, well drink etc)
- Transportation (e.g. charge, refund, non-refundable (NRF), BT, PS, gate, access drive, actual passenger car hours, excess baggage, head end, return ticket, scheduled flight, charter flight, frequent flyer, shoulder, shuttle, cancellation fee/ charge/ penalty etc)
- Excursion (e.g., itinerary, overnight, local venue, sightseeing, city guide, departure point, meeting point, driver-guide, guided tour, shore excursion, step-on guide, excursionist, day visitor, heritage site, meet and greet, hop on hop off etc)

The division of tourism terms is rather relative since terms are interchangeable between groups. For instance, full board or B&B can belong both to accommodation and catering groups, whereas reservation is the term, used in accommodation, catering and excursion groups. Moreover, abbreviations can be found in all groups of tourism terminology. But due to the problems abbreviations create for the translators and readers alike we found it appropriate to form them into a separate group and further investigate strategies for their translation.

Extra problems occur due to the cultural difference in concepts between tourism terms in different countries. The ideal of terminology ‘one concept – one term’ (Taylor, 1998,37) is sometimes not applicable and even misleading when dealing with tourist terms. For example, standards for standard rooms vary between hotels of different countries or even hotels of one and the same country. Economy rooms in some countries offer shared facilities to their guests while economy rooms in other countries offer en suite facilities but have no balcony or are smaller in size. In some countries rooms are qualified as superior or even deluxe though they have the same facilities as the standard rooms in other parts of the world. There is no clear reference concerning bed size as well, therefore, some king-size beds are ‘more king-sized’ than the other ones. Likewise, if there is an abbreviation B&B (or ABF) in a hotel reservation confirmation, some hotels will offer their guests buffet-type breakfast with the wide selection of food while in other hotels the visitors will have set breakfast (e.g. some bacon-and-eggs with a toast, butter, jam and a cup of tea or coffee). Such discrepancies in general tourism concepts add more challenge to the question of standardization of tourism terminology to say nothing of translation itself.

The global nature of tourism is somehow reflected in the existing synonymy of tourist terms. For instance, terms American Plan (AP), full pension (FP) and full board (FB) mean that the price of the room includes three meals a day. Modified American Plan (MAP), half pension (HP) and half board (HB) mean that the room rate includes breakfast and either lunch or dinner. Terms tour manager, tour conductor, tour escort, tour leader, tour director, tour courier are used to name a person escorting tour group during the entire trip. At the same time, in Ukraine and Russia tour manager is used to denote a person, called tour agent or travel agent in other countries.

The cases of polysemy are the most frequent with abbreviations (e.g. FIT is used to denote both free and independent traveler and foreign individual traveler; CTA means Canadian Tourism Alliance and Close to Arrival, AA can denominate American Airlines, Aerolineas Argentinas, Automobile Association, always afloat and apparent attitude and need context-based attention on translator’s part.

The tourism abbreviations are used in all areas of tourism and can be further subdivided into smaller groups according to their function:

-       names of organizations;

-       types of services;

-        professional communication;

The first category groups international and national organizations either state-, public- or private-owned, be it association, authority, company or board having direct or indirect relation to tourism (IATA codes included).

The second category covers all types of services offered in tourism, including types of tours (e.g. FAM, familiarization tour), meal plans, and room categories (e.g. STD, standard, DLX, deluxe) etc.

The third category embraces reservation/ cancellation remarks, jobs, financial notes, and professional slang.

4.3 Strategies for translating tourist terms

English, being generally accepted lingua franca in international tourism, is an inexhaustible source of terms for world languages. And Ukrainian language is not an exception. M. Teresa Cabré states that “from the standpoint of translation as an activity, terminology is conceived as an instrument for translation” (Cabré, 2010,358). The most adopted strategies for translation of terms are different in different language pairs and depend mostly on the target language. Presumably, some of the most frequently used approaches are transliteration/ transcription, calque, gloss translation or the combination of those. We assume as well that the use of functional equivalent is less frequent, partly because of what Cabré calls “inexistence of terminology” (2010,360) in the target language and regards as one of the main translation problems. On the other hand, the “practitioners” (Newmark, 1993,2), usually tend to transfer the new term into the target language without changing its graphic form. It would seem that, acting as “rudimentary translators”, as Taylor puts it (1998,35), they often leave the term unchanged in the target texts creating thus the new loan term. 

The question of translating abbreviations is even more complicated. To the best of our knowledge, there are cases when even professionals cannot decipher the acronym easily. Peter Newmark suggests the following procedures for rendering acronyms: transference, reconstitution of acronym, definition, combination of transference and definition, writing out in source language and translating in full (Newmark, 1993,138).

 The following tourist text was taken from airline fare rules, applied to the air ticket, reserved for the return flight from Kyiv to Paris:


any time  ticket is non-refundable. changes not permitted.note -  when combining on a half roundtrip basis the  penalty conditions for each fare component apply. yq/yr charges are non-refundable. refund of unused taxes permitted for fully unused  fare component.if part of fare component is used - in this case no tax refund will be change permitted for a fee and upgrade.  please contact bt for more details.

1 - psgr p1 adt  rules display  fare component 

2    adt pariev bt  puath9   pu 1 s

fcl: puath9    trf:  21 rule: 5502 bk:  p

ptc: adt-adult              ftc: xpv-inst purch nonref 2nd lvl


The term density of the above text is 95,7% and the text is mainly used and translated for the professionals, though the relevant abstracts from the full set of rules are translated for the passengers as well. Having compared the two kinds of Ukrainian translation (tourist-oriented and professional-oriented) we noticed that the tourist-oriented target text was comprised of the fully-translated acronyms and either calqued or transliterated (sometimes with the gloss) terms. At the same time, the text, intended for professional use, contained transferred acronyms, transliterated terms and extended linguistic structure. The term density of the tourist-targeted translation dropped to 35,6% while the practitioner-oriented translation term density was left almost unchanged – 92,5%.

To determine whether the above case was generally adopted we compared the existing parallel target tourist texts. The study showed that mainly the texts of the 3rd type (as defined in 4.1) had parallel tourist-oriented and professional-oriented target texts. The translation strategy used was almost identical to the described above – tourist-oriented texts were translated using neutralized terminology and written out acronyms, whereas the professional-oriented translation contained source acronyms and proper terms. The term density of tourist-targeted texts usually was a third of that of the source one while professional-oriented ones retained the initial term density. The mean data are as follows: 31,6% and 84,8 % Td respectively. Interestingly, parallel tourist-oriented neutralized texts were created when the circumstances required of a tourist to be aware of some potentially unfavorable terms and conditions of service (charges, supplements, extra fees, fines etc).

Further research into the strategies used for translating tourist texts was carried out to prove the above preliminary hypothesis concerning the common translation methods. The parallel English and Ukrainian tourism terminology corpora were created using CATMA 4 software.

We used the following translation methods for comparison:

-       transcription/ transliteration –graphical rendering of either form or sound of the term;

-       calque – literal translation of a term;

-       transference – retaining terms in its source form without any adaptation;

-       gloss translation – explanatory remarks, often in the form of footnotes

-       functional equivalent – any previously existing in TL term denoting the same or similar concept;

-       neutralizing – translation using general lexis;

-       zero translation – term omission;

-       addition – adding a term in TT instead of the general lexical unit from the ST.

The results of the investigation are shown in Table 2 below:


Transcription/ transliteration





Functional equivalent


Zero translation


1st type, descriptions









2nd type, information









3rd type, professional communication









Table 2. Strategies, used for translating tourist terms. Corpus-based study.

Surprisingly, the results of our study failed to prove the preliminary hypothesis to the full extend. Instead of expected high transcription/transliteration, calque and gloss translation rate, the investigation showed that the functional equivalent, neutralizing and addition were the most frequently used translation methods for the first type of tourist text. The translation of the second type texts showed high percentage of calque, transliteration and functional equivalent in the target texts, whereas the third type texts preferred transference, calque and functional equivalent approaches. Gloss translation occurred less frequently than expected, perhaps, due to its verbosity. Typically though, gloss translation is more often used in the 2nd type target texts, the texts which offer necessary tourist information, thus requiring more explanatory details.

4.4 Quality Assessment of Tourist Terms Translation

The question of quality assessment is rather ambiguous. To the best of our knowledge, there are no universal generally accepted criteria to assess the quality of translation. Much depends on the type of the text, genre, source text and target language conventions. Functionalist theory (Reiss, Vermeer, Nord) considers a target reader as the driving force for the translation decision-making process and a commissioner as the decision-coordinating factor. M.Teresa Cabré points out that “conciseness, accuracy and adequacy are the most relevant criteria”(2010:361) to assess specialized discourse. Leaving behind the controversial nature of translation appropriateness on text level we move down to the word level in an attempt to evaluate the mistakes made in translating tourism terminology.

Peter Newmark (1993,29) divides translation mistakes into two major categories – misleading and nuanced. Misleading mistakes are further subdivided into referential and linguistic ones whereas nuanced are subdivided into stylistic and lexical ones. For the purpose of this investigation we adopt Dorothy Kelly’s “breakdown in communication approach” and combine it with the functionalist approach thus obtaining three types of mistakes:

- Mistranslations;
- Misinterpretations;
- Nontranslations.

Mistranslations are considered to be grave mistakes, leading to the breakdown in communication (Kelly, 1997), misinterpretations are regarded here as being relatively easy mistakes, leading to the lessening of communicative effect, and nontranslations are context-dependent and can be either grave or easy.

The first type, mistranslations of tourism terms can result in considerable breakdown in communication. Based on the results of our investigation we can assume that these mistakes occur because of either conceptual problems or lack of linguistic competence.
The second type, misinterpretations lessen the communicative effect of the source term. The reasons for their occurrence are two-fold as well – either conceptual deficiency or lack of knowledge.

The third type of mistake, nontranslations, can both lead to the communication breakdown and lessen communicative effect. The consequences depend on the context.

Table 3 below gives some examples of translation mistakes met in tourist texts. The target text column shows the Ukrainian or Russian term, back translated into English:


Source text

Target text

Mistranslation, grave












Misinterpretation, easy

expert guided tour

guided tour


family-owned hotel

family-friendly hotel

Nontranslation, grave

shore excursion

magnificent places


port of call


Nontranslation, easy

water sports: surfing, windsurfing, water-skiing.

water sports.

Table 3. Terminological translation mistakes in English – Ukrainian tourist texts.

The table shows but few translation mistakes found in the analyzed tourist text. Our analysis took notice only of mistakes in translating tourism terms. Grammar, stylistic, pragmatic et al mistakes were left out of research with the intention of future investigations.

The above examples of mistranslations are considered grave due to their conceptual non-equivalence. Tourists, engaged in windsurfing are likely to stay at the hotel that offers the windsurfing equipment as opposed to the surfing facilities. Likewise, tourists, wishing to be qualified for, e.g. Diver Certificate with all probability will not stay at a hotel offering swimming or snorkeling. However, nontranslation of particular types of water sports is regarded as easy, i.e. lessening the communicative effect mistake. The tourist, wishing to be engaged in some kind of water sports will be delighted to see that the establishment offers this type of service. Moreover, he is the most likely to make some extra enquiries regarding the particular kind of sports.

On the contrary, nontranslation of the terms shore excursion and port of call is considered as being a grave mistake, since the target text fails to explain whether the cruise itinerary provides for the reaching of the desired destination.

Misinterpretation of the term family-owned as family-oriented results in receiving the misleading information in the target text. The reader would receive implicit information that the establishment offers some kinds of family-oriented services whereas the source text term implicates mostly the size of the hotel. Family-owned hotels are usually smaller, with a little number of rooms, cozy and quiet establishments. Nevertheless, the mistake is labeled easy because the hotel description gives explicit information regarding number of rooms, their size and any extra services.

Misinterpretation of the term expert guided tour, i.e. lack of the adjective expert in the target text lessens the communicative effect on the reader. The source attribute expert adds to the feeling of respectfulness and confidence towards the tour leader.

The average ratio of translation mistakes is as follows:

Mistranslations – 37,6%

Misinterpretations – 19,2%

Nontranslations (grave) – 22,5%

Nontranslations (easy) – 20,7%.

The above analysis did not show the correlation between the examples of proper translation and mistakes. This topic is reserved for the future work on the subject.

4.5 Standardization of tourism terminology. Motivation, benefits and limitations.

International traveling progress shows no signs of slowing down and consequently supply and demand development and creation of new terminology proceeds rapidly. Hence the need for the standardization of tourism terminology raises new questions and creates new challenges. Christopher Taylor states that “standardization procedures are still being refined and are still far from complete” (Taylor, 1998,37). Juan C.Sager considers the standardization to be a two-step process consisting of “a) unifying and fixing each referent, and b) unifying and standardizing its designation” (Sager, 2001,255). Being far from transcendental idea of immediate consolidation of translators, tourism professionals and tourists we still want to raise the question of standardization of tourism terminology. As was mentioned above (cf. 4.2) there exists considerable discrepancy in the concepts of some tourist terms. Tourists, booking a 5-star hotel abroad cannot be completely positive about its ‘5-starness’. One country’s 5-star hotel is the other country’s 3-star hotel. The common question of a tourist’s traveling experience and background knowledge of facilities, that travel agent asks before dealing with holiday arrangements raises “security and safety considerations” (Sager, 2001,255). Additional comments are often added to relate the linguistic form and the corresponding concept of some tourism terms. Hence the motivation is substantiated for raising the level of appropriateness between the term and the concept when dealing with tourism terminology.

The benefits of the standardization process can immediately be revealed through the raising quality of translation in the industry of tourism. Standard terms can help translators recreate the communicative effect of a source text in a target text. There will be no need for clumsy glosses supposed to explain to a reader the exact concept of tourist denotatum. Thus the higher level of precision can be achieved and all the misunderstandings avoided.

However, we do understand all the limitations for the process. The global nature of tourism itself points at the biggest limitation to standardization probability. Furthermore, the rapid development of international traveling creates new concepts and influences term formation. Still, further investigations into tourism terminology can add to the future opportunities to unify all the referents and designations in the industry of tourism.

Our work made an attempt to prove that the level of term density of tourist texts is receiver-dependent, future research could lead to higher generalization of our results. Besides, our work left behind the relevant question of the practice of acronyms formation and usage in tourism. Moreover, the methods of translation of tourism abbreviations leave much space for further investigations.

The results of our study seem to show that the translation of tourism terminology is likewise reader-dependent. The preliminary analysis of translation mistakes shows that much is left to be desired by means of translation quality. Further investigations can determine the correlation between proper and improper translation of tourist terms.

5. Conclusions.

Our work has led us to conclude that the term density of tourist texts increases with the degree of specialization of a text. The text, used for professional communication between tourism specialists can be unintelligible for the common tourist. Thus, the tourist texts with high level of term density are neutralized when translating for the tourist, whereas professional-oriented target texts retain the high level of term density if compared to the source text. In general, therefore, it seems that the quality of tourism translation is largely influenced by the means of translating tourism terminology. Abbreviations in tourism texts and strategies for their translation need further investigations outside this paper. The paper gives the comprehensive review of means and ways of tourism terminology translation and can add to the future process of achieving generally accepted standards for using, creating and translating tourism terminology. The possibility of creating the universal standards for forming multilingual corpus in the filed of specialized tourism discourse lies in the hands of future researchers into the subject.


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