In this video, I will illustrate the term ‘linking’ which refers to the joining together of words. In order to have a smooth, connected delivery, it is necessary to emphasize certain aspects of the joining of words. For example, there is the tendency in naturally-spoken English to attach the final consonant of one word to the first syllable of the next, especially if the second word begins with a vowel. Listen to this example:
Reading slowly you can hear that the ‘t’ of ‘what’ is actually the beginning of the word ‘is’ and the final voiced ‘s’ of ‘is’ seems to be the beginning of the word ‘it’.
Native English speakers generally speak by linking words and almost never break the individual words apart unless they slow down. These spoken connections can be represented in phonetic transcriptions. So the first consideration of connected speech is the linking between words.
There are other occurrences of linking that happen in normal spoken English language. Sometimes when two words are joined together, we interpolate and extra sound. Look at the next example and listen:
The sounds that are produced between the words are called semivowels or ‘glides’ and they are indicated in the phonetic transcription with a smaller letter that is slightly raised from the base line and extra spaces between the words. Note that the linking line, which indicates the sound to and from the glide, is placed directly before and after the smaller and slightly raised letter.
When the ending of one word blends into the sound of the beginning of the following word, assimilation takes place. In other words when certain words are joined together in natural speech, we add a new sound as a combination of the two original sounds. Final ‘t’s and ‘d’s when followed by words like ‘you’ or ‘your’ take on a different character or sound. Look at the next example:
The next ‘linking’ sound that we will see is also a form of assimilation. It occurs in the presence of consonant sounds called ‘plosives’. This group includes the sounds of t, d, k, ɡ, b and p. In order to produce these sounds the mouth goes through three phases; firstly catching the air, holding the air causing pressure to build up, and releasing or exploding as the closure is opened. When two consecutive words end and begin with a similar ‘plosive’ consonant, the first consonant is not exploded but held for an instant. Sometimes the first sound actually is substituted for another. In cases like these, the first consonant is transcribed in brackets. For example:
The last linking sound we will consider is actually the same as the previous assimilation. But in this case the consonants are long, like ‘l’, ‘s’ and ‘n’. So we can see them transcribed with a dash instead of brackets. The transcription occurs when the last sound of the first word and the first sound of the second word are the same. See the example:
Of course there are many other examples of linked speech. For example, assimilation happens with words that end in ‘ng’ when followed with words that begin with a vowel. Sometimes, sounds disappear. Final ‘s’s, often disappear in normal speech when followed by an initial consonant of the same family like ‘s’ or sh’. There are considerations for the ‘r’ sound which can also be analysed. But the main linking sounds which may help you speak more naturally have been introduced.
A successful English course should, in particular, help learners speak English, accurately and fluently. Most English courses try to spread the language learning into four skills: reading, writing, listening and speaking which is ok if you have many years to dedicate to learning the language. However, if the student can demonstrate a good grasp of the speaking skill, that student will usually have good results with the other skills.
Therefore, the most important concept for the language learner and the teacher is that the student must speak English and communicate throughout the lesson. In order for the teacher to help the student make progress, he or she must provide opportunities for the student to speak. In turn, the teacher must also speak clearly and listen attentively to what the student says.
Ok, that said, what does phonetics have to do with speaking English effectively?
The term “language” has many different meanings. Listen to this:
The systematic creation and usage of symbols and sounds is an essential manifestation of language. Each of these factors, the symbol or alphabet, and the correspondent sound is regulated through social conventions differing from language to language.
Many languages use sounds which try to correspond to their alphabet. For example in the Italian language, spelling and pronunciation go hand in hand. Consider the words:
They all contain the letter A, which is always pronounced in the same way.
Now consider some English words:
They also contain the letter A, as far as spelling is concerned – but what about the pronunciation? Mark, make, man, machine. There are a total of four As, but they’re all pronounced differently.
The International Phonetic Association – IPA for short– has created a series of symbols – the phonetic alphabet – which we can use to indicate precisely the pronunciation of these words.
Each symbol represents one and only one sound. An A with two dots after it is a long AH sound, as in our first word, mark. The vowel sound of make is actually a double vowel or diphthong – make – and is represented by a composite symbol: make. Man contains a vowel sound that we transcribe with a sort of curlicue symbol: man. And finally, the A in the word machine is pronounced as a very weak, indistinct sound represented by an upside-down E: machine…
Another problem for learners is that many letters in the spelling of English words are not pronounced at all.
Consider our word make . The E at the end is silent, so it does not appear in the transcription.
Something similar happens in the word mark – though this may come as a surprise if you’re from Scotland, Ireland, the U.S. or Canada! The R in this word is not pronounced at all in the conventional pronunciation that is reflected in usual British transcriptions: mark…
Consider these words: the noun sea, as in the Mediterranean Sea; the verb to see, and the name of the letter C, or a musical note, as in middle C. These words are pronounced exactly alike; therefore they have the same phonetic transcription, even though the spelling is quite different.
Some more examples are the verb to be, the honey-making insect, bee, and the second letter of the alphabet, also a musical note, B. Likewise tea that you drink, a tee that a golfer uses, and the letter used in spelling these words, T.
As you can “see”, the phonetic symbol for the vowel sound in all of these words is an I followed by two dots.
Some letters found in the spelling of words become superfluous in the phonetic transcription.
For example, the letter X as in fax is really a combination of the two sounds K and S: fax…
The letter Q, followed by U, as in queen is transcribed into phonetics by K and W: queen…
A hard C, as in car, is transcribed with a K: car… But a soft C, as in cent, is represented by an S: cent…
Some combinations of letters in the spelling – such as PH, SH and CH – actually represent a single sound. For example, the PH of phase has the sound of an F phase… And, by the way, notice how the S in this word is transcribed!
Some words are represented by symbols that do not correspond to normal letters of the alphabet. The initial sound of the word sheep, for example, is represented by a sort of stretched-out S: sheep…
For CH as in cheap we find a combination symbol that begins with a T: cheap…
Now let’s examine a complete transcription of one of our first example words, machine:
Only the initial M and the final N are normal letters of the alphabet. The three phonetic symbols in the middle may still look a bit strange to you, but the sounds they represent are perfectly familiar: machine…
I hope that I have been able to demonstrate how a phonetic transcription can be used to indicate precisely the pronunciation of English words, and also to show you some of the ways that the transcription can differ from the actual spelling of the word.
Always bear in mind, however, that the transcriptions we use reflect just one variety of English – which most likely does not correspond one hundred percent to the way any of us actually speak.
So… why do we use it? Because the phonetic alphabet provides teachers and students with a single, common point of reference that we can all use for the complicated business of teaching –and learning – English.
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This presentation is the second part of an overview of the symbols that we use in our phonetic transcriptions. Last time we looked at the consonants. Today we will see the vowels. Let’s start with some numbers.
These numbers contain quite a selection of vowel sounds. To begin with, look at one, six, seven and ten. These words contain short vowels. In seven and ten we find a perfectly normal short ‘e’ sound. In six there is a sort of miniature capital ‘I’ symbol representing the short sound ‘i’. But in one we find a totally unusual symbol, a sort of upside-down V, or a small capital A without the crossbar; another short vowel sound.
Now let’s look at two, three and four. The two dots to the right of the letter indicate that these are long vowels: two, three, four. And note that the final R in the word four does not appear in the transcription.
The remaining numbers are five, eight and nine. The vowel sounds here are called diphthongs, which means that the sound glides from one vowel to the other. These diphthongs are indicated by the double symbols A-plus-I for five and nine, and E-plus-I for eight:
In the numbers one, six, seven and ten we encountered three short vowel sounds. There are three more to go. They are the sounds of words like: clock, stop – that, hat – put, book.
My pronunciation may not correspond to every English-speaker’s pronunciation of these words – My American accent produces “clock” and “stop” rather than a more British sounding clock and stop, and the other words have a variety of pronunciations in various parts of the British Isles. So pay special attention to these when you study the phonetic alphabet.
There is actually one more short vowel, but it is in a class by itself. It is the weak neutral sound that we hear in the first syllable of the word machine – in the definite article: the machine – and in the indefinite article: a machine – and it is the only phonetic symbol that has a proper name: schwa. We find this sound at the end of words like writer, director, photographer. As usual, the final R is not heard, in our conventional pronunciation.
As we have seen, the numbers two, three and four all contain long vowels – the ones with the two dots after them. There are five long vowels all together. The other two are found in the words first and last: Once again you may have to make some adjustments for the different pronunciations according to the speaker’s accent:
In our numbers one to ten we met two diphthongs – the sound EI in eight and the sound AI in five and nine. Another diphthong that ends with the short ‘I’ symbol is found in the word join.
There are two diphthongs that end with a short U symbol. Sample words are how and so.
There are three diphthongs that end with the neutral symbol we sometimes call schwa. Key words for these are here, there and tour. As usual, there is no R sound at the end of these words.
Lastly, Triphthongs are simply diphthongs with a neutral schwa sound at the end. In our transcriptions we consider two principal triphthongs: the vowel sounds in flower and fire: Be careful not to pronounce a final R in these words:
There you are: We’ve finished the phonetics for the English words. Good luck with your phonetics study! Until next time – ciao!
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This presentation will give you an overview of the consonant symbols that are used in phonetic transcriptions.
Let’s analyze the English alphabet for these sounds, just to give you a general idea of what to expect when you begin to study the phonetic symbols.
All together, there are 24 symbols for the various consonant sounds of English.
Sixteen of these correspond to letters of the normal alphabet: P, B – T, D – K, G – F, V – S, Zee or Zed – M, N – H, W, L and R.
Note that the symbol K applies not only to words spelled with a K, such as key, but also to words that contain a hard C, such as car and key. The symbol G only refers to the hard G of get. The symbol zed – or if you prefer, zee – corresponds to the initial sound of zero, but also to the voiced S in phase: The symbol S is the unvoiced S of save, which is the same sound as the soft C in face: By the way, in case you are unfamiliar with the terms “voiced” and “unvoiced” – when we pronounce a voiced consonant we use our vocal cords, as in zero and phase. An unvoiced consonant is made without the vocal cords, as in save and face.
The next four consonant symbols are all related to S and Z. These symbols may seem a bit strange, but the sounds are very straightforward. We begin with the sound that is spelled S-H in the word sheep, and C-H in the word quiche. The next symbol – a composite symbol — corresponds to the C-H of cheap, and the T-C-H of catch. These two symbols represent unvoiced consonants. The next two are the equivalent voiced consonants, the sound of the S in measure or the G in beige, and the sound of J un jump, or G in general.
And now for the last four consonant symbols. The first is a normal J, but the sound is that of a Y in normal spelling: yellow, yesterday. Next, we have a sort of N with a tail on it. This represents the N-G sound of words like long and going. The last two symbols refer to the two different ways of pronouncing T-H: the unvoiced T-H of thanks, and nothing, and the voiced T-H of then and weather.
Next time we will look at the vowel sounds. I hope you have enjoyed this little presentation. Thank you for listening.
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Hello again. Welcome to another edition of a video task.
Today I’m going to talk about pronunciation, just in general. What’s so important about pronunciation. Well, pronunciation is a vital part of learning a language. It aides in the communication, certainly.
We can talk about two different kinds of mistakes really, there’s a kind of mistake that has to do with grammar, which you can see in the example of: My brother don’t speak French. OK, now, if you say, “My brother don’t speak French.” people will understand you. It’s a mistake, it’s a bad grammatical mistake because you should be saying “My brother doesn’t speak French.” but people will understand you because this is a non-impeding mistake. It’s a mistake that people will understand.
Now, let’s hear a pronunciation mistake. “My brother has got a b—.” Well, I’m sorry but I just have to ask you to repeat that last word again. I did not understand. “Your brother has got a b—?” What?
No! ..a BOAT! Ah! Of course. A boat.
You see, this is an impeding error. This is a mistake that makes the communication breakdown. And so we have to bring in other kinds of linguistic devices in order to understand each other. Well, communication is conveying messages and when you’re talking about spoken English, which is what I’m interested in, then the spoken English is through sounds.
Sounds are important. That’s the basic bottom line. Learn to hear the sounds, learn to make the sounds. So, you’ve convinced me. What do I need to do to improve my pronunciation? How do I study pronunciation? Well, like I said, you start with the sounds, the individual sounds. OK, the sounds can be represented in phonetics by the IPA, The International Phonetics Alphabet. These symbols should be learned. If you learn these symbols, they will come in handy for all the languages that you learn, not just English. They’re international.
You start with the phonetics. Then (and that’s an important THEN), you work your way to the words and the phrases and finally intonation. Intonation is also important. But it’s very, very, very difficult. Symbols, Words, Phrases, Intonation. There you go. That’s what you need to learn. That’s what will help your pronunciation, and the most important, the most important are the phrases because it’s the linking between the words that is so important.
Let me make you a practical example: “Don’t you like French?” What? Chew? What did he say? “Chew? Doen chew like French?” Here’s the spelling of this phrase.
Don’t you like French?
Now look at the phonetic symbols for the sounds of this phrase:
“Don’t you…” becomes “Doenchew”. That’s linking and that’s the way people speak English. That’s the way people speak naturally.
Okay, so you can help yourself with having the words and the linking. Its almost useless to study phonetics just for the words. If you want to speak English you have to have words and linking.
Okay, thank you very much for listening, watching and reading my video task. Good-bye.
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I’m making this video as a project to help students of the English language to obtain competency in comprehension through listening. The video-task is quite simple, the learner should play the video while following the written text below the video player. After listening to the video and following the text once, the learner should listen to the video again after looking up any words that are not understood. You can listen to the video as many times as you like and you can repeat the lines from the video checking your pronunciation. Stronger learners can play the video directly and check the comprehension after the video has finished by looking at the text.
The concept behind the video-task is simple. You hear the sound of an English word or an English phrase and you can immediately check its spelling. Therefore, you have the sound memory of the word in the way that it is pronounced associated with this spelling. By practicing in this way, the learner associates sounds with spelling. By watching the video as well as listening and reading, you are multitasking. Multitasking is doing different things at the same time, for example walking and talking. Watching and listening and reading can be difficult together, but with practice, the results are very good. You will learn chunks of language with patterns and pronunciation in a synthetic way.
I remember when I first started watching television newscasts that broadcasted a scripted line that moved across the bottom of the screen. This was a new technology for the industry that allowed them to give the most important news items in a written form while the newscaster spoke about other items. I had a hard time trying to decide whether to follow the written word, or listen to the newscaster. I remember it was difficult for me, but with practice, I became used to listening to the speaker and following the text. It was difficult because the speaker told one story and the text told another – no association.
In this video-task, the written words and the sounds are associated. So it’s not as difficult. I have seen good results with this kind of exercise.
Thank you for listening and watching and reading me. I hope that this video-task has been interesting for you and I look forward to the next edition.
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What is Received Pronunciation?
Received Pronunciation, known as RP for short, is considered as a ‘typically British’ social accent. Often referred to as ‘The Queen’s English’, ‘Oxford English’ or ‘BBC English’, RP is not to be confused with a dialect which uses non-standard grammatical structures and geographically-limited vocabulary. RP does not reveal a person’s geographic background, as much as it hints about the social or educational heritage of the speaker. Many common dictionaries use this accent as the basis for standard phonemic transcriptions. (See IPA)
Pronunciation as an ATTITUDE
Daniel Jones, the famous phonetician, used RP for his book An English Pronouncing Dictionary (1917) and he defined it as ‘received’ instead of ‘accepted’. He also used the term ‘Public School Pronunciation’ to describe the accent of public schools and universities of nineteenth-century Britain. The book attempted to define a pronunciation model which was used in a common social class, namely educated people in southern England. In a short time, the upper classes, attending boarding schools such as Winchester, Eton, Harrow and Rugby and graduating from the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge, propagated this accent throughout the south-east Midlands (London, Oxford and Cambridge). Another important step towards recognition of RP as a standard accent was taken in 1922 when RP was adopted as the broadcasting standard of the BBC. This practice prevailed at the BBC up to recent times.
Like any other accent, RP has also changed over the course of time. The voices associated with early BBC broadcasts, for instance, may sound extremely old-fashioned to listeners today. Just as RP is constantly evolving, so our attitude about the accent is changing. In learning English as a second language, many students feel considerable pressure to conform their accents to RP. In fact, RP is widely studied, described and frequently preferred to other accents. However, since virtually every English accent is taught in some place on the planet, RP has lost it’s primacy as the ‘only’ acceptable accent. Paradoxically, younger British RP speakers often go to great lengths to disguise their middle-class accent by incorporating regional features into their speech.
Nowadays, only a small percentage of British speakers use RP but it has an important role as a model for teaching pronunciation of English as a foreign language. One should realize that RP is chosen not because of some intrinsic quality or attribute that places it above other English accents, but simply because it can be used more effectively as a familiar model. In my opinion, RP represents a sort of centre of the spoken sphere of English. Given this position, an English learner can more easily understand the other accents which form spin-offs of the easily recognizable RP model. I wouldn’t say that the model phonemes of RP are any more or less difficult to produce for the foreign learner than other accents. However, when a student learns to master the RP sounds, the student is in a better position to comprehend other accents of the English language.
Let me HEAR more!
You can listen to some example phrases for the most important lexical sets of Received Pronunciation – you might call them “Signature Sounds,” as Paul Meier does.
Another subject of interest is the lexical changes in a topographical region. For example, the UK has a rich landscape of regional accents and dialects, each evidence of our society’ s continuity and change. If you would like to explore the diversity of spoken English in the second half of the twentieth century you can visit a wonderful site called ‘Sounds Familiar?‘.
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Who Is Stephen Crashen?
Stephen Krashen, an expert linguist specialized in theories of language acquisition and development has researched the area of non-English and bilingual language acquisition.
In what he originally called the input hypothesis, Krashen claims that humans acquire language only through comprehensible input.
“Language acquisition does not require extensive use of conscious grammatical rules, and does not require tedious drill.”
“Acquisition requires meaningful interaction in the target language – natural communication – in which speakers are concerned not with the form of their utterances but with the messages they are conveying and understanding.”
“The best methods are therefore those that supply ‘comprehensible input’ in low anxiety situations, containing messages that students really want to hear. These methods do not force early production in the second language, but allow students to produce when they are ‘ready’, recognizing that improvement comes from supplying communicative and comprehensible input, and not from forcing and correcting production.”
“In the real world, conversations with sympathetic native speakers who are willing to help the acquirer understand are very helpful.“
How Many Language Structures Can Humanity Acquire?
Let’s look at a formula he created:
If I represents previously acquired linguistic competence and contextual knowledge, the formula can express that humans move from i to i+1 by understanding input that contains i+1. The +1 represents new knowledge or language structures that humans have the capacity to acquire.
It is important to understand that just any input is not sufficient to be +1 but the supposed input must be comprehensible.
What Are The Consequences of Krashen’s Hypothesis?
Talking (output) is not acquisition.Simply speaking in the target language does not result inevitably in language acquisition. Although speaking can indirectly assist in language acquisition, the ability to speak (output) is not the cause of language learning or acquisition but is the result of language acquisition. This does not necessarily imply progress.Today, especially on the Internet, one finds many teachers who are willing to spend their time in simple conversation with the student.My experience with students who have this type of ‘English learning’ in mind has been disappointing. Most students are intelligent enough to see for themselves that just talking does not guarantee progress.
When enough comprehensible input is provided, i+1 is present (progress).If the language presented in the learner’s course, through materials and teachers’ participation, provides enough comprehensible input (especially through the use of comprehensible examples), then the structures can be acquired. Of course, this does not mean the learner will produce perfect output of the newly acquired structure but grammatical accuracy can be ascertained and developed better in this method than by direct grammar teaching.
The teaching order is not based on the natural order
Learners will acquire the language in a natural order by receiving comprehensible input.
The teacher and the choice of materials should enhance the quickness by which the learner takes the necessary steps in an natural order.
Krashen’s Theory Applications
Class time should be filled with as much comprehensible oral input as possible
Teachers must modify their speech so that it is comprehensible
Focus of instruction is on the meaning and not the form
The Acquisition-Learning Hypothesis
The acquisition-learning hypothesis is probably the most important of Krashen’s theories and the most widely known. According to the theory, there are two independent systems of second language performance: ‘the acquired system‘ and ‘the learned system‘.
The ‘acquired system‘ or ‘acquisition‘ is the product of a subconscious process similar to the natural process of acquisition in L1. This process requires meaningful interaction in the target language – natural communication – in which participants are mainly concentrated in the communicative act and not so much in the form of their utterances.
The ‘learned system‘ or ‘learning‘ is the product of formal instruction and it comprises a conscious process which results in conscious knowledge ‘about‘ the language, for example knowledge of grammar rules. According to Krashen ‘learning‘ is less important than ‘acquisition‘.
In my experience the balance of these two factors is about 80% acquisition and 20% learning. Krashen seems to oppose ‘learning‘ to ‘acquisition‘ but I think these two concepts work together in an efficient way.
The Monitor Hypothesis
The Monitor hypothesis helps to understand the relationship between acquisition and learning.
The monitoring function is the practical result of the learned grammar.
The acquisition system is the utterance initiator, while the learning system performs the role of the ‘monitor‘ or the ‘editor‘. The ‘monitor‘ acts in a planning, editing and correcting function when three specific conditions are met:
The second language learner has sufficient time at his/her disposal. (This influences the hesitations and pauses that the learner makes.)
The learner focuses on form or thinks about correctness (This influences the delivery of the utterance.)
The learner knows and uses the correct rule (This can be called ‘accuracy‘ of the utterance.)
In practical terms of learning, the role of the monitor is – or should be – a minor one. One practical use of the monitor would be initiated by the teacher to correct deviations from ‘normal’ speech and to give the learner’s speech a more ‘polished’ appearance.
The Natural Order hypothesis suggests that the acquisition of grammatical structures follows a ‘natural order’ which is predictable. For any given language, certain grammatical structures are acquired immediately while others take more time.
The implication of the natural order hypothesis is that a language program syllabus drives the learner into a pre-determined path of studies and rejects grammatical sequencing when the goal is language acquisition.
The Input hypothesis is Krashen’s attempt to explain how the learner ‘acquires’ a second language.
The Input hypothesis is only concerned with ‘acquisition‘, not ‘learning‘.
The acquirer’ experiences progress in the target language in the ‘natural order’ when he/she receives second language ‘input’. As stated before, it is important that the ‘input‘ is one step beyond the acquirer’s current stage of linguistic competence.
The Affective Filter hypothesis explains that a number of ‘affective variables’ play a helpful role in second language acquisition. These variables include: motivation, self-confidence and anxiety.
Learners with high motivation, self-confidence, a good self-image, and a low level of anxiety will be more successful in second language acquisition. On the other hand, low motivation, low self-esteem, and anxiety can combine to ‘raise‘ a sort of ‘affective filter‘. This mental block prevents comprehensible input from serving its purpose for successful acquisition. One must keep in mind however, that even when positive affective variables are present it is not always sufficient on its own for acquisition to take place.
This is a vital key for the success of the relationship between teacher and learner. When both participants are genuinely involved in real communication, the lesson has more possibilities for learning to take place (and can be fun as well!).
The Role of Grammar in Krashen’s View
The only instance in which the teaching of grammar can result in language acquisition (and proficiency) is when the student and teacher are interested in the subject at hand and the target language is used for the explanation.
Very often, both teachers and students are convinced that the study of formal grammar is essential for second language acquisition.
When the skillful teacher can talk about grammar as the requirement for comprehensible input, coupled with the students’ genuine participation, the explanation is suitable for language acquisition. When the affective filter is low and the learner’s conscious efforts are on the subject matter the attention is on what is being talked about and not the medium.
Teachers and learners should be careful not to deceiving themselves. They can easily believe that it is the study of grammar that is responsible for the learners’ progress. In reality, when grammar is used as a meta-language for talking about grammar, progress comes from the medium and not the message. Any subject matter that holds the learner’s interest would do just as well.
In my work as a teacher, language-course writer, teacher-trainer and student of languages, I have seen where the benefits of comprehensive input can guarantee a measurable success in the learning experience.
Comprehensive input, when used skilfully by a knowledgeable teacher, should be the basis of each language lesson and, like a locomotive, can improve all of the language tasks (writing, reading, listening and speaking).
Furthermore, since most language learners are primarily interested in speaking and understanding the target language, comprehensive input, that leads to comprehensive output is probably what most learners are seeking in their language courses.