I have Terminology 101, where I have included all the information on the basics on terminology, then TermFinder comes out from being a submenu to shine on its own as a Menu item, I created Project Management 101 to include the posts what I will be publishing about terminology project management and also a new section called “Infographs” to add the infographs which are so popular.
With this new organization I hope that readers will find information more easily. Let me know what you think.
I always try to go back and check my links and see if the information is still available, but let me know if you ever find a broken link.
So, what’s in the works? A new interview, a new post on project management, and possibly a new infograph. Yay! How exciting! I wish this was my full-time job! But, hey!, at least I enjoy what I do and I want to thank you again for your support. Without you, I probably wouldn’t be doing this.
And I also I want to take this opportunity to welcome my new readers. ¡Gracias! Merci! Obrigada! Please share my blog and remember that I also share my posts and other interesting info in my twitter account @patriciambr.
Have a great Season and don’t forget to bundle up!
A few years ago I was visiting a friend in Geneva and every time I walked passed WIPO’s headquarters I felt a particular attraction. I don’t know if it was that beautiful building, or if it’s just a coincidence that a few years later I am interviewing a terminology expert who worked at WIPO. It is a great honor to talk to Sérgio Barros, a Portuguese linguist and terminologist and author of several articles on terminology (See publications and presentations in his website). Thank you for this unique opportunity to peek inside your terminology world.
- I have always worked for international organizations and I know that you have to deal with many languages at the same time and with people with different cultural backgrounds. What has been your experience as a fellow terminologist in that multicultural and multilingual environment?
Working as a Fellow in the patent translation department at WIPO was an invaluable experience. Not only did the fellowship allow me to improve my skills in terminology, but it also further instilled in me a passionate interest in languages. It motivated me to improve the languages that I speak and it sparked my interest in learning one or two more, maybe Arabic or German… I think that’s because I’ve met interesting people, many of them incredible polyglots.
Many of the people that I’ve met have a special interest in the Spanish language and culture. Chinese and Japanese are particularly relevant in the world of intellectual property, judging by the number of patent applications submitted by their countries. Portuguese may not be regarded as an important language to learn but I believe that it will gain more importance in the future as a strategic factor in business and economy-related environments.
Working in an environment with such richness of languages gave me access to cultural believes and traditions from countries near Portugal such as Spain, France and Switzerland, and as distant as Lebanon, Russia, China, Japan, Korea, or the USA. In the end it became the perfect context to promote my own country.
The period that I’ve spent in Geneva also allowed me to engage in a sporting life with Team WIPO, a group of fellows and colleagues who usually run along the shore of Lac Léman or in the woodsy scenery of Chambésy, just for fun or in competitions. In a nutshell, I can say that I’ve lived the “WIPO experience” to its fullest, fruitfully combining work and leisure.
- How is terminology managed at WIPO? Do you have a guide or are there any established procedures to manage terminology?
One of the main goals of the Terminology Unit at the WIPO is to provide terminology support to the PCT Translation Service that is responsible for patent translation at WIPO. One example is a termbase that is now publicly available on the WIPO website. WIPO Pearl contains terminology extracted from a large corpus of patent documents that is searchable in PATENTSCOPE, also on the WIPO website. Since the termbase covers ten languages (Arabic, German, English, Spanish, French, Japanese, Korean, Portuguese, Russian, and Chinese) it is essential that all contributors follow a common set of guidelines, that they create terminological records in different languages following the same theoretical and methodological principles. The guidelines are accommodated to the needs of the potential users of the termbase – not only translators but also terminologists, domain experts, patent drafters, etc. – who will have access to information such as head terms, synonyms, and defining contexts taken from reliable sources about concepts newly created by inventors and also well-established ones.
- Intellectual Property is a relevant issue in terminology. Can you give us any insights about your work in that area?
I had never worked in the area of intellectual property before the fellowship at WIPO, so it’s an area that is relatively new for me. Apart from the initial period of getting familiarized with the terms and concepts related to the whole process of patenting an invention it soon became very clear that terminology is important not just for translators of patents but – I dare say – for almost every stakeholder in that area.
Based on my experience at WIPO, I noticed that there is a contrast between the different working languages at WIPO in terms of the quantity and quality of sources from where it is possible to obtain terminological information. Many of the concepts that one finds in patent documents don’t have a designation in Portuguese, either because they were recently created and/or because there’s no industry in the country for that particular type of technology or innovation. In many subject fields, specialist authors borrow terms from other languages, usually English. The number of patent applications originally drafted in Portuguese is low when compared to other languages such as English or Chinese. There’s also a limited availability of academic works and specialized journals on certain concepts and subject fields.
Many of the tasks carried out posed new challenges for me, e.g. identifying a newly-created concept related to an invention, researching its designation, judging its stability in a given field, relating it with other concepts in the same subject field or in a different one.
When I look at these findings and think about the kind of work that terminologists do with patent documents, I see the value of terminology work much beyond the need to increase the number of resources for language professionals, translators in particular. It becomes evident to me that terminology serves a more general purpose, that of promoting a country’s scientific and technological development.
- Based on your experience in concept analysis, how is the lexico-semantic analysis done and what terminology extraction tool do you use?
When I analyze a concept, which usually implies identifying its characteristics, the relations with other concepts in a conceptual structure, among other things, my goal is to acquire knowledge about that concept, so I research information about it. Lexico-semantic analysis enables me to obtain some sort of information from a text or collection of texts about the concept that I’m investigating. The sort of information that I’m able to obtain refers to the meanings of words and the relationships between the meanings of words, which implies understanding the mechanisms and rules of a linguistic system, in particular its semantic structure.
The lexico-semantic analysis is performed with the help of tools or systems such as concordancers (AntConc, Sketch Engine, WordSmith) and term extractors (TermoStat, GaleXtract, Sketch Engine, lately I’ve been experimenting TaaS). It would be difficult for me to name a preferred tool… I like to experiment different tools and compare results. Also, I think it is very important to try their features, which vary from tool to tool, and see whether they are suited to the needs of my research. For example, while some tools only give you a raw list of extracted linguistic forms, others provide more information, such as statistical information, orthographic variants, structuring sketches, clouds, etc. In a previous interview here in your blog, Barbara Inge Karsch went to the heart of the issue when she talked about “usability improvements” and “selection criteria” when talking about term extractors. Nowadays, there are sophisticated tools and systems available out there but above all terminologists must always be aware that these tools are merely… tools. What matters the most are the theoretical principles and the criteria with which you perform the extraction and/or select the term candidates. Otherwise, one could question the importance of terminologists…
- Tell us a little bit about the Cognitive-Semantics in Collaborative Networks (CogniNET) project. How did it start and what was the outcome?
That project stemmed from the initiative of a research team of engineers at INESC TEC in Portugal that were seeking researchers in the field of linguistics with a terminological perspective. Therefore, collaboration was put in place with CLUNL, the linguistics research unit of Universidade Nova de Lisboa. That collaboration in itself is already a big achievement. Putting engineers and linguists, who have different backgrounds and often diverging ways of approaching the same topic, to work together and collaborate is a stimulating challenge and we communicated and exchanged points of view from engineering and linguistics/terminology with great success.
The CogniNET project sought to address problems raised by information and knowledge sharing in the context of short life-cycle collaborative networks, such as the need to (re)create, (re)use, edit and synthesize conceptual representations according to very specific needs. The main achievement of the project was the development of a fully functional platform called conceptME, whose function is to assist experts in the process of reaching a shared conceptualization of their domain in the form of a conceptual structure. The conceptualization framework, supported by terminology and knowledge representation, allows users to create and manage collaborative spaces, upload and organize a textual corpus, obtain lists of terms and their contexts, and also use a set of templates to relate domain-specific concepts.
- You have a degree in linguistics and a Master’s in linguistics, lexicology and lexicography? How did you go from that to pursuing a PhD in terminology? What about terminology attracted you to follow that path?
The areas of lexicology and lexicography are closely related to terminology. In fact, there has been some debate around what differentiates lexicology from terminology. The people who taught me lexicology and terminology during my undergraduate program in linguistics at Universidade Nova de Lisboa are aware of theoretical issues such as these. That is a major component in their curricula. I guess that they first sparked my interest in learning the theory of terminology, then in applying it. Before I enrolled in the Master’s program I was already interested in terminology and I remember now having worked on the subject of collocations in the specialized language of football based on transcriptions of four different matches, two broadcast on the radio and two other on TV. What a monumental task it was! That was my first transcription work. In my Master’s dissertation I was already fascinated with concept relations, so I began studying lexico-semantic relations and their use in terminology structuring. In short, lexicology, lexicography and also terminology were constantly present in my academic studies. In the end, it was quite natural to pursue a PhD in terminology, where these areas can be viewed as interfacing, overlapping, coinciding, diverging…
- Finally, my blog is targeted to beginners in terminology and I have talked about some basic concepts like the semiotic triangle, designations, etc. Some people might think that you don’t really need to know this to be a terminologist. How is theory applied to practice, in your experience?
Those are essential concepts to any terminologist. That’s precisely what shapes practice. I almost dare to suggest that you could’ve asked “How theory guides practice?” instead. My experience tells me that applying theory to practice is challenging, either because of time constraints or lack of resources, depending on the tasks at hand and whether it’s an ad hoc or a systematic research. Quite often, terminologists need to find alternative solutions to specific needs. That’s one important soft skill of their profile. Back to your question, for example, theory says that domain experts are usually the most reliable sources of information that terminologists can consult and work with in order to define concepts, identify synonyms, draft or check definitions, build a concept system, etc. But when they’re not around, terminologists rely on specialized documentation upon which some sort of lexico-semantic analysis is carried out. Some might argue that such an approach focuses more on lexical units and meaning rather than on terms and concepts. That could make a case for arguing that theory doesn’t apply to practice. However, in my experience, especially when I participated in the construction of a collaborative platform, it became a prime requisite to recognize different semiotic systems, adopt methods more akin to lexicography and work according to a terminological theoretical framework. Dealing with lexical units and meanings doesn’t erase basic concepts such as semiotic triangle, concept, designation, object, etc. They may be blurred or masked in the outcome of your work but the set of principles behind it mark the difference. After all, the theory is almost always “hidden” behind the application.
TermCoord, (Terminology Coordination of the European Parliament). The most comprehensive page, with blog included, where you will find a link to IATE, interviews, publications, traineeships, a neologism database, their cooperation with universities, etc. A first stop that shouldn’t be missed. (bab.la’s top (#4) Language Prof. Blog 2014)
Terminologia etc. by Licia Corbolante is in Italian. It focuses on concept analysis and primary and secondary term formation, as well as cultural, language-specific and non-linguistic factors that can affect terminology work. (bab.la’s top Language Prof. Blog 2011 (top #25), 2012 (top #4), 2013 (top #25), and 2014 (top #6).
WordLo is a blog by Maria Pia Montoro, Web content manager and linguistic tester at Intrasoft International Luxembourg. It contains posts on terminology, neologisms, buzzwords and updated information on terminology tools. (bab.la’s top Language Twitter Account 2014 and Top Language Lovers 2013).
InMyOwnTerms was created in April 2014 as part of the final project to obtain ECQA TM certification. It was nominated to bab.la’s top Language Prof. Blog 2014.
BIK terminology is an inactive but extremely illustrative blog by Barbara Inge Karsch which lists quite a few terminology areas where you can read short texts about them, such as “Terminology 101” which includes a note on what terminology management is. “Terminology: An expert explains” in that same section is a funny 2-min. video on why terminology matters.
TermNet’s “Terminology Blog“: Also inactive (last update Oct 2013) but with lots of interesting information.
Terminology Forum: Terminology Forum is not a blog, but a global non-profit information forum for freely available terminological information online. The Forum, maintained by Anita Nuopponen with the help of her students at the Department of Communication Studies, University of Vaasa, Finland, provides information on terminological activities including terminology work, research and education, online glossaries and termbanks from different fields as well as on general language dictionaries in various languages.
Make sure you check out TermCoord’s list of terminology websites that includes, besides the ones mentioned above, TermWiki, TermCat, and Glossarissimo.
Although it is true that many blogs on translation talk about specialized terminology, (Check out TermCoor’s list here), we are only four people actively sharing information on terminology on a regular basis. TermCoord is headed by Rodolfo Maslias; Terminologia etc, by Licia Corbolante; and WorldLo, by Maria Pia Montoro. Make sure you visit their blogs and subscribe, and follow them in Twitter to support their valuable work.
If you know of any other terminology blog, regardless of the language, let me know so that I can include it here.
I thought it would be most appropriate to honor this Austrian terminologist on his 116 birthday (born October 10, 1898) by sharing some highlights about his prolific career. It is really hard to include all of his accomplishments in one little infographic, but it is also true that a long post would also be too exhausting to read, since his resume is extremely long. So, I have included just a few. They say a little goes a long way, and I hope you at least get an idea of what a great man Wüster was and his huge contribution to terminology.
The information was adapted from the PhD thesis:
The Reception of Eugen Wüster’s Work and the Development of Terminology by Ángela Campo, Département de linguistique et de traduction. Faculté des arts et des sciences, Université de Montréal. October 12 (pages 35-49).
I am happy to share my second infographic on a brief history of terminology. We went from her first baby steps to now being a debutante. I hope you enjoy it and share it.Source: Curso Básico de Terminologia by Lidia Almeida Barros. Editora da Universidade de São Paulo, 2004
Barbara Inge Karsch is the owner of BIK Terminology, a terminology consultancy and training company. As consultant and trainer, Barbara works with companies and organizations on terminology training, terminology development and implementation of terminology management systems (TMS). She draws on her 14-year experience with J.D. Edwards (now Oracle) and Microsoft.
As US delegate to ISO TC 37, Barbara is leading the revision of ISO 12616 (Translation-Oriented Terminography). She is the chair of ATA’s Terminology Committee.
Barbara holds a lectureship at New York University and KU Leuven at Antwerp. She completed both a BA and MA in translation and interpretation and has done PhD-level research in terminology management.
I recently interviewed Rodolfo Maslias, Head of the Terminology Coordination Unit of the European Parliament, and he mentioned that translators should see terminology as an opportunity to differentiate themselves in an increasingly competitive market. I have been promoting my blog on Twitter where I have made contact with a lot of translators but only a few terminologists. Having trained so many people, are terminologists mostly translators or could anyone be a terminologist? (A software specialist, a project manager, maybe?). Is there a preferred background to become a good terminologist?
I fully agree with Rodolfo that translators could take the opportunity, and some certainly do. It is tough, though, to do it on an on-and-off basis. In other words, if a translator acts as terminologist, possibly even without training they won’t be fast enough, if they don’t do it often enough. So, the key is to get started and then specialize in it, so that you keep your skills up.
Many people do terminology work. Here are a few examples: Subject matter experts (SME) define the concepts of their field, branding and marketing people name concepts; translators research equivalents in their languages; project managers distribute terminologies to users. All of this is part of the vast field called terminology management. So, many people carry out one task here and there. But who might be in the best position to focus on it? Terminology literature distinguishes two main models: the SME-terminologists who are experts in their fields and then become more and more involved in doing terminology work; and terminologist-generalists whose specialty is terminology work and who develop expertise in a particular subject field that they choose to focus on.
That said, when I look at who I have trained and who became really good at it, I’d say it was the people who were willing to study the theory, read the literature, and also give it some time. It is a misconception that anyone doing terminology work could become a terminologist. It is a specialization and you either focus on it or you won’t be fast enough or produce the quality needed. So, in my observations it is often the personal traits that matter most.
- Many courses refer to the need for terminologists to develop soft skills, such as negotiation and communication skills to deal with conflict during terminology projects. In your experience, is this a necessary skill for a terminologist? Have you yourself faced situations of conflict that required major intervention? I am thinking, for example, of cross-product, cross-functional groups, with so many stakeholders involved, like the ones you have worked with.
Personal traits, soft skills, communication skills…yes, they are important.
I’d say I have not been part of a major conflict, but I have seen things go wrong because best practices were not followed. For example, one team left it to a high-ranking manager to make the call for new feature names. But this person wasn’t really that much in touch with linguistic aspects of the product. If you get called in at that point, you explain why particular names are not ideal and why the process isn’t serving the organization well. But that is all you can do in this case. In another scenario, higher-ranking employees overruled the well-researched decision by the terminologist. She implemented the new suggestion reluctantly. A bit later, another yet higher-ranking employee had another idea and the terminology was changed again. That, too, is not a good approach.
When, as terminologists, we do our research, line out options and their pros and cons for the stakeholders, then drive for consensus, we have a good chance of avoiding conflict. We might still need to understand the motivations of the stakeholders and work with them to meet their needs. But that is part of the process.
I’d say most conflict arises because either the preparatory work wasn’t done or the team doesn’t understand what the ultimate goal of terminology work is for the organization. If we focus on doing the research and the educational work, we have won more than half the battle.
- You have ample experience with ISO as a US delegate of the Technical Committee 37 and you are the leader for the revision of ISO 12616 (Translation-Oriented Terminography). That must be a very challenging job. You implemented terminology-related ISO standards at J.D. Edwards (now Oracle). When you come back from an ISO meeting with a new terminology standard, how does the process of implementing it in a large company such as Oracle start and end?
Let me explain a bit about ISO standards and the process. It’s not like they are new inventions that will turn your work in a company upside down. Just the opposite: Our terminology standards grow out of the real world. For example, for ISO 12616 we checked what the current standard has to offer; now we are looking at what is currently going on in industry and analyze the need; and then we will be closing that gap. That means that future users will get a document that assists them in setting up their processes correctly rather than figuring out everything on an ad-hoc basis.
- I have a list of 15 terminology extraction tools in my blog and also I provide a link to WordLo’s terminology blog which lists a few more. I am impressed that developers have been so productive in just a few years. What would be, in your opinion, the ideal terminology extraction tool for the future? Or is there a dream tool that is already in the works?
I don’t know that I can draw a dream tool. I think many developers are focused on improving statistical and rules-based extraction mechanisms, so there is lots of focus there. I would like to see usability improvements, such as the fewest number of clicks or key strokes to get from the term candidate in my list to an entry in my database. I’d also not accept a tool that doesn’t at least tell me the frequency of the term in my source document and give me a decent piece of context.
What I find more fascinating than the tool itself is how we work with the list of term candidates. Everyone who has never tackled a large-scale extraction project spends a lot of time trying to figure out how to not miss a good candidate, but drop the bad ones quickly. Each candidate is different and you might include it for a different reason. So, here, too, you’d have to be pretty specialized and very quick in applying a set of selection criteria.
- Lastly, could you comment briefly on your article “Terminology work and crowdsourcing” in the forthcoming John Benjamins’ Handbook of Terminology?
There is a clear need for more practical guidance. Many people do terminology work, but they miss practical guidance. At least my article on crowdsourcing terminology work tries to tie in the theoretical foundation of our field with the practical aspects. My goal is to help those in charge of terminology projects and who are to include the crowd in a terminology project avoid mistakes and benefit from the technological advances that crowdsourcing has brought us.
|Barbara Inge Karsch has an impressive resume which you can read in detail in her LinkedIn Profile, if you have an account. If not, you will also find it at her blog. Her blog, BIK terminology, has lots of useful information on terminology and it’s a great learning place to where I always keep going back. TermCoord also interviewed her earlier this year, and you can read the full interview here.|
- Knowledge is power. And you acquire knowledge by learning the tools and techniques that are available and how and when to use them. If you are going to get involved in a terminology project, talk to people who have managed similar projects to learn about their experience (learned lessons) and go to my page on resources on project management. Be sure, for example to check out this link on PM tools, process, plans, and project planning tips, for starters. You can learn from everyone’s successes and mistakes so that you can be better at managing you project. You don’t want to attend a meeting and not know what a Gantt chart is!
- Performance is key. But knowing is not everything. You need to deliver. This one is about keeping your nose to the grindstone and doing good work. You have to show that your terminology project is important to you. Lead with example: Be on time, meet deadlines, and don’t be sloppy. When you cut corners you have to cut back and fix all the mistakes, whether they were yours or your team’s. Ask yourself this: What am I able to do or accomplish while applying all the knowledge that I have acquired on project management?
- Personal Skills (also known as the “soft side” of project management). We spend 90% of our time communicating. If we were to make a list, we are always solving problems, resolving conflicts, negotiating, planning, organizing, correcting people, preventing errors, etc. You need to make personal connections and keep everybody on the right track. You will be dealing with different stakeholders, external and internal: subject experts, technical translators, localizers, etc. (I will post in the future about stakeholders in a terminology project). It is true that some people have an ability to communicate better with others, but personal skills are something that you can learn if you have the discipline and willingness to unlearn and change your habits.
List of basic skills: Effective project managers require a balance of ethical, interpersonal, and conceptual skills that help them analyze situations and interact appropriately. Some of those skills are: Leadership, team building, motivation, communication, influencing, decision making, political and cultural awareness, negotiation, trust building, conflict management, and coaching.
Sources: Head First PMP. A Brain-Friendly Guide. 2nd Edition. PMBoK Guide. Fifth edition. The Hard vs. Soft Skill PM Debate blog page.
Terminology is as old as human language and I wanted to take a break to show you how it all started with a fun infographic and in future graphs will show you some more short but enlightening history. Make sure you click on it to enlarge. Enjoy!
Before taking the plunge into project management, I would like to share some valuable resources on project management. Why is this important for a terminologist? Because you could either get involved in an ongoing project in an organization or you could be hired to start one yourself. In any case, you should be aware of what is involved in every step from start to finish, and you will need every resource available to do a good job.
Also, if you want to become a certified Project Manager there are lots of resources on the Internet. Probably all online PM courses are based on the Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (or PMBoK Guide) published by the Project Management Institute (PMI) – the largest organization of Project Management professionals in the world. (You can purchase it on Amazon for a lot less than their webpage, by the way.) This and other guides will prepare you to take the PMP® exam. The Guide contains standards and best practices for dealing with problems that you will probably encounter in every single project. Also, a webpage that I find useful and informative (and it’s free) is Max’s Project Management Wisdom, created by Max Wideman who was the author of the first PMBOX guide (check out for example its PM glossary and his PM 101 edutoon series).
I have created a section that includes these and a lot of interesting and useful resources on project management under my section “The How-To of Terminology Projects”. Check them out! I will be referring to many of these resources in future posts.
By the way, these resources were taken from this free course which I highly recommend: Principles of Project Management by Open2Study.
Have a great week!
One of the first questions I asked myself when I decided to look for training opportunities in terminology was “What does a terminologist do?” I wanted to know exactly what I was signing up for. The two sources that I found at the time are included in my section The Terminologist’s Job Description: One of them says terminologists are “specialists in compiling, describing, maintaining and propagation of monolingual and multilingual specialised vocabularies.” The other one describes them as “experts in formulating, describing, managing and distributing mono- and multi-lingual terminologies.”
But would a terminologist (or translator) be qualified to be a successful terminology project manager (TPM)? You do need to have at least some basic knowledge of the specialized area you will be working on to be a good project manager, but there is more to it than you might think. Many people think that you have to be an expert translator or terminologist to be a terminology project manager, but in most cases you just need to have a special mix of skills. Actually, some people say you even need to have a special type of personality to succeed as a project manager, which might be leaving some people out of the game before it starts!
You might not recall it but I had previously promised to talk about this subject before and created a section called “The how-to of Terminology Projects”. This is why in the following posts I would like to bring up this subject again and share some basic information that you should know if you ever decide to become a TPM. There are many aspects involved in PM such as defining goals, knowing your stakeholders, managing risks and conflicts, motivating people, knowing the project cycle, etc., and all of these topics (and more) are also part of being a TPM.
Obviously, I do not intend to prepare you to take up a new job as TPM, and just like the purpose of this blog, what I intend is to guide and provide information for beginners who are looking at this for the first time, and having some basic project management skills will come in handy in order to know exactly what you are signing up for. And if you want to be certified, you should look at my section Training and sign up for TermNet’s courses (which also include some basic information on PM) and other training opportunities. And, of course, there are lots of free courses on PM available online which I will be also sharing as we go along.
In the meantime, take a quick look at this two and a half minute cartoon on project management to get an idea of what’s to come ahead.
As Google welcomes today the first day of Autumn so do I welcome a new stage in my blog. After a long vacation and a transitional period, I’m reviving the blog by sharing a few things here and there while reorganizing my notes.
So let’s start by sharing the latest news in terminology databases, WIPO’s Pearl, a multilingual terminology database “providing free access to a wealth of multilingual scientific and technical terminology”. Seems to be a true pearl in the terminological ocean.
Another one is UN’s Research Guide, a short but useful list of other databases (some of them already on my list of resources). I personally plan to check out the multilingual UNBIS Thesaurus which contains the terminology used in subject analysis of documents and other materials relevant to United Nations programs and activities. What you used it already?
So, happy Autumn to all of you and thanks for following my blog! Many good things to come!
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