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High pollution was observed prior to the 1980s.

Which period does 'Prior to the 1980s' refer to, 1)include, 2)partially include, 3)exclude the period of the 1980s?

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Prior means 'before'. If something happened prior to the 1980s, it happened before that decade.

prior to sth

before a particular time or event:

the weeks prior to her death

Prior (Cambridge Dictionary)

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"Prior to" is an exact synonym of "before." So strictly speaking, the phrase "prior to the 1980s" does not include the 1980s.

That said, "the 1980s" is a vague term. It doesn't necessarily mean the precise period from 1 January 1980 to 31 December 1989. The phrase therefore has some inherent gray area and only means that the 1980s were the first decade during which a noticeable change occurred.

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  • The expression says that high pollution was observed before the 1980s. That's all it says. – Michael Harvey Oct 12 '19 at 19:00

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