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I wonder since \footnote works fine in LaTeX when it comes to adapting smaller fontsize, why does the equivalent \footnote{} command in traditional TeX not work accordingly? And how do I go about changing the size of footnotes to smaller?

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plain tex has no commands to change the size of fonts at all: the body font is always 10pt and the footnotes are similarly a fixed size. If you need fonts at a different size you can of course load them and redefine \footnote to use them, but there are no specific declarations to help with that.

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