Where do languages come from? That is a question as old as human beings’ ability to pose it. But it has two sorts of answers. The first is evolutionary: when and where social banter was first heard. The second is ontological: how an individual human acquires the power of speech and understanding. The prominent place to look for the evolutionary origin of language is the cradle of humanity, Africa.
One of the lines of evidence which show humanity’s African origins is that the farther you get from the continent, the less diverse, generally speaking, people are. Being descended from small groups of relatively recent migrants, they are more inbred than their African forebears. It has also been known for a while that the less widely spoken a language is, the fewer the phonemes it has. So, as groups of people ventured even farther from their African homeland, their phonemic repertoires should have dwindled, just as their genetic ones did.
A study of 504 languages plotted the number of phonemes in each against the distance between the place where the language is spoken and 2,500 putative points of origin, scattered across the globe. The relationship that emerges suggests the actual point of origin is in central or southern Africa and that all modern languages do, indeed, have a common root. This answers the evolutionary question.
Now to the ontological question. Cognitive scientists have hypothesized that being able to speak and be spoken to is a specific adaptation of a virtual organ. The human brain comes equipped with a hard-wired universal grammar–a language instinct. That is, if you like, humanity’s killer app in the struggle for physical dominance.
The problem with this hypothesis is that languages differ not just in their vocabularies, which are learned, but also in their grammatical rules, which are the sort of thing that might be expected to be instinctive. Cognitive scientists maintain that grammar is a collection of modules, each containing various features. Switching on a module activates all these features at a stroke. You cannot pick and choose within a module. For instance, languages in which verbs precede objects will always have relative clauses after nouns; a language cannot have one but not the other.
To confirm whether this hypothesis is right, a study of the four large language families was undertaken. These are Indo-European, Bantu, Austronesian and Uto-Aztecan. These four groups account for more than a third of the 7,000 or so tongues spoken around the world today. The study revealed that not one correlation between grammatical features persisted across all language families, and only two were found in more than one family. It looks, then, as if the correlations between grammatical features noticed by previous researchers were mere coincidences and that the hypothesis of the language instinct was questionable.
1. Which of the following best describes the organization of the passage?
- One by one, two hypotheses related to the origin of languages are presented along with supporting evidence.
- One by one, two hypotheses related to the origin of languages are discussed with the outcomes of related studies.
- The evidence connected with two hypotheses related to the origin of languages is analyzed and contradictions discussed.
- Two hypotheses related to the origin of languages are analyzed in relation with each other and outcome of supporting studies discussed.
2. The hypothesis of the evolutionary origin of languages basically boils down to:
- The farther a group of people settled from their African homeland, the narrower the phonemic repertoire of their language.
- The origin of language is the cradle of humanity, Africa.
- The less diverse the genes, the less widely spoken a language.
- The less widely spoken a language is, the fewer the phonemes it has.
3. Which of the following can be inferred from the expression “…humanity’s killer app in the struggle for biological dominance”?
- As humans evolved, they became hunter-gatherers in order to survive.
- Killing was the name of the game in the survival of the fittest.
- The language instinct gave an advantage to humans who could communicate in order to coordinate their actions when hunting in groups.
- Humans acquired the language instinct as a specific adaptation which gave humans the ability to share and accumulate knowledge; this gave humans an overwhelming superiority over other species.
4. Which of the following would cognitive scientists agree with, EXCEPT?
- Children are born with an instinct for the grammar of language
- The grammar is a set of modules; switching on a module activates all its features.
- The grammar of different languages is different, but the vocabulary has common roots.
- A language cannot have one feature of a grammar module and not the others.
5. The study related to the evolutionary origin of languages revealed that:
- 504 languages originated from 2,500 putative points scattered across the globe.
- The number of phonemes in a language decreased based on distance of the place where the language was spoken from central or southern Africa.
- The hypothesis of common origin was questionable.
- There are four large language families.
6. The hypothesis of language instinct is questionable because:
- Vocabularies of different languages have to be learnt
- A study revealed the absence of correlation between grammatical features across all the four large language families.
- The correlations between grammatical features observed between different languages were later found to be mere coincidences.
- There are 7,000 or so tongues spoken around the world today.
Oil companies need offshore platforms primarily because the oil or natural gas the companies extract from the ocean floor has to be processed before pumps can be used to move the substances ashore. But because processing crude on a platform rather than at facilities onshore exposes workers to the risks of explosion and an unpredictable environment, researchers are attempting to diminish the need for human labour on platforms and even to eliminate media by redesigning two kinds of pumps to handle crude.
These pumps could then be used to boost the natural pressure driving the flow of crude, which, by itself, is sufficient only to bring the crude to the platform, located just above the wellhead. Currently, pumps that could boost this natural pressure sufficiently to drive the crude through a pipeline to the shore do not work consistently because of the crude’s content. Crude may consist of an oil or natural gas in multiphase states—combinations of liquids, gases, and solids under pressure-that do not reach the wellhead in constant proportions.
The flow of crude oil, for example, can change quickly from 60 per cent liquid to 70 per cent gas. This surge in gas content causes loss of head inside a pump, with the result that a pump can no longer impart enough energy to transport the crude mixture through the pipeline and to the shore. Of two pumps being redesigned, the positive-displacement pump is promising because it is immune to sudden shifts in the proportion of liquid to gas in the crude mixture.
But the pump’s design, which consists of a single or twin-screw pushing the fluid from one end of the pump to the other, brings crude into close contact with most parts of the pump and thus requires that it be made of expensive, corrosion-resistant material. The alternative is the centrifugal pump, which has a rotating impeller that sucks fluid in at one end and forces fluid out at the other.
Although this pump has a proven design and has worked for years with little maintenance in waste-disposal plants, researchers have discovered that because the swirl of its impeller separates gas from the oil that usually accompanies it, significant reductions in the head can occur as it operates.
Research in the development of these pumps is focused mainly on trying to reduce the cost of the positive displacement pump and attempting to make the centrifugal pump more tolerant of gas. Other researchers are looking at ways of adapting either kind of pump for use underwater, so that crude could be moved directly from the sea bottom to processing facilities onshore, eliminating platforms.
1. Which one of following best expresses the main idea of the passage?
- Oil companies are experimenting with technologies that may help diminish the danger to workers from offshore crude processing.
- Oil companies are seeking methods of installing processing facilities underwater.
- Researchers are developing several new pumps designed to enhance human labour efficiency in processing facilities.
- Researchers are seeking ways to separate liquids from gases in crude in order to enable safer processing
2. The passage supports which one of the following statements about the natural pressure driving the flow of crude?
- It is higher than that created by the centrifugal pump.
- It is constant regardless of relative proportions of gas and liquid.
- It is able to carry the crude to the platform.
- It is able to carry the crude to the shore.
3. The use of the phrase “head Inside a pump” in the passage, means
- The flow of the crude inside the pump
- The volume of oil inside the pump
- The volume of gas inside the pump
- The pressure inside of the pump
4. With which one of the following statements regarding offshore platforms would the author most likely agree?
- If a reduction of human labour on offshore platform is achieved, there is no real need to eliminate platforms altogether.
- Reducing human labour on offshore platforms is desirable because researchers’ knowledge about the transportation of crude is dangerously incomplete.
- The dangers involved in working on offshore platforms make their elimination a desirable goal.
- Though researchers have succeeded in reducing human labour on offshore platforms, they think that it would be inadvisable to eliminate platforms altogether, because these platforms have other uses.
5. Which one of the following can be inferred from the passage about pumps that are currently available to boost the natural pressure of crude?
- The efficiency of these pumps depends on there being no gas in the flow of crude.
- These pumps are more efficient when the crude is less subject to sudden increases in the proportion of gas to liquid.
- A sudden change from solid to liquid in the flow of crude increases the efficiency of these pumps.
- A sudden change from liquid to gas in the flow of crude increases the risk of explosion due to rising pressure inside these pumps.
6. The passage implies that the current state of technology necessitates that crude be moved to shore:
- In a multiphase state
- In equal proportions of gas to liquid
- After having been processed
- Largely in the form of a liquid