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It is believed that half or more of the languages spoken on Earth will

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New Project RC Butler 2019 - Practice 2 RC Passages Everyday
Passage # 401, Date: 20-Oct-2019
This post is a part of New Project RC Butler 2019. Click here for Details


It is believed that half or more of the languages spoken on Earth will be extinct within a century. The United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), which monitors endangered languages, says that “with each vanishing language, an irreplaceable element of human thought in its multiform variations is lost forever.” As the world becomes more interconnected, many languages, as well as the culture captured within them, may be lost.

There is a strong link between language and cultural identity. In nineteenth-century Japan, attempts to assimilate the Ainu people into Japanese culture included banning their language; some indigenous languages in both North America and Australia suffered the same fate. Many of those languages are lost or dying. With loss of language comes loss of links to the past and feelings of belonging to a community, which research has linked to mental health. One study of Aboriginal communities found that youth suicide rates dropped to almost zero when the residents had conversational knowledge of native languages.

One problem endangered languages face is lack of official recognition. Residents of a country are expected to know its official language or languages, but many countries do little to recognize minority regional languages. Take Basque, a language spoken in both Spain and France. In France, only French is recognized as an official language. In Spain, the constitution allows for regional recognition of official languages besides Spanish, so in Basque-speaking parts of the country, both Spanish and Basque are official languages. It is not surprising, therefore, that UNESCO cites Basque as “vulnerable” in Spain but “critically endangered” in France.

Consider, in contrast, the case of Finnish. This tongue is not endangered, even though Finland was ruled from the Middle Ages until 1917 by first Sweden and then Russia and, during this period, Swedish was used as the language of administration and government. In 1919, a newly independent Finland constitutionally adopted both Finnish and Swedish as official languages, legally recognizing its native language as important to its burgeoning national identity. As of 2013, Finnish was spoken by 89 percent of the population of Finland.

In order to preserve languages that will otherwise be lost, linguists have proposed creating a database of endangered languages. But how would an academic repository serve the often marginalized groups that speak such languages? While directed toward a noble goal, this project would fail to address the issue of language’s critical role in preserving a sense of cultural identity.


1. According to the passage, Basque is more endangered in France than in Spain because

(A) France has suppressed Basque in order to maintain a French cultural identity
(B) there are more Basque speakers in Spain than in France
(C) Basque has no governmental recognition as an official language in France
(D) multiple languages are recognized as official throughout Spain
(E) Basque-speaking regions in Spain have developed a separate cultural identity



2. Which of the following statements, if true, would support the assertion that Finnish was “important to [Finland’s] burgeoning national identity” (Highlighted)?

(A) Speaking Finnish after 1919 became a point of pride for those in Finland, whereas it previously had often been a source of shame.
(B) Both Swedish and Finnish were taught in Finnish schools after 1919, just as they had been before the new constitution was adopted.
(C) Finland adopted a new flag and national anthem after the new constitution was approved in 1919.
(D) Some people in Finland continued to use Swedish as their preferred language even after Finnish was adopted as an official language.
(E) Those who worked to modernize Finnish in the late nineteenth century so it would achieve broader acceptance favored the western dialect over the eastern.



3. Which of the following statements most clearly exemplifies the aspect of language extinction that UNESCO considers problematic?

(A) As one of the world’s oldest languages, Basque is worth preserving as a living historical artifact as well as a modern spoken language.
(B) Because scholars have been unable to translate the Linear A script, the intellectual capital of the culture that produced it remains inaccessible.
(C) Because Socrates did not leave behind any written works, his ideas have been preserved only through secondhand sources.
(D) Most linguists term Korean a “language isolate” because it is not known to be related to any other languages.
(E) Because it has no equivalent word in many languages, “serendipity” is a particularly difficult term to translate.


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Re: It is believed that half or more of the languages spoken on Earth will  [#permalink]

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New post 24 Oct 2019, 05:31
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Re: It is believed that half or more of the languages spoken on Earth will   [#permalink] 24 Oct 2019, 05:31
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