ACTIVITY 56: You are going to
read a magazine article. Six paragraphs have been removed from the
extract. Choose from the paragraphs A-G the one which fits each gap 1-6. There is one extra paragraph which you do not need to use.
Then check the correct answers.
A MASTER LINGUIST
Sometimes Kenneth Hale was asked how long it would take him to learn a new
language. He thought ten or fifteen minutes would be enough to pick up the
essentials if he were listening to a native speaker. After that he could
probably converse; obviously not fluently, but enough to make himself
understood. To those whose education, however admirable in other respects,
had provided only rudimentary language
skills, he seemed a marvel.
As many of these languages had no written grammar or vocabulary, and indeed
were spoken by few people, Kenneth picked them up orally. His tip for anyone
who pressed him for advice on learning a language was to talk to a native
speaker. Start with parts of the body, he said, then common objects. After
learning the nouns, you can start to make sentences and get attuned to the
This is all the more confusing as language is much more complex than, say,
simple arithmetic, which
often takes years to master. It is often hypothesised that language is an
innate human faculty, with its own
specialised system in our brain.
He spent his childhood on a ranch in Arizona and started his education in a
one-roomed school in the desert. Many years later, lecturing at MIT, he
still felt most comfortable in cowboy boots. On his belt was a buckle he had
won at a rodeo by riding bulls, and he had the slightly bowed legs of a
students were impressed that he could light a match with his thumbnail.
One Indian language at its last gasp was spoken by the Wopanaak, the tribe
that greeted the Pilgrim Fathers in 1620. It is now spoken again by several
thousand people around Cape Cod. A Wopanaak who studied under Kenneth is
preparing a dictionary of her language. 'Ken was a voice for the voiceless,'
Noam Chomsky. And he worked tirelessly to learn endangered languages.
Despite these setbacks, Ken did contribute to an understanding of the
apparently innate human capacity
for speech. He made a number of what he called 'neat' discoveries about the
structure of language, and
had an instinctive sense of what all languages had in common. After his
retirement from MIT, he said he
would 'really get down to work; an ambition he was unable to achieve, though
his other achievements
And these people are often particularly upset by a scholarly argument which
surfaces from time to time about the desirability of keeping alive languages
that have little chance of survival. Occasionally the argument turns
nationalistic. For example, is what Kenneth called the 'revitalisation' of
Welsh merely a nuisance in Britain where, obviously, English is the working
language? Kenneth Hale had an indignant answer to that question. 'When you
lose a language,' he told a reporter, 'you lose a culture, intellectual
wealth, a work of art. The damage that's done is irreparable. It's like
dropping a bomb on a museum, the Louvre.'