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CAT 2021 Reading Comprehension Solution 12


Direction for Reading Comprehension: The passages given here are followed by some questions that have four answer choices; read the passage carefully and pick the option whose answer best aligns with the passage.

Starting in 1957, [Noam Chomsky] proclaimed a new doctrine: Language, that most human of all attributes, was innate. The grammatical faculty was built into the infant brain, and your average 3-year-old was not a mere apprentice in the great enterprise of absorbing English from his or her parents, but a "linguistic genius." Since this message was couched in terms of Chomskyan theoretical linguistics, in discourse so opaque that it was nearly incomprehensible even to some scholars, many people did not hear it. Now, in a brilliant, witty and altogether satisfying book, Mr. Chomsky's colleague Steven Pinker . . . has brought Mr. Chomsky's findings to everyman. In "The Language Instinct" he has gathered persuasive data from such diverse fields as cognitive neuroscience, developmental psychology and speech therapy to make his points, and when he disagrees with Mr. Chomsky he tells you so. . . .

For Mr. Chomsky and Mr. Pinker, somewhere in the human brain there is a complex set of neural circuits that have been programmed with "super-rules" (making up what Mr. Chomsky calls "universal grammar"), and that these rules are unconscious and instinctive. A half-century ago, this would have been pooh-poohed as a "black box" theory, since one could not actually pinpoint this grammatical faculty in a specific part of the brain, or describe its functioning. But now things are different. Neurosurgeons [have now found that this] "blackbox" is situated in and around Broca's area, on the left side of the forebrain. . . .

Unlike Mr. Chomsky, Mr. Pinker firmly places the wiring of the brain for language within the framework of Darwinian natural selection and evolution. He effectively disposes of all claims that intelligent nonhuman primates like chimps have any abilities to learn and use language. Itis not that chimps lack the vocal apparatus to speak; it is just that their brains are unable to produce or use grammar. On the other hand, the "language instinct," when it first appeared among our most distant hominid ancestors, must have given them a selective reproductive advantage over their competitors (including the ancestral chimps). . . .

So according to Mr. Pinker, the roots of language must be in the genes, but there cannot be a "grammar gene" any more than there can be a gene for the heart or any other complex body structure. This proposition will undoubtedly raise the hackles of some behavioural psychologists and anthropologists, for it apparently contradicts the liberal idea that human behavior may be changed for the better by improvements in culture and environment, and it might seem to invite the twin bugaboos of biological determinism and racism. Yet Mr. Pinker stresses one point that should allay such fears. Even though there are 4,000 to 6,000languages today, they are all sufficiently alike to be considered one language by an extraterrestrial observer. In other words, most of the diversity of the world's cultures, so beloved to anthropologists, is superficial and minor compared to the similarities. Racial differences are literally only "skin deep." The fundamental unity of humanity is the theme of Mr. Chomsky's universal grammar, and of this exciting book.

Question: 1

From the passage, it can be inferred that all of the following are true about Pinker's book, "The Language Instinct", EXCEPT that Pinker:

  1. disagrees with Chomsky on certain grounds.

  2. writes in a different style from Chomsky.

  3. draws extensively from Chomsky's propositions.

  4. draws from behavioural psychology theories

Option: 4

This is a slightly tricky question. Many people rush to mark 2 but option 2 can be inferred from the first paragraph. In the first para the author says ".. Chomsky's discourse was so opaque that it was incomprehensible..."...but Pinker's book is "brilliant, witty and altogether satisfying...", suggesting that the style of the two writers was different. Thus 2 can be inferred. From the first sentence of last paragraph 1 can be inferred. From first paragraph 3 can be inferred, but not 4 because the last sentence of first paragraph says that "pinker gathered from cognitive neuroscience, developmental psychology and speech therapy. Behavioral psychology theories have nowhere come. We must understand that developmental psychology is different from behavioral psychology.

Question: 2

On the basis of the information in the passage, Pinker and Chomsky may disagree with each other on which one of the following points?

  1. The Darwinian explanatory paradigm for language.

  2. The language instinct.

  3. The possibility of a universal grammar.

  4. The inborn language acquisition skills of humans.

Option: 1

The right answer can be found in the second last paragraph. The author says "Unlike Chomsky, Pinker firmly places.... within the framework of Darwinian natural selection...". Thus we see that this is a point of disagreement between Pinker and Chomsky. Thus 1 is the right choice. All the other points are points of agreement.

Question: 3

According to the passage, all of the following are true about the language instinct EXCEPT that:

  1. all intelligent primates are gifted with it.

  2. it confers an evolutionary reproductive advantage.

  3. developments in neuroscience have increased its acceptance.

  4. not all intelligent primates are gifted with it.

Option: 1

Option 1 is the right answer. The second last paragraph says that "he effectively disposes of all claims that intelligent nonhuman primates...have any abilities to learn and use language", suggesting that intelligent nonhuman primates don't have language skills. Thus 1 is an exception and the right answer. Option 2 can be seen in the same paragraph. Evidence for 2 can be seen in first paragraph. Option 4 is the exact opposite of 1, hence 4 is correct.

Question: 4

Which one of the following statements best summarises the author's position about Pinker's book?

  1. The evolutionary and deterministic framework of Pinker's book makes it racist.

  2. Anatomical developments like the voice box play a key role in determining language acquisition skills.

  3. The universality of the "language instinct" counters claims that Pinker's book is racist.

  4. Culture and environment play a key role in shaping our acquisition of language.

Option: 3

This question can be easily solved by carefully comparing the options, keeping in mind the evidence available in the passage. To arrive at the right answer, we should read the last paragraph, where the author says " might seem to invite... racism. Yet Mr. Pinker ... should allay such fears.". It means that Pinker's book should not be considered racist or should go against racism. Option 3 precisely captures this idea because it implies that "Pinker's book is not racist". Option 1 is contrary to this, so it goes out. Option 2 is the finding of neurosurgeons, not the author's position on Pinker's book. Option 4 is not the author's stand. The author says language is genetic and instinctive, whereas option 4 says "culture and environment" play a key role.

CAT 2021 RC passage with solution

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