The critical analysis

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The Critical analysis is designed to allow you to utilize skills that you need to conduct active reading at the University level and to see the connections between reading and writing.
The critical analysis allows you to :

  1. practice reading the types of articles/passages that you would encounter while conducting research for Uc10a and other courses

  2. be more aware of the importance of audience, tone, of diction, etc, in understanding any written text.

  3. Read far beyond the surface or literal level of a piece of writing

  4. See the connections between the reading process and the writing process. Many writers go through the very same processes that you have to go through to write your essays. They need to decide :

    1. the organizing principles which they will use,

    2. the tone that they are going to adopt

    3. the audience for whom they are writing, how this will shape their writing and how they will show an awareness of their audience

    4. the diction which they plan to use. They need to decide when to use connotative words, when to use emotive words

    5. how they will show that they are credible writers and are worthy of being read.


Read the following passage entitled “Vanishing Languages” by David Crystal and answer the questions that follow it.
The loss of languages may have accelerated recently, but it is hardly a new problem. In the 19th century, there were more than 1,000 Indian languages in Brazil, many spoken in small, isolated villages in the rain forest; today there are a mere 200, most of which have never been written down or recorded. In North America, the 300 or more indigenous languages spoken in the past have been halved ….
A dramatic illustration of how a language disappears took place in Venezeula in the 1960s. As part of the drive to tap the vast resources of the Amazonian rain forests, a group of Western explorers passed through a small village on the banks of the Coluene River. Unfortunately, they brought with them the influenza virus, and the villagers, who lacked any immunity, were immediately susceptible to the disease. Fewer than 10 people survived. A human tragedy, it was a linguistic tragedy too, for this village contained the only speakers of the Trumai language. And with so few people left to pass it on, the language was doomed.
Other languages – such as Welsh and Scottish Gaelic – have been threatened when indigenous populations have moved or been split up. Brighter economic prospects tempt young members of the community away from their villages. And even if they choose to stay, it doesn’t take much exposure to a dominant culture to motivate ambitious young people to replace their mother tongue with a language that gives them better access to education, jobs and new technology.
A language’s fortunes are tied to its culture’s. Just as one language holds sway over others when its speakers gain power – politically, economically or technologically it diminishes, and may even die, when they lose that prominence. Latin, now used almost exclusively in its written form, had its day as world language, threatened by the Norman invaders of Britain in the 11th century, who brought with them a multitude of French words. In South America, Spanish and Portuguese, the languages of colonialists, have replaced many of the indigenous Indian tongues.
There has been little research into exactly what happens when a language begins to die. The process depends on how long there has been contact between the users of the minority language and their more powerful neighbors. If the contact has been minimal, as in the case of Trumai in the Amazon, the minority language might remain almost unchanged until the last of its speakers dies. But if two languages have been in contact for generations, the dominant language will slowly erode the pronunciation, vocabulary and grammar of the minority language. Take the Celtic languages of northwest Europe. Following the death of the last mother-tongue speakers of Cornish (spoken in Cornwall until the 19th century) and Manx (spoken in the Isle of Man until the 1940s), the only remaining Celtic languages are Breton (in northwest France), Irish and Scottish Gaelic, and Welsh. All have been in steady decline during the 20th century. Equally, all have been the focus of strenuous efforts to revive their fortunes (or, in the case of Cornish and Manx, to resurrect a new first-language base). But the effects of four centuries of domination by English are evidence everywhere.
Walk into the stores in the strongly Welsh-speaking areas of North Wales, as I regularly do, and you will hear the Welsh language widely used and apparently in good health. But there is also a great deal of recognizable English vocabulary scattered throughout the speech. Of course, all languages have what linguists refer to as “loan words” – words taken from other languages to supplement the vocabulary. English itself has tens of thousands of words borrowed from French, Spanish, Latin and other languages. But there is an important difference between traditional vocabulary borrowing and what takes place in an endangered language. When arsenic, lettuce and attorney came into English in the Middle Ages, it was because these items did not exist in the English-speaking community. The nouns were introduced to describe new objects, and so to supplement the existing vocabulary. But in the case of an endangered language, the loan words tend to replace words that already exist. And as the decline continues, even quite basic words in the language are replaced.
(David Crystal is a linguist who lives in Wales. He is the author of The Cambridge

Encyclopaedia of the English Language)


  1. Identify the dominant discourse mode and explain the context in which you would

expect to find this article. [3 marks]

  1. State, using the evidence from the passage :

i what you consider to be the writer’s main purpose

iii how the text has been shaped by context, audience and purpose

[ 3 marks]

  1. Identify the organizing principles used in the second and fifth paragraphs. Comment on the effectiveness of one. [4 marks]

  1. Using evidence from the text explain how the writer uses tone to achieve his overall purpose. [2 marks]

  1. i List two pairs of words (binaries) which indicate patterns of opposition in the text. (You may paraphrase or supply the opposite word if it is not explicitly stated). [2 marks]

ii Explain how these patterns of opposition contribute to your understanding of the topic [2 marks]

  1. Explain, using evidence from the text two ways in which the writer’s credibility is established. [ 4 marks]


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