Blueprint MCAT Full-Length 1: Passage 1 – CARS

MP 197: Blueprint MCAT Full-Length 1: Passage 1 - CARS

Session 197

Let’s welcome the CARS section with much excitement! We’re starting off with Passage 1 which has to do with linguistics proper and its three phases.

We’re joined by Phil from Blueprint MCAT, formerly Next Step Test Prep. If you would like to follow along on YouTube, go to premed.tv.

Get your FREE copy of Blueprint MCAT’s Full-Length 1 to follow along: Go to http://medicalschoolhq.net/bp3. In the menu, click “MCAT,” then “Free Resources.” (That’s an affiliate link, so if you end up making a purchase from Blueprint later on, I get a small commission at no extra cost to you.)

Listen to this podcast episode with the player above, or keep reading for the highlights and takeaway points.

Overview of Passage 1 (Questions 1 – 6)

The course will deal with linguistics proper, not with languages and language. This science has gone through phases with shortcomings. Three phases may be distinguished, or three successive approaches adopted by those who took a language as an object of study. Later on came a linguistics proper, aware of its object.

The first of these phases is that of grammar, invented by the Greeks and carried on unchanged by the French. It never had any philosophical view of a language as such. That’s more the concern of logic. All traditional grammar is normative grammar, that is, dominated by a preoccupation with laying down rules, and distinguishing between a certain allegedly ‘correct’ language and another, allegedly ‘incorrect’; which straight away precludes any broader view of the language phenomenon as a whole.

Later and only at the beginning of the 19th century, if we are talking of major movements (and leaving out the precursors, the ‘philological’ school at Alexandria), came the great philological movement of classical philology, carrying on down to our own day. In 1777, Friedrich Wolf, as a student, wished to be enrolled as a philologist. Philology introduced a new principle: the method of critical examination of texts. The language was just one of the many objects coming within the sphere of philology, and consequently subjected to this criticism. Henceforth, language studies were no longer directed merely towards correcting grammar. The critical principle demanded an examination, for instance, of the contribution of different periods, thus to some extent embarking on historical linguistics. Ritschl’s revision of the text of Plautus may be considered the work of a linguist. In general, the philological movement opened up countless sources relevant to linguistic issues, treating them in quite a different spirit from traditional grammar; for instance, the study of inscriptions and their language. But not yet in the spirit of linguistics.

A third phase in which this spirit of linguistics is still not evident: this is the sensational phase of discovering that languages could be compared with one another; that a bond or relationship existed between languages often separated geographically by great distances; that, as well as languages, there were also great language families, in particular the one which came to be called the Indo-European family.

Surprisingly, there was never a more flawed or absurd idea of what a language is than during the thirty years that followed this discovery by Bopp (1816). In fact, from then on scholars engaged in a kind of game of comparing different Indo-European languages with one another, and eventually they could not fail to wonder what exactly these connections showed, and how they should be interpreted in concrete terms. Until nearly 1870, they played this game without any concern for the conditions affecting the life of a language.

This very prolific phase, which produced many publications, differs from its predecessors by focussing attention on a great number of languages and the relations between them, but, just like its predecessors, has no linguistic perspective, or at least none which is correct, acceptable and reasonable. It is purely comparative. You cannot altogether condemn the more or less hostile attitude of the philological tradition towards the comparativists, because the latter did not in fact bring any renewal bearing on the principles themselves, none which in practice immediately opened up any new horizons, and with which they can clearly be credited. When was it recognised that comparison is, in short, only a method to employ when we have no more direct way of ascertaining the facts, and when did comparative grammar give way to a linguistics which included comparative grammar and gave it a new direction?

Adapted from Saussarre 3rd General Lecture on Linguistics

[02:23] Prepping for CARS

There should be a big mind shift and understanding. In the sciences, they’re trying to figure out what you know, and how well you can apply that. In CARS, they don’t care about that. They don’t care what you know.

'The entire point of the cars section is trying to see how well you understand somebody else's perspective. It's not about what you know.'Click To Tweet

If there’s a passage that you don’t know anything about, that’s fine. That might even be better. Because if you know something about it, you can start to bring in that outside information, which is the bane of every student.

As you walk into CARS, just take all the information you know, cram it up into a ball, and check it out the window because none of that’s going to help you.

Moreover, you don’t need a lot of tools because it’s just reading the passage. Everything’s in there. You just need to figure out what’s important and what stuff isn’t important so you can get through those passages quickly and get to the questions.

[04:21] Paragraph 1

The course will deal with linguistics proper, not with languages and language. This science has gone through phases with shortcomings. Three phases may be distinguished, or three successive approaches adopted by those who took a language as an object of study. Later on came a linguistics proper, aware of its object.

Notes:

Be looking for contrasting opinions all the time and the different viewpoints because those are the things that the author really tends to care about, at least what the AAMC cares about.

They’re talking about these three phases that are distinctive and these three approaches dealing with language. And then later on, came linguistics proper. So now, there are four things going on.

[05:08] Paragraph 2

The first of these phases is that of grammar, invented by the Greeks and carried on unchanged by the French. It never had any philosophical view of a language as such. That’s more the concern of logic. All traditional grammar is normative grammar, that is, dominated by a preoccupation with laying down rules, and distinguishing between a certain allegedly ‘correct’ language and another, allegedly ‘incorrect’; which straight away precludes any broader view of the language phenomenon as a whole.

Notes:

So we have this allegedly correct and allegedly incorrect. And so the fact that they said, allegedly, means the author isn’t necessarily on board with this. So if something’s alleged, despite how we might use that, in, and normal everyday language, that means the author isn’t necessarily on board.

And the last part of that, “which straightaway precludes any broader view of the language phenomenon as a whole,” is telling us that the author doesn’t really like it that much. But here, just remember that we’re talking about grammar and there’s some stuff allegedly going on here.

[06:30] Paragraph 3

Later and only at the beginning of the 19th century, if we are talking of major movements (and leaving out the precursors, the ‘philological’ school at Alexandria), came 2) the great philological movement of classical philology, carrying on down to our own day. In 1777, Friedrich Wolf, as a student, wished to be enrolled as a philologist. Philology introduced a new principle: the method of critical examination of texts. The language was just one of the many objects coming within the sphere of philology, and consequently subjected to this criticism. Henceforth, language studies were no longer directed merely towards correcting grammar. The critical principle demanded an examination, for instance, of the contribution of different periods, thus to some extent embarking on historical linguistics. Ritschl’s revision of the text of Plautus may be considered the work of a linguist. In general, the philological movement opened up countless sources relevant to linguistic issues, treating them in quite a different spirit from traditional grammar; for instance, the study of inscriptions and their language. But not yet in the spirit of linguistics.

Notes: 

Once again, the author is trying to separate these. This is the second of the three ideas. It’s not quite the study of linguistics, but there is some study about language. Then we have this new principle in the third sentence here about how the philology is a method of critical examination of texts. (You can highlight this, in case this comes up on the question.) We’re looking at the texts themselves and not just trying to decide, is this the correct word or not? But we’re being critical of the texts themselves.

AAMC will often bring up a new term that they know you’re not super familiar with, even if you are sometimes. 

'If they redefine a term, that's worth noting!'Click To Tweet

We talked about how important it is to leave your outside info and don’t bring that in with you. If you ever have the passage defining a term, pay particular attention to that, especially if that maybe doesn’t mesh with your definitions, or if it’s a completely new term. Pay a little bit more attention to philology, although the author is still telling us this isn’t quite the study of linguistics itself.

[09:38] Paragraph 4

A third phase in which this spirit of linguistics is still not evident: this is the sensational phase of discovering that languages could be compared with one another; that a bond or relationship existed between languages often separated geographically by great distances; that, as well as languages, there were also great language families, in particular the one which came to be called the Indo-European family.

Notes:

So this is the third phase which is sensational. It’s really just about looking at how these languages fit together. It’s like the evolution of language and how these are related that they even go into this Indo-European family stuff. And so, this is the third phase, which still is not linguistics, according to the author. So far, the three phases are: grammar, philology, and then now we have this study of how languages can be compared and related to each other.  

[10:52] Paragraph 5

Surprisingly, there was never a more flawed or absurd idea of what a language is than during the thirty years that followed this discovery by Bopp (1816). In fact, from then on scholars engaged in a kind of game of comparing different Indo-European languages with one another, and eventually they could not fail to wonder what exactly these connections showed, and how they should be interpreted in concrete terms. Until nearly 1870, they played this game without any concern for the conditions affecting the life of a language.

Notes:

So the author doesn’t have a very pleasing view of Bopp. Looking at this, we have the idea that the author isn’t really a fan of this. And that’s way more important than understanding what exactly is going on here.

“It's the author's viewpoint that we really care about.”Click To Tweet

[12:10] Paragraph 6

This very prolific phase, which produced many publications, differs from its predecessors by focussing attention on a great number of languages and the relations between them, but, just like its predecessors, has no linguistic perspective, or at least none which is correct, acceptable and reasonable. It is purely comparative. You cannot altogether condemn the more or less hostile attitude of the philological tradition towards the comparativists, because the latter did not in fact bring any renewal bearing on the principles themselves, none which in practice immediately opened up any new horizons, and with which they can clearly be credited. When was it recognised that comparison is, in short, only a method to employ when we have no more direct way of ascertaining the facts, and when did comparative grammar give way to a linguistics which included comparative grammar and gave it a new direction?

Notes:

There’s a lot of stuff going on here. Just take a step back to see what you really should care about. Looking at linguistics, there were three phases: the grammar, the philology, and then looking at how these languages were related to each other, which is something the author is not a fan of this. The author doesn’t think a lot of good came from it. But those are the three phases that lead up to the study of linguistics itself.

[13:54] Question 1

Based on the passage, critical examinations of texts are the province of:

  1. philology.
  2. comparativists.
  3. logic.
  4. grammar.

Notes:

We highlighted philology earlier on so this is pretty much straightforward. It should be a quick, easy answer, provided you are paying attention to that.

'The first step, pay attention.'Click To Tweet

Correct Answer: A

[14:47] Question 2

It can be inferred from the passage that the Indo-European language family is defined by:

  1. links between a number of languages based on factors other than location.
  2. connections based on historical conditions such as war and migration.
  3. a traditional and normative grammar that lays down the rules as to acceptable language use.
  4. a flawed belief that it is possible to compare and connect distinct languages for any purpose.

Notes:

Inferred means it’s not going to be in the passage directly. And so we have some other reasoning beyond the text question. So it’s not going to be verbatim in the passage, but using what’s in the passage, it’s still going to have to be true.

The author talks about something being flawed belief back in paragraph 5 which is directly from the passage. But it could be a trap.

Now, if you go back to the passage, they said there’s a bond that exists between the languages often separated geographically by great distances. They’re linked in some way other than the location itself.

You could get tempted at choosing D, but it doesn’t really answer the question. Because the question is what is the definition of the Indo-European language? If they asked about how the author feels about the circumstances that led to that, then you could answer the flawed belief. But that’s not the definition.

Correct Answer: A

[18:44] Question 3

The author assumes which of the following about obtaining a broad view of language?

  1. The more that scholars compare languages to each other, the further the study of linguistics develops.
  2. Normative grammars are only interested in figuring out and enforcing certain rules and their enactment.
  3. Focusing on rules and what is or isn’t proper prevents a holistic understanding of how language works.
  4. Ritschl’s revision of the text of Plautus is a prime example of the best technique for procuring this view.

Notes:

Always go back to what the question is asking you. What does the author say? and here, what does the author say about obtaining a broad view of language? A lot of students just immediately dive into the answers and they get kind of sucked in. 

“Be sure to take a step back and translate the question. Make sure you understand what they're actually asking for.”Click To Tweet

They used the term “broad view” in the second paragraph where they talked about this grammar, which is looking at the allegedly correct and incorrect: which straight away precludes a broader view of language.

They’re saying that if you’re looking at what’s correct and what’s incorrect, that stops you from getting a broad view of language. And so that absolutely matches C.

Note that, once again, they’re zooming in on that bit there where the author has an opinion about being allegedly correct, which precludes this view. And so that’s why we care a lot about the author’s tone and how the author feels about things.

Correct Answer: C

[21:51] Question 4

Based on the passage, studies of language prior to the late 19th century were flawed due to the fact that they:

  1. replaced an earlier philosophical view of language with a comparativist one.
  2. did not include comparative grammar as a means of determining correctness.
  3. focused heavily on comparison rather than developing principles.
  4. reflected the understanding that languages could be compared to each other.

Notes:

If we go back to the grammar stuff, the author didn’t love the strict grammar stuff because that stops you from getting those broad views. And so the author’s problem with this viewpoint is not just that they didn’t include grammar, because the author also doesn’t think we should focus purely on grammar itself as well. And so, the problem here is just it’s too much comparison.

Then as you go to those like later paragraphs, those last two paragraphs, everyone’s just trying to connect stuff and not really developing principles. Especially if you look at the last paragraph, it’s purely comparative and they really weren’t doing anything.

Correct Answer: C

[25:03] Question 5

In a later part of the essay, the author defines what he sees as “linguistics proper.” Based on the passage, which is the most likely definition of linguistics in the text?

  1. “Linguistics will constantly have to deal with the written language, and will often have to rely on the insights of philology in order to take its bearings among these written texts.”
  2. Linguistics is marked by an “attachment to the letter, to the written language” so that “the written and the spoken, are conflated.”
  3. Linguistics “recognize[s] laws operating universally in language, and in a strictly rational manner, separating general phenomena from those restricted to one branch of languages or another.”
  4. Linguistics functions by “picking out whatever is most general. The operation of generalization presupposes that we have already investigated the object under scrutiny in such a way as to be able to pronounce upon what its general features are.”

Notes:

This is one of the hardest questions if they’re asking you for stuff that is not in the passage. Because they’re asking you to take what’s in the passage and try to apply it to some new outside information stuff. So you have to try to figure out which one of these we actually care about.

D is out because we don’t really see anywhere in the passage that suggests picking something that’s general. And as with answer choice C where it talks about “recognize the laws that operate universally in language,” that’s not really in the passage either. But if we look at the author’s tone, and the way the author feels, the author’s kind of annoyed by the grammar thing which is what’s right and what’s wrong. 

We talked about the quality, then we talked about the comparativeness. And then the author’s annoyed about all this comparison.

And looking at the differences between these languages, it makes sense that the author is going to be a fan of understanding what stuff is similar between these. Because he’s got a problem with comparing them. So answer choice C just feels right, where you’re looking at what stuff is universal in language and this rational manner separating the general from stuff that’s restricted to certain branches.

Correct Answer: C

[29:31] Question 6

Based on the passage, all of the following were objections philologists had to comparativists EXCEPT:

  1. the lack of focus on principles that allowed new understandings of language.
  2. the focus on comparison as an end in and of itself.
  3. the belief that comparison is the primary method of obtaining information.
  4. the inclusion of comparative grammar in the study of language.

Notes:

Again, just the philology definition, the method of critical examination of texts. So this is an EXCEPT one, so don’t fall for that trap.

Take a step back and think about the passage. So we have the three phases: the grammar, philology, and the comparativist. And so what’s the complaint that the philologists didn’t have against comparativists was this stuff with grammar because those are the grammar people. There’s the grammar people, the philologists, and then the comparativists. And so the answer is D.

Another thing to note here is that answer choices B and C are a bit similar. And if you see two similar answers, it probably can’t be right.

This is a challenging question because if they ask you which of these is true, you can just go find it. But here, they’re saying three of them are true. And one of them isn’t. So you can’t go find the thing that’s not in the passage. That means you have to go back and find the three things that are there. And that’s really time-consuming. So it’s one of the most time-consuming, difficult questions that exist.

Correct Answer: D

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