November 24, 2009

Homework #33 Answer

Which one of the following, if true, most weakens the argument in Homework #32?

A. Most people who use slang expressions in conversation understand what they mean.

(A) is incorrect because it does not weaken the argument so much as offer a possible reason why the author's point may not matter to the speaker even if it is valid. It's a non sequitur, really. The author's argument is that the use of slang expressions degrades the language, i.e., reduces its overall quality. The example he cites, which "translates" the slang into English, suggests an acknowledgment on his part that people typically know what slang expressions mean. The author is therefore concerned with the quality of the language, not with the ability of those who speak it to understand each other in conversation. Even if it's true that people can communicate using slang expressions, it is no less arguable that such expressions degrade and devalue the language. Therefore (A) is not as good an answer as (E).

B. Many slang expressions that appeared in earlier forms of the English language disappeared over time, as the people who used them were assimilated into larger groups that used different expressions.

(B) is incorrect because it does not undermine the argument in any way. Whether any particular slang expressions endure or not, or whether slang expressions in general tend to pass in and out of usage, they still have the capacity to degrade the language, as the author suggests.

C. Whether a new word or phrase is widely used in the media and entertainment is an important factor in whether the word or phrase will become common slang.

(C) is incorrect because the author is not concerned with where slang expressions come from, or in what venues they tend to be used. Regardless of where they originate or how they are disseminated, they still have the capacity to degrade the language.

D. Slang expressions are more likely to be invented by children and adolescents than by any other segment of the population.

(D) is incorrect for the same reason as (C). Indeed, if it is true that children and adolescents tend to invent slang terms, that makes the author's argument even stronger, since those young people will not grow up with an adequate knowledge of or appreciation for the English language and thereby degrade it even further.

E. Languages of the highest quality often evolve over time out of a collection of slang expressions woven into the formal dialect of a given people.

(E) is correct. Unlike (A), which is a non sequitur, (E) directly addresses the author's argument that slang usage degrades the English language by suggesting that such expressions actually increase the quality of the language over the long term. The author argues that slang expressions make the language less formal and less precise, whereas (E) states that such expressions eventually develop into formal speech and result in high-quality languages. Therefore (E) is the best answer.