When one looks back upon the fifteen hundred years that are the life span of the English language, he should be able to notice a number of significant truths. The history of our language has always been a history of constant change—at times a slow, almost imperceptible change, at other times a violent collision between two languages. Our language has always been a living growing organism, it has never been static. Another significant truth that emerges from such a study is that language at all times has been the possession not of one class or group but of many. 『At one extreme it has been the property of the common, ignorant folk, who have used it in the daily business of their living, much as they have used their animals or the kitchen pots and pans.』① At the other extreme it has been the treasure of those who have respected it as an instrument and a sign of civilization, and who have struggled by writing it down to give it some permanence, order, dignity, and if possible, a little beauty.
As we consider our changing language, we should note here two developments that are of special and immediate importance to us. One is that since the time of the Anglo-Saxons there has been an almost complete reversal of the different devices for showing the relationship of words in a sentence. Anglo-Saxon (old English) was a language of many inflections. Modern English has few inflections. We must now depend largely on word order and function words to convey the meanings that the older language did by means of changes in the forms of words. Function words, you should understand, are words such as prepositions, conjunctions, and a few others that are used primarily to show relationships among other words. A few inflections, however, have survived. And when some word inflections come into conflict with word order, there may be trouble for the users of the language, as we shall see later when we turn our attention to such maters as WHO or WHOM and ME or I. The second fact we must consider is that as language itself changes, our attitudes toward language forms change also. 『The eighteenth century, for example, produced from various sources a tendency to fix the language into patterns not always set in and grew, until at the present time there is a strong tendency to restudy and re-evaluate language practices in terms of the ways in which people speak and write.』②
1. In contrast to the earlier linguists, modern linguists tend to ______.
A. attempt to continue the standardization of the language
B. evaluate language practices in terms of current speech rather than standards or proper patterns
C. be more concerned about the improvement of the language than its analysis or history
D. be more aware of the rules of the language usage
2. Choose the appropriate meaning for the word “inflection” used in line 4 of paragraph 2.
A. Changes in the forms of words.
B. Changes in sentence structures.
C. Changes in spelling rules.
D. Words that have similar meanings.
3. Which of the following statements is not mentioned in the passage?
A. It is generally believed that the year 1500 can be set as the beginning of the modern English language.
B. Some other languages had great influence on the English language at some stages of its development.
C. The English language has been and still in a state of relatively constant change.
D. Many classes or groups have contributed to the development of the English language.
4. The author of these paragraphs is probably a(an) ______.
A. historian B. philosopher C. anthropologist D. linguist
5.Which of the following can be best used as the title of the passage?
A. The history of the English language.
B. Our changing attitude towards the English language.
C. Our changing language.
D. Some characteristics of modern English.
1. B 细节题。根据题干回原文中定位，阅读文章时注意首末段及各段开头的句子，这往往都是考点所在。这篇文章讲的主要是英语语言演变的一些特点，指出了古英语与现代英语的不同，以及语言学家态度的转变。本题问的正是现代语言学家与早期语言学家不同的倾向。根据文章末尾The eighteenth century, for example, produced from various sources a tendency to fix the language into patterns not always set in and grew, until at the present time there is a strong tendency to restudy and re-evaluate language practices in terms of the ways in which people speak and write. 现代语言学家倾向于根据人们说和写的方式评价语言实践，而不是像早期的语言学家根据一定的模式评价语言。选项B符合文章的意思。
2. A 词汇题。要根据上下文的信息判断单词的意思。文章在第二段中间再次提到inflection时说，A few inflections, however, have survived. 后面文章又举了WHO/WHOM和ME/I为例说明inflection，这是一篇关于语言学的文章，从例子可以看出inflection的意思应该是“单词的变形”，选项A正确。
3. A 细节题。根据文章的内容，选项A“普遍认为1500年是现代英语的起点”在文章中没有提及，故为正确答案。文章第二句说The history of our language has always been a history of constant change - at times a slow, almost imperceptible change, at other times a violent collision between two languages. 我们语言的历史是一个不断变化的历史——在一些时间里缓慢得几乎难以察觉，在另一些时间里则是两种语言的激烈碰撞。由此可以推断一些其他的语言对英语的发展有重大影响，选项B符合文章的意思。
4. D 词汇题。此题考查考生的推测能力和词汇量，文章讲述的是英国语言演进的具体细节，最适当的答案应该是D。作者很可能是一位语言学家。A答案(历史学家)和C答案(人类学家)也可以有点迷惑性。B答案(哲学家)是最不符合的。
5. C 主旨题。本文从各个方面谈及英语作为一种语言的发展变化，但并不是讲述英语的历史。所以选项A不对，选项C作为文章的题目最为贴切。选项B只是文章阐述的一个方面，不够全面。文章是在谈到英语的不断变化的时候谈到了现代英语的一些特点，所以选项D也失之于片面。