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 Adam Tyson
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Passage Discussion

These two passages deal with the development of music in the evolution of humans; Passage A compares the development of music with the development of language, showing that the two are very similar but ultimately concluding that language is crucially important and that music is of little evolutionary value. The author of Passage B argues that, despite the opinion of Charles Darwin to the contrary, music is an important component of fostering the emotional bonds between mother and child, which are essential to humans' evolutionary success.

Passage A:

Paragraph One: ..... In the opening paragraph, the author raises the question of whether music
..... ..... ..... ..... and language developed together or separately, and describes ways the two
..... ..... ..... ..... are similar to each other.

Paragraph Two: ..... The author shares information about studies that indicate that language and
..... ..... ..... ..... music are part of a single neurological system, and claims that the two have
..... ..... ..... ..... more similarities than differences. She draws an analogy to different programs
..... ..... ..... ..... broadcast on the same radio. She then notes a key distinction between the two,
..... ..... ..... ..... noting that most people cannot compose music well while they can generally
..... ..... ..... ..... compose language.

Paragraph Three: ..... The author expresses the viewpoint that music and language evolved
..... ..... ..... ..... together rather than separately, and then notes that because language
..... ..... ..... ..... skills and use are more prominent in modern humans than are musical
..... ..... ..... ..... skills and performance, language must have been more important to
..... ..... ..... ..... human evolution than music, and that music likely had little if any
..... ..... ..... ..... evolutionary value.

Passage B:

Paragraph One: ..... The passage begins with a quote from Darwin suggesting that music has
..... ..... ..... ..... no evolutionary value, a position with which the author then strongly
..... ..... ..... ..... disagrees, claiming that music is "indispensable" and has a clear
..... ..... ..... ..... evolutionary basis and value.

Paragraph Two: ..... Here the author shares some data gleaned from studies that show how
..... ..... ..... ..... mothers and infants interact using music-like behaviors that involve
..... ..... ..... ..... factors such as rhythm, tone, and pitch.

Paragraph Three: ..... The author describes how these behaviors convey an evolutionary
..... ..... ..... ..... advantage, related to increased brain size, earlier birth, and the
..... ..... ..... ..... general helplessness of human infants. Because of these factors, the author
..... ..... ..... ..... believes that the emotional bonds formed by musical interactions are
..... ..... ..... ..... essential to ensure that mothers care for and protect their babies.
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I've difficulty comprehending the first sentence of ¶1 in Passage B - Darwin claimed that since "neither the enjoyment nor the capacity of producing musical notes are faculties of the least [practical] use to man ... they must be ranked among the most mysterious, with which he is endowed." It mentions the enjoyment and capacity of producing musical notes as faculties of the least [practical] use to man, but the clause starts with "neither the enjoyment nor the capacity ..." Wouldn't the negation make it the opposite - enjoyment and capacity of producing musical notes are of great use to man (or "not least use")?

Then, how do we interpret "they must be ranked among the most mysterious, with which he is endowed"? Does "the most mysterious" mean they are useful or not? I admit, semantically, it could only make sense if we interpret it as negative, as it is "mysterious" because humans are endowed with this faculty, but it's of little practical use. But is there a way to access its meaning grammatically - by analyzing the "neither ... nor ... are faculties of the least use" structure? Sounds like it means the same as "both ... and ... are faculties of the least use."

The second sentence makes it clear that the author thinks positively of the evolutionary origins of human music. But since there's no words connecting the ideas expressed in the first and second sentence (i.e., the second sentence is continuing with the idea from the first sentence, or it's pivoting), it's difficult to ascertain Darwin's attitude in the first sentence based upon the author's positive viewpoint in the second sentence. Thanks!
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Hi blade21cn!

Careful with how you're interpreting negatives here--this is not actually a double negative where they negate one another. When Darwin is talking about the "of the least practical use to man," he's saying that neither of these things are even a little bit useful. You could think of it phrased like this:

"Neither the enjoyment nor the capacity of producing musical notes are faculties that are even the slightest bit useful to man."

Or if you wanted to switch the negatives, it could be phrased like this:

"The enjoyment and the capacity of producing musical notes are faculties that are not even the least bit useful to man."

He's saying the enjoyment and creation of music doesn't have even the least bit of practical use to man, and therefore it is mysterious why man actually possesses the ability to enjoy and create music.

Hope this helps!

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I understand your rationale / translated versions of Darwin's sentence. However, the fact is that he didn't actually use those translated versions so how are we supposed to know to interpret it in those ways? Intuitively, if i say "Neither X nor Y went to the gym today", that means that X and Y did not go to the gym today. So if "neither the enjoyment (X) nor creation (Y) of music are the least use to man", I interpret that as the enjoyment and creation of music are actually of some/more use to man. If he added "even" after "faculties of", then I understand how that would align with the intended meaning.

If he simply said "the enjoyment and creation of music are faculties of the least practical use to man", that would make sense than stating the the neither/nor way which I still believe is opposite to the intended meaning.
 Jeremy Press
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Hi Crayola,

Not to sound too harsh here (but sometimes that's the nature of things on this test), but you can't interpret the phrase the way you have, because your interpretation has exactly the opposite of the stated meaning.

Let me lay out the example you gave, next to the statement in the passage, and show how we'll get to Kelsey's interpretation:

1. Neither [X] nor [Y] {went to} the gym today.
2. [X] and [Y] did NOT {go to} the gym today.

The above is perfect! Stick with that as we look at the passage statement. I'm going to repeat the exact same translation pattern in 1. and 2. below.

1. Neither [the enjoyment] nor [the capacity of producing musical notes] are {of the least practical use} to man.
2. [The enjoyment] and [the capacity of producing musical notes] are NOT {of the least practical use} to man.

Now, take a look at the final phrase in the second sentence. If something is "not of the least practical use" to me, then it means that thing does NOT possess the smallest/least practical use it could possibly have. That means it has no (zero) practical use. Imagine this phrase: "I do not have the least money possible." What's the least money I could have? A penny? I don't have it. I have nothing.

That's the only proper translation of that sentence (and, it fits your simple example!).

I hope this helps!


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