Common Core: 9th Grade English Language Arts : Determine Figurative, Connotative, and Technical Word Meanings and Analyze Cumulative Effects of Word Choice: CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.9-10.4

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Example Question #1 : Determine Figurative, Connotative, And Technical Word Meanings And Analyze Cumulative Effects Of Word Choice: Ccss.Ela Literacy.Ri.9 10.4

Passage 2: Adapted from Woodrow Wilson’s “War Message to Congress” ("Address of The President of the United States Delivered at a Joint Session of The Two Houses of Congress") (April 2, 1917)

On the third of February last I officially laid before you the extraordinary announcement of the Imperial German Government that on and after the first day of February it was its purpose to put aside all restraints of law or of humanity and use its submarines to sink every vessel that sought to approach either the ports of Great Britain and Ireland or the western coasts of Europe or any of the ports controlled by the enemies of Germany within the Mediterranean. 

That had seemed to be the object of the German submarine warfare earlier in the war, but since April of last year, the Imperial Government had somewhat restrained the commanders of its undersea craft in conformity with its promise then given to us that passenger boats should not be sunk and that due warning would be given to all other vessels which its submarines might seek to destroy when no resistance was offered or escape attempted, and care taken that their crews were given at least a fair chance to save their lives in their open boats. The precautions taken were meager and haphazard enough, as was proved in distressing instance after instance in the progress of the cruel business, but a certain degree of restraint was observed. 

The new policy has swept every restriction aside. Vessels of every kind, whatever their flag, their character, their cargo, their destination, their errand, have been ruthlessly sent to the bottom: without warning and without thought of help or mercy for those on board, the vessels of friendly neutrals along with those of belligerents. Even hospital ships and ships carrying relief to the sorely bereaved and stricken people of Belgium, though the latter were provided with safe conduct through the proscribed areas by the German Government itself and were distinguished by unmistakable marks of identity, have been sunk with the same reckless lack of compassion or of principle.

I was for a little while unable to believe that such things would in fact be done by any government that had hitherto subscribed to humane practices. [International maritime law] the German Government has swept aside under the plea of retaliation and necessity and because it had no weapons which it could use at sea except these which it is impossible to employ as it is employing them without throwing to the winds all scruples of humanity or of respect for the understandings that were supposed to underlie the intercourse of the world. I am not now thinking of the loss of property involved, immense and serious as that is, but only of the wanton and wholesale destruction of the lives of noncombatants, men, women, and children, engaged in pursuits which have always, even in the darkest periods of modern history, been deemed innocent and legitimate. Property can be paid for; the lives of peaceful and innocent people cannot be. The present German submarine warfare against commerce is a warfare against mankind.

It is a war against all nations. American ships have been sunk, American lives taken, in ways which it has stirred us very deeply to learn of, but the ships and people of other neutral and friendly nations have been sunk and overwhelmed in the waters in the same way. There has been no discrimination. The challenge is to all mankind. Each nation must decide for itself how it will meet it. The choice we make for ourselves must be made with a moderation of counsel and a temperateness of judgment befitting our character and our motives as a nation. We must put excited feeling away. Our motive will not be revenge or the victorious assertion of the physical might of the nation, but only the vindication of right, of human right, of which we are only a single champion.

Based on the way in which it is used in the passage, the bolded and underlined word "belligerents" is used to mean which of the following, specifically?

Possible Answers:

Countries that are formally at war with another country

People or groups who pester other people or groups and do things to undermine them without outright attacking them

Countries whose ports are assailed by ships from other countries

Pirate captains and crews who do not follow the rules of maritime law

Correct answer:

Countries that are formally at war with another country

Explanation:

In order to figure out what the passage specifically means by "belligerent," it's important to look at the word in the context in which it is used in the passage.

Vessels of every kind, whatever their flag, their character, their cargo, their destination, their errand, have been ruthlessly sent to the bottom: without warning and without thought of help or mercy for those on board, the vessels of friendly neutrals along with those of belligerents

This word is being contrasted with "friendly neutrals." Specifically, the author is saying that the Imperial German navy has been sinking both the ships of "friendly neutrals" and the ships of "belligerents." This tells us that "belligerents" are the opposite of, or at least very different from, "friendly neutrals." Given that this passage is talking about military conflicts, "friendly neutrals" can reasonably be interpreted to mean countries that are neutral and friendly to the country being discussed. Given this, "belligerents" means the opposite—countries that are not friendly or neutral to the country being discussed, or in other words, countries at war with the country being discussed. The correct answer choice is the one that best matches this conclusion: "Countries that are formally at war with another country." 

(Note that this definition fits the etymology of "belligerent," which contains the Latinate root "bell-," from "bellum," Latin for war. This root appears in other words like "antebellum" (occurring before the American Civil War), "bellicose" (aggressive and ready to fight). You don't need to know this to answer this question correctly, though!)

Example Question #2 : Determine Figurative, Connotative, And Technical Word Meanings And Analyze Cumulative Effects Of Word Choice: Ccss.Ela Literacy.Ri.9 10.4

Adapted from George Washington’s Farewell Address (1796)

[Before this point in the text, Washington has declined to run as a candidate in the next election for President of the United States.]

Here, perhaps, I ought to stop. But a solicitude for your welfare, which cannot end but with my life, and the apprehension of danger, natural to that solicitude, urge me, on an occasion like the present, to offer to your solemn contemplation, and to recommend to your frequent review, some sentiments which are the result of much reflection, of no inconsiderable observation, and which appear to me all-important to the permanency of your felicity as a people. These will be offered to you with the more freedom, as you can only see in them the disinterested warnings of a parting friend, who can possibly have no personal motive to bias his counsel.

Interwoven as is the love of liberty with every ligament of your hearts, no recommendation of mine is necessary to fortify or confirm the attachment.

The unity of government which constitutes you one people is also now dear to you. In contemplating the causes which may disturb our Union, it occurs as matter of serious concern that any ground should have been furnished for characterizing parties by geographical discriminations, Northern and Southern, Atlantic and Western; whence designing men may endeavor to excite a belief that there is a real difference of local interests and views. One of the expedients of party to acquire influence within particular districts is to misrepresent the opinions and aims of other districts. You cannot shield yourselves too much against the jealousies and heartburnings which spring from these misrepresentations; they tend to render alien to each other those who ought to be bound together by fraternal affection.

. . .

Against the insidious wiles of foreign influence the jealousy of a free people ought to be constantly awake, since history and experience prove that foreign influence is one of the most baneful foes of republican government. But that jealousy to be useful must be impartial; else it becomes the instrument of the very influence to be avoided, instead of a defense against it. Excessive partiality for one foreign nation and excessive dislike of another cause those whom they actuate to see danger only on one side, and serve to veil and even second the arts of influence on the other. Real patriots who may resist the intrigues of the favorite are liable to become suspected and odious, while its tools and dupes usurp the applause and confidence of the people, to surrender their interests.

The great rule of conduct for us in regard to foreign nations is in extending our commercial relations, to have with them as little political connection as possible. So far as we have already formed engagements, let them be fulfilled with perfect good faith. Here let us stop. Europe has a set of primary interests which to us have none; or a very remote relation. Hence she must be engaged in frequent controversies, the causes of which are essentially foreign to our concerns. Hence, therefore, it must be unwise in us to implicate ourselves by artificial ties in the ordinary vicissitudes of her politics, or the ordinary combinations and collisions of her friendships or enmities.

Our detached and distant situation invites and enables us to pursue a different course. If we remain one people under an efficient government, the period is not far off when we may defy material injury from external annoyance; when we may take such an attitude as will cause the neutrality we may at any time resolve upon to be scrupulously respected; when belligerent nations, under the impossibility of making acquisitions upon us, will not lightly hazard the giving us provocation; when we may choose peace or war, as our interest, guided by justice, shall counsel.

Why forego the advantages of so peculiar a situation? Why quit our own to stand upon foreign ground? Why, by interweaving our destiny with that of any part of Europe, entangle our peace and prosperity in the toils of European ambition, rivalship, interest, humor or caprice?

In offering to you, my countrymen, these counsels of an old and affectionate friend, I dare not hope they will make the strong and lasting impression I could wish. But, if I may even flatter myself that they may be productive of some partial benefit, some occasional good; that they may now and then recur to moderate the fury of party spirit, to warn against the mischiefs of foreign intrigue, to guard against the impostures of pretended patriotism; this hope will be a full recompense for the solicitude for your welfare, by which they have been dictated.

When he uses the word “heartburnings,” bolded and underlined in paragraph three, the author is referring to emotions that are __________.

Possible Answers:

a result of understanding the emotions of other people

calm and measured

positive and convivial

angry and negative

Correct answer:

angry and negative

Explanation:

This question is asking you to tune in to the connotations of a nonliteral word that Washington uses, "heartburnings." The context in which this word is used is shown below.

One of the expedients of party to acquire influence within particular districts is to misrepresent the opinions and aims of other districts. You cannot shield yourselves too much against the jealousies and heartburnings which spring from these misrepresentations; they tend to render alien to each other those who ought to be bound together by fraternal affection.

First, let's consider the word by itself, out of context. "Heartburnings," if not used literally is likely related to emotions. These emotions are likely dramatic and impassioned, not subtle and relatively calm. This is suggested by the "burnings" part of the word; a "burning" emotion is likely one that is strongly felt.

Now let's look at the role this word is playing in the sentences surrounding it in the passage. In this part of the passage, Washington is warning the United States against the dangers of party politics dividing the states and weakening the Union. In the first sentence quoted above, he explains that political parties misrepresent other districts. It's a good idea to shield yourself against these misrepresentations, he says, because they can cause "jealousies and heartburnings" that tend to alienate different parts of the country's population. Based on this particular usage, we can tell that "heartburnings" has a negative connotation here. "Jealousies" is not a good thing in this context, and "heartburnings" is used in parallel with "jealousies." In addition, both are the results of political parties, which Washington argues have bad effects.

"Positive and convivial" can't be the answer because it has positive connotations, not negative connotations. "Calm and measured" can't be the answer because it clashes against the fervor of emotion conveyed by the term "heartburnings." We can't say that "heartburnings" refers to emotions that are "a result of understanding the emotions of other people," either, because in this part of the passage, Washington explains that "jealousies and heartburnings" caused by political parties divide people through misrepresentation instead of bringing them together. The best answer choice is that "heartburnings" refers to emotions that are "angry and negative." This makes the most sense in the context in which the word is used: emotions that are the result of misrepresentation and result in divisions between different parts of the population are likely to be angry and negative.

All Common Core: 9th Grade English Language Arts Resources

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