SSAT Upper Level Reading : Recognizing the Main Idea in Narrative Social Science Passages

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for SSAT Upper Level Reading

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Example Questions

Example Question #3 : Understanding The Content Of Social Science / History Passages

Adapted from An Account of the Remarkable Occurrences in the Life and Travels of Col. James Smith, (Late a Citizen of Bourbon County, Kentucky,) during his Captivity with the Indians, in the Years 1755, '56, '57, '58, & '59 by James Smith (1799; ed. Glugg & Eliott, 1834)

After the departure of these warriors we had hard times; and though we were not altogether out of provisions, we were brought to short allowance. At length Tontileaugo had considerable success, and we had meat brought into camp sufficient to last ten days. Tontileaugo then took me with him in order to encamp some distance from this winter-cabin, to try his luck there. We carried no provisions with us; he said he would leave what was there for the women and children, and that we could shift for ourselves. We steered about a south course up the waters of this creek, and encamped about ten or twelve miles from the winter-cabin. As it was still cold weather, and a crust upon the snow, which made a noise as we walked, and alarmed the deer, we could kill nothing, and consequently went to sleep without supper. The only chance we had, under these circumstances, was to hunt bear-holes; as the bears, about Christmas, search out a winter lodging-place, where they lie about three or four months without eating or drinking. This may appear to some incredible, but it is well known to be the case by those who live in the remote western parts of North America.

The next morning early we proceeded on, and when we found a tree scratched by the bears climbing up, and the hole in the tree sufficiently large for the reception of the bear, we then felled a sapling or small tree against or near the hole, and it was my business to climb up and drive out the bear, while Tontileaugo stood ready with his gun and bow. We went on in this manner until evening without success. At length we found a large elm scratched, and a hole in it about forty feet up, but no tree nigh suitable to lodge against the hole. Tontileaugo got a long pole and some dry rotten wood, which he tied in bunches with bark; and as there was a tree that grew near the elm, and extended up near the hole, but leaned the wrong way, so that we could not lodge it to advantage, to remedy this inconvenience he climbed up this tree and carried with him his rotten wood, fire, and pole. The rotten wood he tied to his belt, and to one end of the pole he tied a hook and a piece of rotten wood, which he set fire to, as it would retain fire almost like punk, and reached this hook from limb to limb as he went up. When he got up with his pole he put dry wood on fire into the hole; after he put in the fire he heard the bear snuff, and he came speedily down, took his gun in his hand, and waited until the bear would come out; when it did appear he attempted taking sight with his rifle; but it being then too dark to see the sights, he set it down by a tree, and instantly bent his bow, took hold of an arrow, and shot the bear a little behind the shoulder. I was preparing also to shoot an arrow, but he called to me to stop, there was no occasion; and with that the bear fell to the ground.

Being very hungry, we kindled a fire, opened the bear, took out the liver, and wrapped some of the caul-fat round, and put it on a wooden spit, which we stuck in the ground by the fire to roast; then we skinned the bear, got on our kettle, and had both roast and boiled, and also sauce to our meat, which appeared to me to be delicate fare. After I was fully satisfied I went to sleep; Tontileaugo awoke me, saying, "Come, eat hearty, we have got meat plenty now."

The next morning we cut down a lynn-tree, peeled bark and made a snug little shelter, facing the southeast, with a large log betwixt us and the northwest; we made a good fire before us, and scaffolded up our meat at one side. When we had finished our camp we went out to hunt; searched two trees for bears, but to no purpose. As the snow thawed a little in the afternoon, Tontileaugo killed a deer, which we carried with us to camp.

Sometime in February the four warriors returned, who had taken two scalps and six horses from the frontiers of Pennsylvania. The hunters could then scatter out a considerable distance from the winter-cabin and encamp, kill meat, and bring it in upon horses; so that we commonly, after this, had plenty of provision.

Based on the passage, the primary purpose for the hunting was __________.

Possible Answers:

to provide entertainment during the winter months

to keep the population of predators low

to provide meat for the camp while the warriors were away

to provide meat for the narrator and his companion, as they had left the rest at the main camp

to demonstrate the bravery of the men in the area

Correct answer:

to provide meat for the camp while the warriors were away

Explanation:

The first and last paragraphs tell us that the “warriors” who do most of the hunting had left, so the narrator and his companion go hunting to provide meat for the main camp. They take a portion of the meat, but it is obvious from the penultimate paragraph that they take most of the meat back to the “women and children” at the main camp.

Example Question #1 : Recognizing The Main Idea In Narrative Social Science Passages

Adapted from "Co. Aytch," Maury Grays, First Tennessee Regiment; or, A Side Show of the Big Show by Samuel Rush Watkins (1900 ed.)

In giving a description of this most memorable battle, I do not pretend to give you figures, and describe how this general looked and how that one spoke, and the other one charged with drawn saber, etc. I know nothing of these things—see the history for that. I was simply a soldier of the line, and I only write of the things I saw. I was in every battle, skirmish and march that was made by the First Tennessee Regiment during the war, and I do not remember of a harder contest and more evenly fought battle than that of Perryville. If it had been two men wrestling, it would have been called a "dog fall." Both sides claim the victory—both whipped.

I stood picket in Perryville the night before the battle—a Yankee on one side of the street, and I on the other. We got very friendly during the night, and made a raid upon a citizen's pantry, where we captured a bucket of honey, a pitcher of sweet milk, and three or four biscuits. The old citizen was not at home—he and his whole household had gone visiting, I believe. In fact, I think all of the citizens of Perryville were taken with a sudden notion of promiscuous visiting about this time; at least they were not at home to all callers.

At length the morning dawned. Our line was drawn up on one side of Perryville, the Yankee army on the other. The two enemies that were soon to meet in deadly embrace seemed to be eyeing each other. The blue coats lined the hillside in plain view. You could count the number of their regiments by the number of their flags. We could see the huge war dogs frowning at us, ready at any moment to belch forth their fire and smoke, and hurl their thunderbolts of iron and death in our very midst.

I wondered why the fighting did not begin. Never on earth were our troops more eager for the engagement to open. The Yankees commenced to march toward their left, and we marched almost parallel to our right—both sides watching each other's maneuvers and movements. It was but the lull that precedes the storm. Colonel Field was commanding our brigade, and Lieutenant-Colonel Patterson our regiment. About 12 o'clock, while we were marching through a corn field, in which the corn had been shocked, they opened their war dogs upon us. The beginning of the end had come. Here is where Captain John F. Wheless was wounded, and three others, whose names I have forgotten. The battle now opened in earnest, and from one end of the line to the other seemed to be a solid sheet of blazing smoke and fire. Our regiment crossed a stream, being preceded by Wharton's Texas Rangers, and we were ordered to attack at once with vigor. Here General Maney's horse was shot. From this moment the battle was a mortal struggle. Two lines of battle confronted us. We killed almost everyone in the first line, and were soon charging over the second, when right in our immediate front was their third and main line of battle from which four Napoleon guns poured their deadly fire.

We did not recoil, but our line was fairly hurled back by the leaden hail that was poured into our very faces. Eight color-bearers were killed at one discharge of their cannon. We were right up among the very wheels of their Napoleon guns. It was death to retreat now to either side. Our Lieutenant-Colonel Patterson halloed to charge and take their guns, and we were soon in a hand-to-hand fight—every man for himself—using the butts of our guns and bayonets. One side would waver and fall back a few yards, and would rally, when the other side would fall back, leaving the four Napoleon guns; and yet the battle raged. Such obstinate fighting I never had seen before or since. The guns were discharged so rapidly that it seemed the earth itself was in a volcanic uproar. The iron storm passed through our ranks, mangling and tearing men to pieces. The very air seemed full of stifling smoke and fire which seemed the very pit of hell, peopled by contending demons.

Our men were dead and dying right in the very midst of this grand havoc of battle. It was a life to life and death to death grapple. The sun was poised above us, a great red ball sinking slowly in the west, yet the scene of battle and carnage continued. I cannot describe it. The mantle of night fell upon the scene. I do not know which side whipped, but I know that I helped bring off those four Napoleon guns that night though we were mighty easy about it.

Which of the following sentences best summarizes the first paragraph?

Possible Answers:

The author is willing to make up facts to satisfy some readers.

The author takes no responsibility for the things he did in the war.

The author was heroic and excelled through the ranks throughout his military exploits.

The author fought most of the war without seeing many battles.

The author thinks this was the most contested and even battle in which he fought.

Correct answer:

The author thinks this was the most contested and even battle in which he fought.

Explanation:

One of the main points the author makes in the first paragraph is demonstrated when he states, “I was in every battle, skirmish and march that was made by the First Tennessee Regiment during the war, and I do not remember of a harder contest and more evenly fought battle than that of Perryville.” Therefore, he thinks that Perryville was the most contested and even battle in which he fought.

Example Question #1 : Recognizing The Main Idea In Narrative Social Science Passages

Adapted from The Man who Spoiled Napoleon’s Destiny by Rev. W. H. Fitchett, LL.D. (1899)

From March 18 to May 20, 1799—for more than sixty days and nights, that is—a little, half-forgotten, and more than half-ruined Syrian town was the scene of one of the fiercest and most dramatic sieges recorded in military history. And rarely has there been a struggle so apparently one-sided.

A handful of British sailors and Turkish irregulars were holding Acre, a town without regular defenses, against Napoleon, the most brilliant military genius of his generation, with an army of 10,000 war-hardened veterans, the "Army of Italy"—soldiers who had dared the snows of the Alps and conquered Italy, and to whom victory was a familiar experience. In their ranks military daring had reached, perhaps, its very highest point. And yet the sailors inside that ring of crumbling wall won! At Acre Napoleon experienced his first defeat; and, years after, at St. Helena, he said of Sir Sidney Smith, the gallant sailor who baffled him, "That man made me miss my destiny." It is a curious fact that one Englishman thwarted Napoleon's career in the East, and another ended his career in the West, and it may be doubted which of the two Napoleon hated most—Wellington, who finally overthrew him at Waterloo, or Sidney Smith, who, to use Napoleon's own words, made him "miss his destiny," and exchange the empire of the East for a lonely pinnacle of rock in the Atlantic.

Who does Napoleon believe “robbed him of his destiny”?

Possible Answers:

Wellington

The weather

Sir Sidney Smith

The French Government

God

Correct answer:

Sir Sidney Smith

Explanation:

This question is asking if you can identify the main point of a passage. This passage is talking about Sir Sidney Smith and Napoleon, and how Smith “robbed” Napoleon of his destiny. The answer is also directly stated in the passage's last line, when the author says, “. . . Sidney Smith, who, to use Napoleon's own words, made him "miss his destiny," and exchange the empire of the East for a lonely pinnacle of rock in the Atlantic.”

Example Question #1 : Identifying And Analyzing Main Idea And Theme In History Passages

Adapted from "Crossing the Rubicon" in History of Julius Caesar by Jacob Abbott (1902)

There was a little stream in ancient times, in the north of Italy, which flowed eastward into the Adriatic Sea, called the Rubicon. This stream has been immortalized by the transactions which we are now about to describe.

The Rubicon was a very important boundary, and yet it was in itself so small and insignificant that it is now impossible to determine which of two or three little brooks here running into the sea is entitled to its name and renown. In history the Rubicon is a grand, permanent, and conspicuous stream, gazed upon with continued interest by all mankind for nearly twenty centuries; in nature it is an uncertain rivulet, for a long time doubtful and undetermined, and finally lost.

The Rubicon originally derived its importance from the fact that it was the boundary between all that part of the north of Italy which is formed by the valley of the Po, one of the richest and most magnificent countries of the world, and the more southern Roman territories. This country of the Po constituted what was in those days called the hither Gaul, and was a Roman province. It belonged now to Cæsar's jurisdiction, as the commander in Gaul. All south of the Rubicon was territory reserved for the immediate jurisdiction of the city. The Romans, in order to protect themselves from any danger which might threaten their own liberties from the immense armies which they raised for the conquest of foreign nations, had imposed on every side very strict limitations and restrictions in respect to the approach of these armies to the capital. The Rubicon was the limit on this northern side. Generals commanding in Gaul were never to pass it. To cross the Rubicon with an army on the way to Rome was rebellion and treason. Hence the Rubicon became, as it were, the visible sign and symbol of civil restriction to military power.

By crossing the Rubicon, Caesar __________.

Possible Answers:

threatened the Roman capital with his army 

violated the laws made in Gaul to protect the Empire

fulfilled a long held prophecy that the commander of Gaul would rule all of Rome

got back in time to defend the capital from barbarians 

accommodated the wishes of the Roman Senate 

Correct answer:

threatened the Roman capital with his army 

Explanation:

The author tells us that the Rubicon is the limit established by the city of Rome to protect the authority of the Roman politicians from the power of the Roman armies of Gaul. The author then states, “To cross the Rubicon with an army on the way to Rome was rebellion and treason. Hence the Rubicon became, as it were, the visible sign and symbol of civil restriction to military power.” So it is clear that by crossing the Rubicon, Caesar threatened Rome with his army. 

Example Question #1 : Analyzing Cause And Effect In History Passages

Adapted from The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin (1784)

At the time I established myself in Pennsylvania there was not a good bookseller's shop in any of the colonies to the southward of Boston. In New York and Philadelphia the printers were indeed stationers; they sold only paper, etc., almanacs, ballads, and a few common school-books. Those who loved reading were obliged to send for their books from England; the members of the Junto had each a few. We had left the ale-house, where we first met, and hired a room to hold our club in. I proposed that we should all of us bring our books to that room, where they would not only be ready to consult in our conferences, but become a common benefit, each of us being at liberty to borrow such as he wished to read at home. This was accordingly done, and for some time contented us.

Finding the advantage of this little collection, I proposed to render the benefit from books more common by commencing a public subscription library. I drew a sketch of the plan and rules that would be necessary, and got a skilful conveyancer, Mr. Charles Brockden, to put the whole in form of articles of agreement, to be subscribed, by which each subscriber engaged to pay a certain sum down for the first purchase of books, and an annual contribution for increasing them. So few were the readers at that time in Philadelphia, and the majority of us so poor, that I was not able, with great industry to find more than fifty persons, mostly young tradesmen, willing to pay down for this purpose forty shillings each, and ten shillings per annum. On this little fund we began. The books were imported; the library was opened one day in the week for lending to the subscribers, on their promissory notes to pay double the value if not duly returned. The institution soon manifested its utility, was imitated by other towns and in other provinces. The libraries were augmented by donations; reading became fashionable; and our people, having no public amusements to divert their attention from study, became better acquainted with books, and in a few years were observed by strangers to be better instructed and more intelligent than people of the same rank generally are in other countries.

The main purpose of this passage is __________.

Possible Answers:

to explain why American colonists were so much better informed than the rest of the world

to show how one might go about establishing a library

to show why reading books is so important to an informed citizenry

to explain why Franklin established a library

Correct answer:

to explain why Franklin established a library

Explanation:

The primary purpose of the passage is simply to explain Franklin's reasons for establishing a library in Philadelphia.

Example Question #21 : Analyzing Main Idea, Theme, And Purpose In Social Science / History Passages

"The Sociology of Deviance" by Joseph Ritchie (2014)

Sociologically, deviance is defined as behaviors or actions that violate informal or formal social sanctions. A formal social sanction is one set by a proper authority, such as a state or federal legislature. Formal laws and sanctions are often enforced and propagated by an official body or organization, such as police departments and court houses. Informal sanctions are known as "folkways" and "mores." Informal sanctions are not proposed as law and are enforced by informal means such as exclusion, avoidance, or negative sentiments. Deviance and the enforcement of social norms, both formal and informal, play important roles in the construction of society and its values.

Sociologist Emile Durkheim hypothesized that deviance is an important and necessary part of the organization of society. He stated that deviance performs the following functions: it affirms cultural norms, defines moral boundaries, strengthens society’s bonds through its enforcement, and advances social revolution. This is considered to be a structural-functionalist theory because it outlines deviance’s function in the structure and construction of society.

Robert Merton outlined deviance as the product of the interactions between an individual’s cultural goals and the means to obtain these goals as produced by society or institutions. Cultural goals can be described as financial success, acquisition of academic degrees, or the pursuit of "the American Dream." Institutionalized means are best described as society’s proposed paths to achieve cultural goals. Merton hypothesized that the acceptance or rejection of cultural goals and institutionalized means of achievement defined an individual’s level of deviance. Conformists accept cultural norms and institutionalized means while retreatists reject both norms and means. An innovator will accept cultural goals but reject the institutionalized means to obtain them. A ritualist will embrace the rules set forth by society but will lose sight of and reject cultural norms. Lastly, rebellious individuals will create a counter-culture that not only rejects a society's goals and means, but also creates new cultural norms and means to achieve these goals.

Deviance plays a role in society that has been studied by various sociologists. Some feel that it is a necessary element utilized in the structure and function of society, while others feel that it defines an individual’s outlook on societal norms and means of achievement. Deviance can be described as behavior that goes against the grain of conduct deemed acceptable by society. The phenomena that exist in its composition and purpose will continue to be studied by researchers in an effort to better understand society and culture.

Which of the following sociologists claim that deviance is necessary for the organization of society?

Possible Answers:

Becker

None of the other answers

Goffman

Durkheim

Merton

Correct answer:

Durkheim

Explanation:

In the second paragraph of the passage, it is stated that Durkheim hypothesized that deviance is important for the organization of society. This is because deviance performs the following functions: "it affirms cultural norms, defines moral boundaries, strengthens society’s bonds through its enforcement, and advances social revolution."

Example Question #2 : Recognizing The Main Idea In Narrative Social Science Passages

"The Holy Roman Empire" by Daniel Morrison (2014)

The Holy Roman Empire was somewhat unique among the various organized states of Middle and Early Modern Europe in that the Emperor was chosen by a group of electors. This is in stark contrast to the strict hereditary nature of English or French succession, where the position of monarch was handed down from the outgoing ruler to his closest legitimate heir, usually a son. In the Holy Roman Empire, the Emperor was chosen by seven electors, which in theory might seem to give the Empire a sort of early democratic flavor. However, in practice, only two or three families were ever able to draw on sufficient personal wealth to stand for election. Of these, the Luxembourgs and the Hapsburgs are most well known. The Hapsburgs were so successful that they were able to maintain their “elected” position for almost four centuries, and the Luxembourgs somehow still have a small country named after their family almost seven hundred years after their fall from dominance.

What is the main idea of this passage?

Possible Answers:

That the Holy Roman Empire was unusual in European history because it was not based on inheritance.

That the English and French monarchies suffered from their direct form of inheritance.

That the Holy Roman Empire was neither, strictly speaking, Holy, Roman, nor an Empire.

That the Luxembourg family is lucky to still have a country named after it.

That the Hapsburg family is the most powerful in European history.

Correct answer:

That the Holy Roman Empire was unusual in European history because it was not based on inheritance.

Explanation:

The main idea or argument of this article is that the Holy Roman Empire was unusual in European history. The title of the article suggests this, and the author highlights this at the beginning of the passage when he says, “The Holy Roman Empire was somewhat unique among the various organized states of Middle and Early Modern Europe in that the Emperor was chosen by a group of electors. This is in stark contrast to the strict hereditary nature of English or French succession." The other answer choices are either not mentioned in the text, or else are part of the author’s less significant arguments.

Example Question #2 : Recognizing The Main Idea In Narrative Social Science Passages

Adapted from Early European History Hutton Webster (1917)

It was the work of Darius to provide for his dominions a stable government which should preserve what the sword had won. The problem was difficult. The empire was a collection of many people widely different in race, language, customs, and religion. Darius did not attempt to weld the conquered nations into unity. As long as the subjects of Persia paid tribute and furnished troops for the royal army, they were allowed to conduct their own affairs with little interference from the Great King.

The entire empire, excluding Persia proper, was divided into twenty satrapies, or provinces, each one with its civil governor, or satrap. The satraps carried out the laws and collected the heavy tribute annually levied throughout the empire. In most of the provinces there were also military governors who commanded the army and reported directly to the king. This device of entrusting the civil and military functions to separate officials lessened the danger of revolts against the Persian authority. As an additional precaution Darius provided special agents whose business it was to travel from province to province and investigate the conduct of his officials. It became a proverb that "the king has many eyes and many ears."

Darius also established a system of military roads throughout the Persian dominions. The roads were provided at frequent intervals with inns, where postmen stood always in readiness to take up a letter and carry it to the next station. The Royal Road from Susa, the Persian capital, to Sardis in Lydia was over fifteen hundred miles long; but government couriers, using relays of fresh horses, could cover the distance within a week. An old Greek writer declares with admiration that "there is nothing mortal more swift than these messengers."

Which of these best summarizes the difficulties encountered by Darius at the beginning of his reign?

Possible Answers:

He inherited a large, diverse Empire comprised of inhabitants of numerous races and religions.

The Satraps were governed by corruption and binding bureaucracy.

The Persian army had grown weak and ineffectual after decades of misuse.

The royal coffers were devoid of gold and there was no reliable source of income.

He was born into a weak, decentralized kingdom that was in open rebellion.

Correct answer:

He inherited a large, diverse Empire comprised of inhabitants of numerous races and religions.

Explanation:

In the first paragraph, the author states that Darius ascended the throne after an empire had newly been conquered. It was his responsibility to protect “what the sword had won.” According to the author, “The problem was difficult. The empire was a collection of many people widely different in race, language, customs, and religion.” This is closest in meaning to “[Darius] inherited a large, diverse Empire comprised of numerous races and religions.”

Example Question #3 : Recognizing The Main Idea In Narrative Social Science Passages

Adapted from The Story of Mankind by Hendrik Van Loon (1921)

The Phoenicians were a Semitic tribe that at a very early age had settled along the shores of the Mediterranean. They had built themselves two well-fortified towns, Tyre and Sidon, and within a short time they had gained a monopoly of the trade of the western seas. Their ships went regularly to Greece and Italy and Spain and they even ventured beyond the straits of Gibraltar to visit the Scilly islands where they could buy tin. Wherever they went, they built themselves small trading stations, which they called colonies. Many of these were the origin of modern cities, such as Cadiz and Marseilles.

They bought and sold whatever promised to bring them a good profit and regarded a well-filled treasure chest the highest ideal of all good citizens. Notably, they rendered future generations one service of the greatest possible value: they helped develop the alphabet used in modern English.

The Phoenicians had been familiar with the art of writing, invented by the Sumerians. But they regarded the Sumerian method as a clumsy waste of time. They were practical business men and could not spend hours engraving two or three letters. They set to work and invented a new system of writing which was greatly superior to the old one. They borrowed a few pictures from the Egyptians and they simplified a number of the wedge-shaped figures of the Sumerians. They sacrificed the pretty looks of the older system for the advantage of speed and they reduced the thousands of different images to a short and handy alphabet of twenty-two letters.

In due course of time, this alphabet travelled across the Aegean Sea and entered Greece. The Greeks added a few letters of their own and carried the improved system to Italy. The Romans modified the figures somewhat and in turn taught them to the barbarians of western Europe. That is the reason why this is written in characters that are of Phoenician origin and not in the hieroglyphics of the Egyptians or in the nail-script of the Sumerians.

The main purpose of this passage is to __________.

Possible Answers:

explain the Phoenician origin of the English alphabet

highlight the Phoenician love of commerce

contrast Phoenician and Roman commerce

outline the origin of the English language

highlight how far the Phoenicians ventured in pursuit of trade

Correct answer:

explain the Phoenician origin of the English alphabet

Explanation:

All of these answer choices are related to the purpose and argument of this passage. However, only “explain the Phoenician origin of our alphabet” accurately reflects the author’s dual emphasis on detailing the history of the early Phoenicians as well as explaining how the Latin alphabet originated. The Phoenician emphasis on making money and trading seems to have encouraged them to create a simple and quick alphabet, which has then been handed down over the long expanse of time.

Example Question #4 : Recognizing The Main Idea In Narrative Social Science Passages

Adapted from The Story of Mankind by Hendrik Van Loon (1921)

The Phoenicians were a Semitic tribe that at a very early age had settled along the shores of the Mediterranean. They had built themselves two well-fortified towns, Tyre and Sidon, and within a short time they had gained a monopoly of the trade of the western seas. Their ships went regularly to Greece and Italy and Spain and they even ventured beyond the straits of Gibraltar to visit the Scilly islands where they could buy tin. Wherever they went, they built themselves small trading stations, which they called colonies. Many of these were the origin of modern cities, such as Cadiz and Marseilles.

They bought and sold whatever promised to bring them a good profit and regarded a well-filled treasure chest the highest ideal of all good citizens. Notably, they rendered future generations one service of the greatest possible value: they helped develop the alphabet used in modern English.

The Phoenicians had been familiar with the art of writing, invented by the Sumerians. But they regarded the Sumerian method as a clumsy waste of time. They were practical business men and could not spend hours engraving two or three letters. They set to work and invented a new system of writing which was greatly superior to the old one. They borrowed a few pictures from the Egyptians and they simplified a number of the wedge-shaped figures of the Sumerians. They sacrificed the pretty looks of the older system for the advantage of speed and they reduced the thousands of different images to a short and handy alphabet of twenty-two letters.

In due course of time, this alphabet travelled across the Aegean Sea and entered Greece. The Greeks added a few letters of their own and carried the improved system to Italy. The Romans modified the figures somewhat and in turn taught them to the barbarians of western Europe. That is the reason why this is written in characters that are of Phoenician origin and not in the hieroglyphics of the Egyptians or in the nail-script of the Sumerians.

The Phoenicians primarily faulted the Sumerian language for its __________.

Possible Answers:

lack of punctuation

lack of efficiency

difficulty to learn

ease of use

use only in writing poetry

Correct answer:

lack of efficiency

Explanation:

When discussing the Phoenicians breaking with the Sumerian language, the author says, “they regarded the Sumerian method as a clumsy waste of time. They were practical business men and could not spend hours engraving two or three letters.” This seems to be highlighting the Phoenician's belief that the Sumerian language “lacked efficiency.”

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