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0959 A Territorial Dispute

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Welcome to English as a Second Language Podcast number 959 – A Territorial Dispute.

This is English as a Second Language Podcast episode 959. I'm your host, Dr. Jeff McQuillan, coming to you from the Center for Educational Development in beautiful Los Angeles, California, U.S.A.

Our website is ESLPod.com. Go there to become a member of ESL Podcast. When you do, you can download the Learning Guide for this episode.

This episode is a dialogue between Roberta and Eli about territorial disputes – when two countries have disagreements about who owns a certain piece of land. Let’s get started.

[start of dialogue]

Roberta: So this is McQuillanland!

Eli: Well, that depends on whom you ask. This area has been under territorial dispute since 1963.

Roberta: Who else claims it?

Eli: Its neighbor, Tseland. Tseland annexed it after the brief war in 1963, but McQuillanland refuses to recognize the change in boundaries.

Roberta: I didn’t know that.

Eli: McQuillanland contends that the demarcation for the border is this river, but Tseland says that it rules over this entire valley. Since most of the people who live here consider themselves McQuillanlanders, they say possession is nine-tenths of the law.

Roberta: Wasn’t there a treaty at the end of the conflict?

Eli: There was, but the wording was vague and the dispute has continued to this day.

Roberta: So if we committed a crime right here, right now, which country would have jurisdiction?

Eli: Let’s not find out.

[end of dialogue]

Our dialogue begins with Roberta saying to Eli, “So this is McQuillanland!” Eli says, “Well, that depends on whom you ask.” It depends on the person you ask, Eli is saying, whether this is McQuillanland or not. He says, “This area has been under territorial dispute since 1963.” When we say something is “under dispute” (dispute), we mean that people disagree about it. Often it's a disagreement that has been going on for many years. A “territorial (territorial) dispute” is a disagreement about who owns a certain piece of land. The word “territorial” comes from the noun “territory,” which is another way of referring to land owned by a certain country.

Roberta says, “Who else claims it?” “To claim” (claim) here means to say that you own it, that it is yours. If I say, for example, “The United States claims the island of Guam in the South Pacific,” I mean the United States says that they own Guam, that it is theirs. Here, the word refers to owning a certain piece of territory, a certain area of land. Eli says that the neighbor of McQuillanland – Tseland – claims this area.

“Tseland annexed it after a brief war in 1963,” Eli tells us. “To annex” (annex) means to add some area of land to your land, to say it is yours. In Los Angeles, for example, the city of Los Angeles over the years has annexed certain areas that were not part of the city, but then became part of the city. The city is taking ownership of a certain part of land.

Countries can “annex” certain areas of land from other countries. Basically, they’re stealing it from other countries, but they often have reasons and justifications for why they are taking the land. Tseland annexed this land where Eli and Roberta are standing after a brief, or short, war in 1963. “But,” Eli continues, “McQuillanland refuses to recognize the change in boundaries.” A “boundary” (boundary) is a line that separates two different pieces of land, usually. That's how it's been used here. We might also say “border” (border). That's what separates two pieces of land – in this case, two different countries.

“McQuillanland refuses to recognize the change in boundaries.” “To recognize” is to say, “Okay, yes, we agree.” In this case, McQuillanland would have to agree that Tseland owns that particular piece of land. Of course they don't. Everyone knows that Tseland does not own this piece of land, that they illegally took the land back in 1963. But for the sake of the story, for the purposes of the story, we will not take sides. We will not decide who is right, McQuillanland or Tseland. We all know McQuillanland is right, but I won't say that, at least more than three or four more times.

Roberta says, “I didn't know that.” She didn't know that McQuillanland refused to recognize the change in boundaries. Eli says, “McQuillanland contends that the demarcation for the border is this river, but Tseland says that it rules over this entire valley.” To say that McQuillanland “contends” (contends) that something is true means that McQuillanland says this in an argument or in a dispute. We use the verb “to contend” in this context when we are talking about two people who disagree about something. What I “contend” is what I think is true.

“McQuillanland contends that the demarcation for the border is this river.” Demarcation” (demarcation) refers to the process of setting, or establishing, boundaries or borders, especially when these are being changed from the way they were before. The “demarcation” for the border would be the determination of where the border is – where the border between, in this case, McQuillanland and Tseland is. McQuillanland says the demarcation for the border is this river, “but Tseland says that it rules over this entire valley.” “To rule over” an area means to be in charge of, to own, to officially be the owner of that area.

Usually we talk about countries ruling over certain areas. Tseland says it “rules over this entire valley.” A “valley” (valley) is the place or land in between two hills or two mountains, more typically. A valley often has a river that goes through it. Eli says, “Since most of the people who live here consider themselves McQuillanlanders, they say possession is nine-tenths of the law.” Most of the people who live in this area consider themselves – that is, they think of themselves – as being citizens of McQuillanland. That is what a “McQuillanlander” would be, I guess.

“They say possession is nine-tenths of the law.” This is an old expression that means that when there is a disagreement about who owns something, the person, or in this case the country, that actually has possession of it – that actually has it with them or has it, in this case, under their control – is the legal owner. “To possess” something means to have it. You can possess something that you don't own. You can own something that you don't possess. “To own” something means that it legally belongs to you. “To possess” something means to actually have it. So, I own a car, but if someone steals my car, I no longer possess my car. “I don't have it in my possession,” we could say.

“Possession is nine-tenths of the law” means that if you actually have it, that's the most important thing, and that in some ways that is more proof that you own something. Of course, that isn't really true, but it's an expression that people use to indicate that it doesn't matter what other people say about who owns a certain thing; it's actually having it that is the best way of determining the true owner. I'm not talking about the way American law actually works, however. This has nothing to do with the laws of the U.S. or any other country. It has to do with the way people think about things.

Roberta says, “Wasn't there a treaty at the end of the conflict?” A “treaty” (treaty) is a formal agreement between two countries about some important issue or topic. A “conflict” (conflict) is a war when two countries are fighting, or when two people are fighting. That could also be called a “conflict.” Roberta is asking if there was a treaty at the end of the 1963 conflict. Eli says, “There was, but the wording was vague and the dispute has continued to this day.” “Wording” (wording) refers to the language that was used to express something, especially if it's in an official or legal document.

The word “vague” (vague) means unclear, uncertain, difficult to understand. If someone is being “vague” with you, they're not giving you a clear answer. We would say they're “not giving you a straight answer.” If the wording is vague, it's not clear when you read the treaty what it actually says. That's true with a lot of laws, I think. Eli says, “The dispute” – the disagreement – “has continued to this day,” meaning up until the present time. Roberta says, “So if we committed a crime right here, right now, which country would have jurisdiction?”

“To commit a crime” means to break the law – to do something against the law, like stealing my car, for example. “Jurisdiction” (jurisdiction) is the official, legal power that a government has over people in a certain area. In the United States, for example, there are many different cities within a state. The police in each city have jurisdiction over the people in that city, but they can't go to another city and arrest people. The police don't have jurisdiction in the other cities. States and cities and other governments talk about jurisdiction to refer to who has the authority, who has the power, to determine what happens in this specific area.

Eli doesn't want to find out which country would have jurisdiction if they committed a crime, and that's why he ends our dialogue by saying, “Let's not find out,” meaning let's not do something wrong and then, by that process, discover who has jurisdiction. That sounds like a pretty good idea to me.

Now let’s listen to the dialogue, this time at a normal speed.

[start of dialogue]

Roberta: So this is McQuillanland!

Eli: Well, that depends on whom you ask. This area has been under territorial dispute since 1963.

Roberta: Who else claims it?

Eli: Its neighbor, Tseland. Tseland annexed it after the brief war in 1963, but McQuillanland refuses to recognize the change in boundaries.

Roberta: I didn’t know that.

Eli: McQuillanland contends that the demarcation for the border is this river, but Tseland says that it rules over this entire valley. Since most of the people who live here consider themselves McQuillanlanders, they say possession is nine-tenths of the law.

Roberta: Wasn’t there a treaty at the end of the conflict?

Eli: There was, but the wording was vague and the dispute has continued to this day.

Roberta: So if we committed a crime right here, right now, which country would have jurisdiction?

Eli: Let’s not find out.

[end of dialogue]

There is no relationship between our scriptwriter, Dr. Lucy Tse, and Tseland in this script. It’s just a coincidence.

From Los Angeles, California, I'm Jeff McQuillan. Thank you for listening. Come back and listen to us again right here on ESL Podcast.

English as a Second Language Podcast was written and produced by Dr. Lucy Tse, hosted by Dr. Jeff McQuillan. Copyright 2013 by the Center for Educational Development.

Glossary
territorial dispute – a disagreement about which country an area of land belongs to, or which person owns a particular piece of land

* If this town is the subject of a territorial dispute, which country do the residents pay taxes to?

to claim – to state that one is the owner of something; to state that something belongs to oneself

* At this bus station, if nobody claims a suitcase within 48 hours, it will be sent to a warehouse for storage.

to annex – to add or attach something to something else, especially when talking about adding an area of land to a city, county, or country

* The city is trying to annex nearby farmland for more housing development.

to recognize – to officially believe that something has happened and agree to it

* The rebels announced that they’ve created their own country, but the government refuses to recognize their claim.

boundary – border; an imaginary line showing the outer edge or limit of something

* U.S. politicians sometimes try to change the boundaries of their voting districts so that their political party has an advantage.

to contend – during an argument or dispute, to say that something is true, knowing that the other side disagrees with the statement

* The company contends that the layoffs were unavoidable, but the employees who were fired have a different opinion.

demarcation – setting or establishing a boundary or limit of something, especially changing it from what it was previously

* At the end of the war, the demarcation of the nation’s boundaries was controversial, because they passed directly through several villages, splitting the population and even families into two different countries.

border – a line drawn on a map to separate two political units; imaginary lines that show where one county, state, country, or city ends and another begins

* If the border between two states is a river, which state is responsible for paying for buiding a bridge?

to rule over – to govern and control an area or a group of people; to have governing authority in a particular area

* The king dreamed of ruling over the entire continent.

possession is nine-tenths of the law – a phrase meaning that whoever actually has an object or lives on the land has a right to own it, even if another person is the official, legal owner of it

* In some countries, a landlord who allows a family to live on a property for more than 20 years risks losing ownership of that property, because possession is nine-tenths of the law.

treaty – a formal legal agreement between two countries, especially at the end of a war

* The Treaty of Versailles was signed at the end of World War I.

conflict – dispute; fighting; war

* Thousand of soldiers have died in the conflict.

wording – the way something is expressed when spoken or written down; the words chosen to describe something

* The editor said that the story is interesting, but the wording is too awkward.

vague – unclear, uncertain, and difficult to understand; not precise or exact

* Saying that a sales campaign was “extremely successful” is vague. How did you measure that success?

to commit a crime – to break the law; to do something that is not allowed under the law

* Anyone who has committed a crime is not allowed to work at the school.

jurisdiction – official legal power and authority over a particular area; the ability to create laws and make legal decisions in a specific place or area of land

* The crime occurred in multiple states, so it’s unclear which state has jurisdiction.

Comprehension Questions
1. What caused the territorial dispute between the two countries?
a) Tseland became part of McQuillanland.
b) McQuillanland became part of Tseland.
c) Tseland and McQuillanland are in an ongoing war.

2. According to Eli, what’s wrong with the treaty?
a) It wasn’t signed by all sides.
b) It wasn’t written clearly.
c) It didn’t specifically mention the river and valley.

Answers at bottom.

What Else Does It Mean?
to claim

The verb “to claim,” in this podcast, means to state that one is the owner of something: “Any object that is found will be held at the front desk until the owner claims it.” The verb “to claim” also means to say that something is true even if there isn’t proof for it: “The company that sells this tea claims that it will improve your memory, but they cannot give any scientific evidence to show that it is true.” When talking about money and insurance, a “claim” is a request for a payment: “If you had bought trip insurance, you could have claimed the cost of the flight that you missed when you were too sick to fly.” Finally, when talking about death, “to claim” means to take someone’s life: “So far, the war has claimed more than 400 lives.”

to rule

In this podcast, the phrasal verb “to rule over” means to govern and control an area or a group of people, or to have governing authority in a particular area: “How long did the tsar rule over Russia?” The phrase “to rule the roost” means to be the most important person in a married couple or in a family: “In the early years of their marriage, they often fought over who ruled the roost.” The phrase “to rule with an iron fist” means to lead and control people in a very strict, disciplinary way: “Hanks father ruled the home with an iron fist.” Finally, saying something “rules” is an informal way means that one believes something is the best, superior to everything else: “Snowboarding rules!”

Culture Note
Territorial Disputes in the United States

The United States’ borders may “appear” (seem) to be “set in stone” (clearly established), but in reality there have been several “domestic” (within the country) territorial disputes.

A large rock known as Arbitration Rock is the “site” (location) of a territorial dispute in New York. “Arbitration” is the process of having a “disinterested” (without an opinion for or against something) “party” (individual or entity) help bring an end to an argument. For years, two “townships” (small cities, or areas that will become cities) on Long Island in “present-day” (what is now known as) New York disagreed about their boundary line. Residents even “resorted to violence” (tried to hurt one another to get what they wanted), but in 1769, a law was passed to establish the boundary line. Measurements for the boundary line “made reference to” (referred to) the rock. Today, the rock has a “placard” (sign) noting its history and its role in the boundary dispute.

In 1804, North Carolina and Georgia fought in a boundary dispute known as the “Walton War.” A twelve-mile “strip” (long, rectangular section) of land became known as the “Orphan Strip,” where an “orphan” is a child whose parents have died. In 1807, a “commission” (a group of people responsible for a particular task) determined that the land actually belonged to North Carolina. But the issue was “brought up” (discussed) again as recently as 1971, showing Georgia’s unwillingness to “cede” (let go of) the land. North Carolina’s “militia” (the group of people who are prepared to fight for a state) actually began to prepare for another battle, but in the end, they did not fight.

Comprehension Answers
1 - b

2 - b