Month: January 2017
End focus, part 2
The West Bank, which we spent 2 days visiting earlier this month, is divided into Areas A, B, & C.
Area A’s are Palestinian. (There seemed to be lots of different places in each category, but I could be wrong.)
Area C ‘s are Israeli.
Area B’s are half and half, with Palestinian police and Israeli defense forces (as I recall).
Here’s the kicker: they all look alike. Completely alike. They look so much alike that at one point our guide told us he had no idea which kind of area we were driving through at that moment, an A, a B, or a C. Without signage, you can’t tell, and signage is sparse.
Signage is sparse except when you’re approaching an Area A. Area A’s–all Area A’s, from what I could tell–greet visitors with a large red sign printed in Hebrew, Arabic, and English that reads, in its entirety:
The entrance for Israeli citizens is forbidden, is dangerous to your lives, & is forbidden by Israeli law
Our bus blew past a lot of these signs, and each time it did, I felt a disorienting combination of amusement and alarm.
Alarm that we were entering an area that was dangerous to our lives;1 amusement that, apparently, in the eyes of the Palestinian Authority, breaking Israeli law would be a worse fate than possibly dying.
That’s sentence end-focus.
In the English sentence, the most important information comes at the end. So, to me, the sign says that breaking Israeli law is worse than risking my life. Which is ridiculous. I don’t know about you, but given a choice between dying and breaking Israeli law, I don’t have to think twice.
Are sentences constructed differently in Arabic?
I’ve tried to research it a bit, but have found conflicting answers.
1. I’m not an Israeli citizen, but we were traveling with three people who were. ↩
And see: Greetings from the West Bank
Greetings from the West Bank
Speaking of end focus:
And see: End focus, part 2
Save the best for last: sentence end focus
From Greenbaum and Nelson’s An Introduction to English Grammar (4th edition):
It is normal to arrange the information in our message so that the most important information comes at the end. We follow this principle of end-focus when we put such information at the end of a sentence or clause. In contrast, the beginning of a sentence or clause typically contains information that is general knowledge, or is obvious from the context, or may be assumed as given because it has been mentioned earlier.