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.

Area C ‘s are Israeli.

Area B’s are half and half: Palestinian police, Israeli defense forces (as I recall).

Everything looks alike. At one point our guide told us he had no idea which area we were driving through; without signage, you can’t tell.

The only areas that did have signage were Area A’s, which greet visitors with a big red sign in Hebrew, Arabic, and English that says:

The entrance for Israeli citizens is forbidden, is dangerous to your lives, & is forbidden by Israeli law

We passed a lot of these signs during our visit. Each time we 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 English sentences, the most important information comes last. So, to me, the sign says that breaking Israeli law is worse than risking my life.

Perhaps sentences constructed differently in Arabic?

I’ve found conflicting answers. #footnote

1. I’m not an Israeli citizen, but we were traveling with three people who were.    

AND SEE: Greetings from the West Bank

Save the best for last: sentence end focus

From Greenbaum and Nelson’s An Introduction to English Grammar (4th edition):

8.2 End-focus

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.

If we put a subordinate clause at the end of a sentence, it receives greater emphasis. For example, [1] emphasizes the action of the committee members, whereas [1a] emphasizes their feelings:

[1] Although they were not completely happy with it, the committee members adopted her wording of the resolution.

[1a] The committee members adopted her wording of the resolution, although they were not completely happy with it.

Similarly, the pairs that follow show how we can choose which information comes at the end by the way we organize the sentence:

[2] The American public is not interested in appeasing terrorists.
[2a] Appeasing terrorists does not interest the American public.
[3] On guard stood a man with a gun in each hand.
[3a] A man with a gun in each hand stood on guard.
[4] Teenagers are difficult to teach.
[4a] It is difficult to teach teenagers.

Greenbaum, Sidney and Nelson, Gerald. An Introduction to English Grammar. 2nd ed. London, England: Pearson Education, 2002. Print.