Monday, May 7, 2012

Roadside Linguistics - Sign Syntax

Michigan's warning signs regarding ice on bridges are pretty straightforward syntactically; in fact, I can't think of any other way to parse the sentence than the following - 

On the other hand, some signs from other states (like the one below) can be parsed differently depending upon which part of speech the word before is playing.

Logically, I would say that the sign is intended to be interpreted with before acting as a subordinating conjunction for a temporal, adverbial clause, as follows -
However, the option is open for before to be interpreted as a preposition telling where the bridge ices.

And this is why I don't sleep at night.

Sign image credits.


SimSimani said...

This is why I love reading your blog! :)

- SimSimani

Stefanie said...


The Top 100 Language Lovers 2012 competition hosted by the language portal and the Lexiophiles language blog has started and your blog has been nominated in the category professional language blogs. Congratulations! The nomination period goes until May 13th. Feel free to spread the word among other bloggers writing about languages or to suggest one blog yourself.
Please email me so I have your contact details and send you information about the status of the competition and the badge. For further information on the Top 100 Language Lovers 2011 competition, visit

Best wishes,
Stefanie for the and Lexiophiles team

Laura Payne said...

Thank you, SimSimani.

Philip King said...

Don't forget "Watch for Ice on Bridge" which served as a cyclical source of anticipation and disappointment to me, a summer visitor to Michigan.

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