A blog about any and all things linguistic. Topics can range from phonetics to syntax to aspects of specific languages. Updated weekly.
Saturday, January 15, 2011
Last weekend was the annual LSA meeting, and so I drove to Pittsburgh, PA to spend a few days carousing with linguists. On the PA Turnpike there are a number of tunnels through the mountains in central PA. Naturally, you should have your headlights on when driving through these tunnels (though they are somewhat lit). Signs just before the tunnels instruct you to do so: "Turn on headlights". However, I was more puzzled by the signs after such tunnels: "Headlights on?" I knew how to answer the question: "Yes." But why was it being asked? Clearly the designers thought it was an obvious question to ask, but I was more confused. Were they making sure I still had my headlights on, because I was going to be going through another tunnel soon? This doesn't seem right, because I'm pretty sure the signs appeared after every tunnel, including the last one coming through the mountains. But in that case it would seem they're asking to make sure I remember to turn them off. This seems odd because daytime running lights are a common safety feature on newer vehicles, and in fact some areas of the country require you to drive with your lights on all the time, since it increases the visibility of your car. So I'd be surprised if they were reminding me to turn off my lights. However, I can't really think of any other options. It seems insane to say that they're just calling my attention to the state of my lights so that I can adjust them as I see fit. What else is there?
I live in New Brunswick, NJ with my wife Amanda, and am currently a 3rd year linguistics Ph.D. student at Rutgers. My research interests include phonetics, phonology, Optimality Theory, Native American languages (esp. Na-Dene and Algonquian), loanword adaptation, and syllable structure. Send comments/suggestions/questions to:
rdenzerk at eden.rutgers.edu