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In the following sentence, I believe the adjective "automobile" modifies the series of nouns "roads", "highways" and "river crossings" else the order of the list would be different... I can't seem to find a style guide or citation to back me up because it is such a poor sentence. I need to cite an authority for my criticism. Does anyone have an appropriate citation? Am I totally off base?

"New public automobile roads and highways and river crossings will not be permitted."
Comments  
Sounds like a typical government regulation to me. Both "public" and "automobile" independently modify the three "nouns" you mention. The important thing is that the language is legal and unambiguous, style be damned!
You are correct about the source but the government doesn't read this sentence the way you have. That's why I'm looking for a citation to an authoritative source.
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Hi,

In the following sentence, I believe the adjective "automobile" modifies the series of nouns "roads", "highways" and "river crossings" else the order of the list would be different... I can't seem to find a style guide or citation to back me up because it is such a poor sentence. I need to cite an authority for my criticism. Does anyone have an appropriate citation? Am I totally off base?
"New public automobile roads and highways and river crossings will not be permitted."

I would focus my criticism as follows.

The adjective 'automobile' seems redundant and odd when applied to roads and highways, which by common definition are for automobiles. The same might be argued of the word 'public'.

The first 'and' would normally be replaced by a comma.

A better sentence would be
"New roads, highways and river crossings for automobiles will not be permitted."

With regard to your query, I would say that whether an adjective applies to multiple items in a list is to some extent a matter of meaning.
Consider the scope of the adjective in each of these examples.
eg He went shopping. He bought a striped sweater, a car and a house.
eg He is a very rich man. He always buys expensive clothes, houses and cars.

I'm afraid I don't have a citation to offer you.

Best wishes, Clive

Anonymous the government doesn't read this sentence the way you have.
Out or curiosity, how do they read it??

BTW, I think Clive's examples make it clear that you'll have a rough time pinning them down as to exactly what applies when a series of adjectives modify a series of nouns.
Avangi
Anonymous the government doesn't read this sentence the way you have.
Out or curiosity, how do they read it??

BTW, I think Clive's examples make it clear that you'll have a rough time pinning them down as to exactly what applies when a series of adjectives modify a series of nouns.

They read the sentence to have "automobile" modify only roads. They conclude that the sentence prohibits a foot bridge. Clive's examples have more relevance to the use of an article "a" than the adjective, i believe.
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