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American Sign Language Grammar: "Context-based Conjugation"


Grammar links:  1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 |  Also see: Inflection


 


"Verb conjugation refers to how a verb changes to show a different person, tense, number or mood." (Source: Grammarly, 2016, Grammarly Handbook: Verb Conjugation)

In ASL there is a sign that means "grow up" / "grew up" / raised / "become taller."   We could call that sign "RAISED."  We could just as easily refer to the sign as "GROW-UP." 

For this discussion though let's call it "GROW-UP/RAISED."

The issue or question here:  "Is the sign GROW-UP/RAISED present tense or past tense?" When and how does the GROW-UP/RAISED sign become "present tense"?  When and how does the GROW-UP/RAISED sign become "past tense"? 

If you are an adult and are introducing yourself or telling someone about yourself (your background) and you sign "I/ME GROW-UP/RAISED..." it would typically be interpreted as meaning "I was raised..." or "I grew up..."

In this situation you do not need to modify the GROW-UP/RAISED sign in any way nor add any other sign (such as PAST) to make it past tense.

The words "in this situation" (in the explanation above) are important. The phrase "in this situation" is another way of saying "in this context."  The context in which a sign is signed can (and usually does) affect the meaning of that sign:  

[*context]-GROW-UP/RAISED = "I grew up" or "I was raised."
*Context: An adult introducing himself/herself.

The past tense conjugation of GROW-UP/RAISED  is achieved via "context."
We could call this "context-based past tense conjugation."

Now, suppose a young child signs the phrase "I/ME GROW-UP/RAISED..."  In this situation the term GROW-UP/RAISED would typically be interpreted to mean "When I grow up...", or possibly "As I get older...".
Again do not need to modify the GROW-UP/RAISED sign in any way nor add any other sign to make it present tense.

 

[*context]-GROW-UP/RAISED = "When I grow up..." or "As I get older..."
*Context: An child discussing his/her intentions.

The present tense conjugation of GROW-UP/RAISED is achieved via "context."
We could call this "context-based present tense conjugation."

What is fascinating here is that if we were all in a room and taking turns introducing ourselves and an adult (while introducing himself/herself) signed GROW-UP/RAISED it would be "past tense" and then later a child (while introducing himself/herself) signed GROW-UP/RAISED it would be "present tense" and the only difference in the context would be the age of the signers.

So we have an example of a person's age being the factor that influences the tense of a (particular) sign.

 


 


 

Notes:
See: GROW-UP/RAISED

 




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