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ASL Linguistics:  Tense

A student writes:
Dear Bill, I am enjoying your lessons.
I have associated with the Deaf community for 15 months and find your course very helpful.
However, I have a question about one of your sample sentences.
The English is "Have you met my brother?
Your ASL response is "You - meet my brother?"
Since you are asking about if the person has already met my brother in the past, wouldn't the correct ASL phrase be "YOU FINISH MEET MY BROTHER?"
Which would be asking "Have you in the past met my brother?"
I could be all wrong. But I thought I would ask anyway.
Hello Chris,
Great question.  It could go either way depending on the situation ("context").
If my brother is in the room and I am introducing you around, and I think that you don't know he is my brother, I might sign:
INDEX-(point at brother) MY BROTHER-[smile, single small nod of head], FINISH MEET?-[raise eyebrows for yes/no question expression]  Which basically says, "This is my brother, have you meet him?"
However, if I simply signed "YOU MEET MY BROTHER?" (while raising my eyebrows in the facial expression for a yes/no question), it would be understood that I'm asking "Have you met my brother yet?"
 Your response (if you had already met him) would likely be, "FINISH" or if you hadn't met him you would likely sign "NOT-YET."
Now, suppose it is the day after a party.  Suppose you and I are talking about what a great time we had and I recall that my brother showed up at the party and I want to know if you met him.  Since we have already established that we were talking about something that took place last night I'd simply sign:
Which would be interpreted as "Did you meet my brother?" In that case it would be totally unnecessary to add the sign "FINISH" (but it wouldn't be wrong either).
Dr. Bill

A student asked me quite a few questions about how to sign PLAY (as in playing a game, not I went to the play at the theater house).  One of the challenges in responding is that the student sent me only sentence fragments and not complete sentences. Having a complete sentence makes it easier to come up with a suitable way to sign the concept.

"I play …"
1.  I/ME PLAY…
2.  Sometimes the game itself incorporates the concept of "play" so you don't need to add the sign. For example:  "I/ME GOLF." = "I play golf."

"I am playing."
1. I/ME PLAY [head nod] (I'm playing.)
2. I/ME PLAY NOW  (I'm currently playing.)
3. I/ME PLAY I/ME [head nod]  (I'm indeed playing.)
Notes: Signing "I" at the ending is sometimes called "Pronoun Copy."
The "Pronoun Copy" is often used to indicate state of being concepts or questions by combining the repeated use of the pronoun along with a head nod [for affirmations] or raised eyebrows [for questions] to indicate such concepts as: I am, I do, do you, will you, have you, are you, etc.

"I have played"
1. I/ME PLAY FINISH = "I'm done playing. I have completed playing."
2. I/ME FINISH PLAY = "I've already played…).
3. I/ME PLAY PAST-(before) = "I've played that in the past." "I've played that before."
4. PAST I/ME PLAY… = "Previously I played…"

"I played…"
Response: "YES, I PLAY all-DAY!" = "Yes! I played all day!"
Note: Sometimes the "past tense" (-ed) concept is expressed by the conversation partner in a previous sentence.
Example 2: "NOW-MORNING I PLAY C-H-E-S-S" = "This morning I played chess."

"I was playing…"
DURING I PLAY…(I was playing [then something occurred…])
YESTERDAY I GO MY FRIEND HOUSE PLAY GAME.  I PLAY, HAPPEN! POLICE SHOW-up! = I went over to my friends house yesterday to play a game. I was playing when all of a sudden the police showed up!

"I had played…"
Yesterday I lost the game. I had played my best but opponent was better.

"I have been playing…"

"I will play…"
1. Context: Your friend is setting up a multi-player board game and looks at you and signs:
YOU PLAY?-[eyebrows_up]  You respond: "I PLAY."  This could be interpreted as, "Are you going to play?" "I will play." (or "I'll play.")

2. I/ME PLAY WILL-(future)!  (Putting "WILL" at the end indicates commitment – not tense.  This sentence then means: "I will certainly play!")


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