[sw-l] Verb Conjugations in American Sign Language (ASL) and others...

Valerie Sutton sutton at SIGNWRITING.ORG
Sun Nov 21 18:34:47 UTC 2004

SignWriting List
November 21, 2004

From: Jakob Hoepelman <HOEPEL at de.ibm.com>
Date: September 5, 2004
To: Sutton at SignBank.org
Subject: A question on tense in ASL

Dear Mrs Sutton,
I'm doing a short survey of pictorial languages and auxiliary systems 
and I
found your name under
http://signbank.org/dictionaries/pictdict/pictdict09.html. I have a
linguistic question I would like to ask and I would be very grateful if 
could answer it or refer me to some site or piece of literature for an
answer. Going through the ASL - English- ASL dictionaries I wondered how
verb tenses and related phenomena (past, present, future, present 
progressive etc.) are expressed in ASL. Is the full system of English
tenses used? Is it needed it all? If not, how much of it is in actual 
Are temporal relations expressed by morphologically, or are they 
by other means, like adverb (yesterday, tomorrow etc.) + root form?
I hope this request is not demanding too much of your time. Just a short
hint would help me a lot.
Thanking you beforehand

Mit freundlichem Gruß,
With kind regards,
Met vriendelijke groeten
Prof. Dr. Jakob Hoepelman


Dear SignWriting List, and Professor Hoepelman!
Please accept my apology for taking sooo long to answer your email 
question about verbs in ASL, written to me on September 5th!

American Sign Language grammar is not the same as English grammar. 
American Sign Language has sophisticated verb conjugations and other 
grammatical structures, but those verb conjugations have nothing to do 
with the way English conjugates verbs. ASL and English are totally 
separate languages that are not dependent on each other...They are 
standalone languages! And that is precisely why having a way to write 
American Sign Language, or any other signed language, has value!

So yes...verb conjugations are needed in every language, whether they 
be signed or spoken. And each individual signed language is also 
different from each other, just as spoken languages are not the same as 
other spoken languages...

And yes...all naturally evolved signed languages have their own forms 
of adverbs, adjectives etc...We actually have some vert conjugations 
and adverbs written in ASL, but because my time is so tight it will 
take me time to write an article about that...but we need that, I 
agree! So as soon as I have posted that I will inform you all -

Meanwhile I am sure you know that DGS...German Sign Language...is 
written in SignWriting?  I would suggest writing to Stefan about 
writing verb conjugations and adverbs in DGS:

Stefan Woehrmann
stefanwoehrmann at gebaerdenschrift.de

Many thanks for writing -

Val ;-)

Valerie Sutton
Sutton at SignWriting.org

1. SignWritingSite
Read & Write Sign Languages

2. SignBankSite
Sign Language Dictionaries

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