I know how to deal with time concepts
I understand the "time line"
I can recognize and sign numbers
Topicalizing vs. SVO
___ I am able to recognize and
sign the practice sentences and story for this lesson
___ I have taken the
___ I have taken the general practice quiz for this lesson.
See: PRACTICE QUIZZES
The sign for YEAR can be thought of as the earth going around the sun
one time equals “a year.” There is an advanced version of the sign for
year in which the dominant hand is lazy and makes a small circle above
the non-dominant hand instead of going all the way around. The sign for
YEAR can be modified to mean: annually, last-year, or next-year.
Additionally the sign YEAR can use numerical incorporation.
The sign for PAPER can also be used to mean “page” but there is a
specific sign for “page” (that can mean to turn pages and/or to look
something up in a book) that uses an open-A handshape for the dominant
hand and can be thought of as using your thumb to turn pages. If you use
a “D” hand the sign becomes “DICTIONARY.”
The concept of “before” can have different meanings. “Before now” should
be signed using the PAST sign. “Before some specific event” should use
the “PRIOR-to” sign. The concept of “LONG-AGO” is a variation of PAST.
The sign for tomorrow uses a slightly open-A handshape, is held at the
side of the head and then moves forward in a little arc. The sign
TOMORROW can be modified to mean “EVERYDAY” or “daily” by doing it twice
and getting rid of the arc.
If you are wondering what an “open-A” handshape is—it is an “A” hand in
which the thumb is sticking out.
The sign for FUTURE can modified to mean “someday” or “eventually” by
using a larger movement or doing two arcs instead of one. FUTURE can
also mean “will.” If the sign FUTURE shows up at the end of a sentence
it likely is being used for emphasis or to express certainty that
something will happen—(rather than simply establishing tense).
Regarding the sentence: "Have you ever lived in a big city?"
Many ASL instructors will tend to sign that as: PAST, CITY LARGE, YOU
I've never liked that sentence construction because it creates "tense
confusion." It could be argued that the sentence is creating
the meaning of "in the past the city was large, did you live there (when
it was large)?" Thus, for sentences involving the concept of "have
you ever" moving the time concept closer to the subject "you" (rather
than the object "the city")
is more clear.
Or your local ASL teacher may want you to sign the sentence "Have you
ever lived in a big city?" -- this way: "PAST YOU LIVE BIG CITY YOU?"
That is quite a bit better.
During your class your should sign however your teacher wants you to sign.
He or she is the one who gives the grade and knows local/regional
After you get the grade you want, go out into the Deaf Community and see
how adult native ASL-signing Deaf people sign the concept "have you
Do your own research and I think you'll see what I'm talking about.
Now, as far as the technical reasons why I sign: "YOU LIVE BIG CITY PAST
YOU?" -- it has to do with the way ASL uses the sign "PAST" as a verb
paired with "YOU" to create a meaning of "did you?"
If you'd like to get into the nitty gritty of it, see
YEAR-PAST MY HOUSE ROOM ROOM WHITE A-L-L. NOW-YEAR MANY COLOR. MY BEDROOM BLUE. MY SISTER BEDROOM YELLOW. BROTHER WANT BEDROOM BLACK, DAD (say)-NO-(to-him-"sternly"). (Role play brother bodyshift face slightly left. Ask-to-father)-ORANGE? (Role play father bodyshift facing slightly right.) say-NO-(to-son-"sternly")-(Role play brother bodyshift face slightly left. Ask-to-father)-BROWN? (Role play father bodyshift facing slightly
right. "Think about it for a moment" "reluctantly")
say-O-K-to-son. MOM-DAD THEIR-(singular) BED-ROOM WHITE. BATHROOM YELLOW. FAMILY ROOM GREEN. OUR CAR RED.
When you sign ROOM ROOM, modify the location a few inches. By this
I mean, sign ROOM a little off-center to the right, then sign the
second ROOM a little to the left. This is a way of pluralizing the
concept of "room" to mean "rooms."
Later on we will learn the sign "DIFFERENT" but for now just
sign "MANY" to indicate that the rooms in my house are "many
In the story, don't sign the "lower case" words. Instead,
incorporate the concept of those lowercase words into your signing.
The sign for "THEIR-(singular)" means you are referring to your
mom and dad as a single group (one set of parents) so you don't need to
sweep the sign "THEIR" in this case. You can sign
"THEIR-(singular)" by using the sign for "HIS/HERS/ITS."
In fact, you don't really even need to sign any "possessive" sign
in this situation because the order of the sentence (PARENTS BEDROOM)
naturally indicates the bedroom belongs to the parents.
Time Concepts: Dealing with time
In English a person might say, "I went to a movie
last Saturday." Or, maybe "Last Saturday I went to a movie." Notice
how the concept of "go" is expressed as "went?" This is called
"conjugating" the verb to show tense. (Conjugate is just a big word
that means "change" or "join.") Another word for conjugate is
In ASL that sentence would be signed "PAST SATURDAY ME-(PRO1) GO MOVIE."
(The "PRO1" means a first person pronoun, which is done by simply pointing
at yourself with an index finger.) We use the same form of the concept "GO"
for both present and past tense sentences. That is the way it is with
most ASL sentences. We establish the "tense" or time-frame of a
sentence by using certain "time signs" like "past week," "next month," "now
morning," or "next year," and then the rest of the sentence uses typical
non-conjugated signs. This technique works for whole paragraphs and/or
conversations. Tense only needs to be established once at the
beginning of an ASL conversation. All of the remaining signs use the
same form regardless whether you are talking about the past, present, or
future. For example, in the sentence, "TOMORROW ME-(PRO1) GO MOVIE" uses the
same sign for "GO" as the sentence, "YESTERDAY ME GO MOVIE."
Now note, that the interpretation of "NOW AFTERNOON
ME-(PRO1) GO MOVIE" depends on what time of day it is. If it is
morning, then the sentence would be the equivalent of, "This afternoon I
will go to a movie." If it is currently night time, the sentence would
be interpreted as, "Today I went to a movie." The ASL signs are the
same, but their meaning depends on what time of day the sentence is being
The general concept here is that you have a timeline that
runs from behind you to in front of you. By doing a sign farther back
you can indicate the concept occurred further in the past. The farther
forward things are signed, the further in the future they are. Doing a
sign close to your body can be used to indicate the nearness or recentness
of an event.
This concept is
expressed via touching the wrist prior to doing a number sign.
When you use the object or object phrase of a sentence as the topic of
the sentence you are "topicalizing." An example of this would be:
WALK SCHOOL? Index-(me) DON'T-LIKE Index-(me) = "I don't
like walking to school."
An example of Subject Verb Object (SVO) would be:
I DON'T-LIKE WALK SCHOOL. = "I don't like walking to school."
Both of these forms are correct in ASL.
Check with your instructor or your syllabus regarding the location
quizzes for this lesson. For a practice quiz,
Want to help support
ASL University? It's easy:
(You don't need a PayPal account. Just look for the credit card
logos and click continue.)
Another way to help is to buy Dr. Bill's "Superdisk."
Dr. Bill's new iPhone "Fingerspelling Practice" app is
CHECK IT OUT >
Want even more ASL resources? Visit the "ASL Training Center!" (Subscription
Extension of ASLU)
CHECK IT OUT >
Bandwidth slow? Check out "ASLUniversity.com" (a
free mirror of
Lifeprint.com less traffic, fast access)