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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 your 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.
Thanks
Chris
Hello Chris,
Great question.  It could go either way depending on the situation.
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:
"YOU MEET MY BROTHER?"
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


 


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