Temporal aspects: frequency and duration

How does one express a frequency and duration of an event, using verbs in ASL sign language? Many ASL verbs can be modulated to indicate information about frequency and duration of an event.

With a quick note in mind, a verb inflection of frequency generally has a somehow straight, repeated movement of some verbs. Whereas, the verb inflection of duration has a longer, elliptical, and repeated movement.

First, to give you an illustration of the regular verb STUDY, see the difference of the movement between the regular verb STUDY and two inflected verbs STUDY of frequency and duration.

This STUDY sign above is a regular verb. Its movement is regular and short.

This inflected verb (recurring verb) indicates a frequency of the action (e.g. study regularly; study daily).

Above, this inflected verb with longer, more elliptical movement indicates a duration of the action (e.g. study all day or night; study for two hours straight; study all week).

Not all ASL verbs can be modulated to recurring and/or continuous temporal aspects. Not all ASL modulated verbs mean recurring nor continuous. Some verbs may have overlapped (or combined) two modulations, sometimes along with nonmanual signals (facial grammar). Socialize with Deaf speakers and acquire ASL to learn different, subtle meanings of the inflected words in ASL.

Some examples of the ASL verbs that can be modulated to temporal aspects are: ASK, BOTHER, CLEAN-UP, CONTACT, COUGH, CRY, EMAIL, FORGIVE, HELP, LOOK-AT, PAY, RUN, SLEEP, STARE-at, TEASE, WORK.

More examples and exercises

Below demonstrates a few more examples of how to inflects verbs. First, play each video and determine which the verb is regular, recurring, or continuous. Then click on the word for an answer.

Exclusive content locked for subscribers. Please log in.

Related posts

Review time/tense basics in sign language.

New to sign language? "Where do I start?" or "How do I start learning sign language?" This ASL Rookie guide lists some selected links to the tutorials for ASL beginners to get started and keep rolling. It may be a useful review for intermediate-level learners and ASL students as well.

Some tutorial pages are a mix of free and premium versions. Access to premium content and links below are available in the PatronPlus subscription. More links/posts will be added from time to time.

Expressing needs and wants

  1. Making commands or requests

Talking about activities

  1. Frequency of time: how often?

Are you able to carry everyday conversations in ASL? Are you a student in the intermediate levels and beyond, who wishes to boost up your signing skills? You've come to the selected tutorial series. (Some premium content are available to PatronPlus membership.)

Stories, poems, performance arts, etc. in sign language.

This documentation project follows a child's language acquisition, literacy development, and phonological acquisition in sign language, specifically ASL, from newborn to age five in a natural native-ASL environment and visual culture.