A perfect marker in Israeli sign language

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In this paper I argue for the existence of an aspectual marker in Israeli Sign Language (ISL) denoting perfect constructions. This marker is the sign glossed as ALREADY. Though this sign often occurs in past time contexts, I argue that it is a perfect-aspect marker and not a past tense marker. This claim is supported by the following observations: (a) ALREADY can co-occur with past, present and future time adverbials; (b) its core meaning is to relate a resultant state to a prior event; (c) it occurs much more in dialogues than in narrative contexts. Further examination of the properties and functions of ALREADY in the language reveals that it shares many properties with perfect constructions in other languages. In addition, it is shown that the co-occurrence of ALREADY with various time adverbials, as well as with the durational aspectual modulation, gives rise to a rich aspectual system in the language. This aspectual system is compared to similar systems in other languages. The ISL system turns out to be very different from that of Hebrew on the one hand, while showing significant similarities to that of ASL. However, there are also some differences between ISL and ASL aspectual markers, which might be due to the relative youth of ISL, and to the different source for the aspectual marker: A verbin the case of ASL, and an adverb in ISL.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)67-77
Number of pages11
JournalSign Language and Linguistics (Online)
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1999

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by grants from the Israel Science Foundation — Academy of Sciences and Humanities, and Israel Foundations Trustees, for the project “The Sign Language of the Deaf in Israel: a Comparative Study”, principal investigator Wendy Sandler.


  • Aspect
  • Israeli Sign Language
  • Sign language aspectual
  • Systems
  • Tense
  • The perfect

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language


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