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Comparative Analysis of English and Bade Proverbs

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: English Language
Wordcount: 1653 words Published: 28th Sep 2017

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It is believed that there is no language without proverbs. Vulic and Zergollern in Valiulyte (2010), corroborate this notion that ‘each nation or country has its own proverbs”. Therefore, every language has its own proverbs which are used by its own speakers through many media as in literature like poetry, prose and drama and other forms of daily communication. Nevertheless, some advanced languages like English have a rich tradition of proverbs, because its proverbs have been collected and analyzed academically. This is probably due to the early civilization of the English people, and their awareness of literature and publication. Consequently, English proverbs have become richer and more widespread, unlike the ones of Bade (a local language in Yobe State, Nigeria) whose proverbs have not received any study worthy of academic recognition.

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The term proverb has been defined by different scholars in different perspectives. Norrick (1985) defines proverbs as self-sufficient, brief, traditional expression with advisory content and secured poetic form. Meider (1985) sees it as a short, generally known sentence which contains wisdom, truth, with memorable form and which is handed down from generation to generation. According to Tatar (1998), proverbs are concise common expressions with literal and figurative meaning. It can be understood from the above definitions that the term proverb is a terse saying that represents matters of universal truth, with a literal, figurative, or poetic structure, preserved through discourse, and passed on from one generation to another in human society.

According to Meider (2004), in Dabaghi, Pishbin and Niknasab (2010), it is hard to identify the origin and history of proverbs. Nevertheless, he adds that proverbs ‘… do not fall from the sky’. Therefore, he observes that there is a similar trend of emergence of proverbs in Europe, Asia, Africa and other linguistic and cultural groups. He traces the origin of European proverbs ‘back to the classical times of Greek and Roman antiquity; the Biblical era; the Medieval Latin, and the mass media’. In tracing the origin of proverbs in Persian languages, religion and literature have been recognized as two sources (Moosavi, 2000, in Dabaghi, Pishbin and Niknasab, 2010). In a rather more specific manner, Ridout and Witting (1969) link the source of modern English proverbs to popular sayings of the common man; borrowing from the Bible and other languages; wise saying of famous literary scholars; turning highly idiomatic expressions into proverbs; and, modern education.

Over the years, scholars have agreed that geographical location has some effects on the nature of proverbs. Brown (1983) observes that proverbs emerging from the same zone tend to have common features. The same idea may be noticed in Schuh (2005), stating that indigenous languages in Yobe State share ‘a large number of idioms, lexicon-related expressions’, just like how West African languages share ‘proverbs and riddles, songs and folktales’. Nevertheless, this does not mean that those languages may not have distinct properties that can separate them from one another as different language. Because Bade is one of the focus languages in this research, some characteristics of proverbs that are peculiar to African languages will provide the researcher with some rich data to work on.

One very inconvenient aspect of this research is that while available resources on English proverbs are not hard to come by, Bade, being the other target language is badly lacking in literary resources particularly on proverbs on the one hand. On the other hand, it looks interesting that this research will set a precedent in such an area with a serious academic intent. Recently, studies on Verbal Arts posted on Yobe Language Research Project have presented a few collections of proverbs of indigenous languages, with Bole (257 proverbs),Ngizim(230 proverbs), Karekare(32 proverbs),and Ngamo(14 proverbs). In the case of Bade, its collection deals with songs and folktales, with no single proverb attached (Schuh, 2004). Other non-indigenous languages like Kanuri, Fulfulde and Hausa which Schuh sees as widely spoken in the state, are the most widely studied, with the last one topping the list with several pieces of researches about proverbs including a dictionary titled Dictionary of Hausa Proverbs. Hence, these few collections of proverbs on the indigenous languages of the study area will benefit the researcher greatly, by providing him with a platform upon which to study the Bade proverbs easily.

The basic aim of this research is to analyze the form and content of English and Bade proverbs. To achieve this, the research aims to address four main questions. Firstly, it tries to determine whether English and Bade proverbs have different form. Secondly, it will address the question of whether there are similarities between the content of English and Bade proverbs. Thirdly, it seeks to establish how English and Bade proverbs are preserved .Fourthly, it will ascertain whether there are differences in terms of cultural materials involved in the construction of English and Bade proverbs. Such questions are directly linked to the main aim of this research. By looking at these differences and similarities, it will be possible to justify this analysis correctly.

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In order to answer these research questions correctly, theoretical framework is proposed. Initially, there is the need to clarify the variables of this research. This research has two dependent variables-form and content, which depend on the independent variable- English and Bade proverbs. It is often possible that in a piece of research like this, two theories may present better analytical ground. Therefore, I have chosen to be eclectic in method, by using more than one theory in a single research. I will use two Semantic theories: Classical Metaphor will be used to analyze form; and, Topic-Comment Structure Theory to analyze content of all the proverbs in my corpus. These analyses, upon which the remaining questions and objectives will be answered and achieved, will be used to explain the form and content of both English and Bade proverbs.

The decision to propose Metaphor is very much connected to its history as having positive effects on literary studies. Norrick (1985) confirms that the essence of metaphor in studies of proverbs can be traced back to Aristotle. Saeed (2004) classifies two approaches of traditional metaphor as Classical and Romantic. He ascribes classical metaphor to Aristotle, as it describes metaphor from figurative and rhetorical perspectives. Romantic metaphor is linked to ‘eighteenth and nineteenth century Romantic’ periods, which define metaphor as possibly common material in language use (Saeed, 2004). To set a focus for the research, the researcher has chosen to position it on classical perspective which directly relates to proverbs studies. Based on classical view, it seems likely that metaphor is a universal feature of proverbs. And since proverbs are characterized by ‘rigid form’, (Norick, 1985), metaphor will be of great advantage in analyzing all the proverbs that have figurative form in the corpus of this research.

The second theory is called Topic-Comment Structure as stated above. According to Norrick (1985), this theory is attributed to Dundes(1975).He adds that the theorist proposed it due to the disagreement of paremiologists about a unified formula to analyze the content of proverbs. Using some English proverbs such as ‘Like father like son, No rose without a thorn, and Better late than never’, Dundes suggests substitutable variables such as ‘like X like Y, no X without Y, and better x than Y’ respectively. Norrick observes that these variables can be used to substitute any expression in a proverb. Therefore, this researcher will use this theory to interpret the real content of all proverbs in the corpus.

This kind of research is not rare in literary studies. Different kinds of proverb research have been conducted by many literary experts in English and other languages in the world. Shariati and Teyabi (2012), in their study A Comparative Study of Proverbs Characteristics of Mesopotamian Language, and Local Dialect of Persian indicate that research in proverbs has been carried out since ‘about 2500 BC’. However, this may not discredit this research as a mere repetition of previous works of experts. Certainly, it will make it even more interesting since so far, I have not found any serious research into Bade proverbs.

With this fast growing interest in literature and publication in the age of globalization, the importance of proverbs is realized not only in literary contexts but also in media, politics, religion and several other social transactions. Meider, in Dabaghi, Pishbin and Niknasab, (2010), notes that ‘proverbs obviously contain a lot of common sense, experience, wisdom, and truth, and as such they represent ready- made traditional strategies in oral speech and writing from high literature to the mass media’. Thus, it seems reasonable that for literature to be meaningful, studies of proverbs ought to be taken as important as any other aspect of literary studies. Therefore, through this analysis, this research is set to achieve certain objectives which include the following: to define the formal pattern of English and Bade proverbs; to determine the content of English and Bade proverbs; to unveil the ways of preserving the proverbs of English and Bade; to explain the different cultural material involved in the construction of English and Bade proverbs.


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