An Intercultural and Interlinguistic Analysis of Proverbs

Author: Kyriaki Koukouraki (King’s College London, U.K.)
Speaker: Kyriaki Koukouraki
Topic: Cognitive Anthropology and Language
COMELA 2021 General Session


Proverbs are a universal linguistic phenomenon both bounded and unbounded by specific languages and their cultures. They are considered to be unwritten rules, teachings or remarks which have been coined into short and often rhymed phrases, in order to be better memorised (Mieder, 2004). Apart from this, proverbs are messages that are expressed through images (Dundes, 1975). The universality of proverbs does not lie solely in the fact that they can be found in every language of every cultural entity, but mainly because they frequently epitomize the same universal truths and experiences. However, the way these images are chosen and encoded into language is culture-specific. Therefore, this study will try to categorise and compare them using an innovative interdisciplinary approach combining social psychology and linguistics by applying Schwartz’ ten basic universal values (Schwartz, 1994) to these rhetoric devices. The rationale behind this epistemological approach is that ‘Values are broad, motivational constructs that express what is important to people. […] People’s values are central to their identities and concepts of self’ (Schwartz, 2016).

Firstly, proverbs will be analysed on a linguistic level. Then it will be demonstrated how the same universal values are “translated” into different images according to the respective language, based on the different worldview and philosophy of the language under examination. Finally, the problems arising when trying to translate proverbs into another language will be highlighted and some solutions proposed. The corpus of proverbs will come from the English, the German and the Greek language.Enter description here.

Keywords: Intercultural, linguistics, proverbs, German, Greek, English, values, translation