A Study of Proverbs Categorization in Yorùbá and Chinese Cultures

Banwo, A.O. (2019-01)

What are Proverbs? How are they seen by scholars and what are their attributes? Proverbs have different connotations but one intrinsic fact is that every human civilization has designed appropriate ways and manners of conveying information either directly or indirectly. Most cultures adopt the use of proverbs to disseminate core messages about their societal cultural values and traditions. Proverbs therefore give advice or make sound statements about human life in quotes or in phrases (BBC English Dictionary, 1992:102). These phrases could be gathered through observations or ascertained facts (Webster, 1979:269). The facts used in proverbs are usually crafted through bold images that are compressed in folk wisdom and they are expressed in a manner to tinkle everlasting effects in one’s memory (Watson, 1976:22). Proverbs are entrenched in people’s origin and its connotation comes in form of locutions or terminologies (Whiting, 1932:33). The point is that for us to understand the meaning of proverbs, we must view them within the society it was made and the period of time with was designed because their words goes beyond the literal meanings used to composed it (Trench, 1905:45). Therefore, we can infer that proverbs are useful elements of intercultural communication that adopt verbal and nonverbal signs to facilitate communication across cultures (Abdallah-Pretceille, 1996:42).


This study examines proverbs in two different and unique cultures since proverbs, over ages, have been effective elements that people have employ to transmit cultural values. Data for this work was obtained through homogenous purposive sampling and typical case sampling. Proverbs that express a general attitude towards life and the laws that govern it were examined, likewise proverbs that express a system of values and ethical proverbs that recommend certain values were sampled in this research work. Descriptive theories such as contextual, functional and polygenesis theories formed the theoretical framework for this study. This work found out that proverbs are woven around societal morality, accepted manners and historical narratives. It also discovered that proverbs are figurative expressions and statements which centere on truth therefore cultures use them for communication and conflict resolution. This study therefore suggests that proverbs can be categorised across cultures despite group differences and preferences. These categorisations allow proverbs to be easily understood, recognised and differentiated. The paper concludes that proverbs encapsulate the core existence of human life.