Yorùbá proverbs: An insight into the indigenous healthcare delivery system and health education

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Orimoogunje, O.C
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University of South Africa, Pretoria
This article attempts a discussion of the socio-cultural background of the verbal arts as regards the role of proverbs in the Yorùbá indigenous healthcare practices. It also touches on the use of verbal arts in both indigenous and in the community-based healthcare programmes. It will be explained how, in the Yorùbá worldview, the verbal arts in general and the indigenous healthcare practices in particular, are held in very high esteem. Prior to any undertaking, the Yorùbá people take care of their health. To buttress this point, there are aphorisms and proverbs that show the Yorùbá concern for health, be it general, personal, domestic or environmental. Yorùbá proverbs are highly idiomatic, having both denotative and connotative meanings. The denotative meaning tends to be the signifier of the connotative meaning, which, in fact, is the one held in high esteem. The semantics of the denotative structure, though in itself a truism, is a means to the signified end. The health-related meanings of the proverbs are in most cases restricted to the denotative meaning. At the connotative level, the meaning of the proverb may not necessarily be health-related. Denotative meaning considers the componential meanings of the symbols in the proverb while on the connotative level, the metaphorical and idiomatic meanings generated from usage context are taken into consideration.