Recently, there has been an increase of interest in the studies focusing on the verbalization of culture through language. It has already been shown that vocabulary, especially stable phrases, fixates cultural knowledge. However, little research is done on proverbs as sources of cultural values. This paper is conducted in the field of cultural linguistics and is aimed at singling out and description of values that are expressed by English proverbs with the lexical component “fire”.
Key words: proverb, values, cultural approach.
The interest of the scholars to the interconnection of language and culture, to the processes of culture verbalization, and to the language as means with the help of which a person enters culture is going from strength to strength at present. The branch of linguistic studies, which investigates these issues, is called cultural linguistics.
One of the tendencies in this field is the analysis of the paremiological stock of language that contains national wisdom and experience in a verbal form. Proverbs express typical situations from the national experience, and thus elements of value picture of the world. Though they have been studied from structural and lexicographic points of view, the analysis of proverbs within the cultural approach needs further development.
Important cultural knowledge is found in proverbs with lexical components that denote natural phenomena (such as fire), as far as since the ancient times the humanity endowed them with sacral meaning. They were considered to be the elements that form the basis of life and have magic power. In addition, natural phenomena are connected with the mythological consciousness of an ancient human, being archetypical images. Thus, the analysis of proverbs with the lexical component “fire” enables to found out important cultural knowledge, fixed in a language.
The theoretical basis of the research comprises the works by cultural linguists (Elena V. Babaeva, Valentina A. Maslova), paremiologists (Wolfgang Mieder and Richard Honeck) and the representatives of axiology (H. A. Abduragimova).
The research focuses on the analysis of 12 proverbs with the lexical component “fire” registered in “The Facts on File Dictionary of Proverbs” (Martin Manser) and “The Concise Oxford Dictionary of English Proverbs” (John Simpson). Methods used while conducting the research include lexico-semantic method, the method of context analysis and the elements of component analysis. The lexico-semantic method consisted in the analysis of lexico-semantic and metaphorical meanings of proverbs analyzed. Context analysis was used to denote the meaning of the lexeme “fire” within the structure of the proverbs. Value elements of the proverbs’ meaning were singled out with the help of the component analysis.
As proverbs form an integral part of the folklore, their analysis can give a better view of the interconnection between language and culture. As suggested by Mieder (2004:30) these paremiological units contain everyday experience and general observations in a concise and stereotypical form.
Thus, Rusanivskyi (2004:530) assumes that a proverb is a stable saying mostly of folk origin which fixates the practical experience of a nation and the evaluation of different events and phenomena. In other words empiric and axiological information is given in a concise metaphorical form.
Proverbs arise and function to satisfy major biocognitive impulses, to encode and comment on the state of world with respect to a certain ideal (Honeck, 1997:viii). They exist and are used in order to express worldview and to create a certain system of beliefs and views. The analysis of proverbs enables to identify the attitude of a nation to subjects, objects or phenomena of reality.
According to the definition of W. Mieder (2004:4), proverbs are concise traditional statements of apparent truths with currency among the folk. More elaborately stated, proverbs are short, generally known sentences of the folk that contain wisdom, truths, morals, and traditional views in a metaphorical, stable, and easy to memorize form and that are handed down from generation to generation. In other words, in their inner form proverbs contain knowledge, values and guidelines of former generations.
Proverbs can be studied at various points of view. R. P. Honeck (1997:7) singles out seven approaches to the analysis of proverbs:
personal: the proverb is treated from a subjective viewpoint based purely on personal experience and understanding;
formal: a scientific approach that primarily uses the methods and concepts of linguistics, logic, and semiotics to define, classify and otherwise analyze proverbs;
religious: religious teaching and wisdom are examined in texts such as Bibles;
literary: proverbs in prose and poetry are analyzed in terms of their literary value and what they tell us about the writer, their times and so forth;
practical: the many uses of proverb in intelligence testing, advertising, psychotherapy and other areas are examined;
cultural: a scientific approach to the proverb that treats it as a multifunction form of folk literature that arises from and is embedded in a sociocultural context;
cognitive: a scientific approach based on cognitive science that attempts to explain how individuals use and understand proverbs.
This research focuses on the cultural approach as the analysis is carried out within the field of cultural linguistics that studies the ways cultural information is verbalized in a language on one hand, and the ways a person learns culture through a language on the other hand.
Proverbs fixate typical situations from the national experience. They are based on a certain notion that is the nucleus of information. In such a way they illustrate the worldview that exists in the consciousness of individuals.
In our opinion, proverbs serve as a quite good minimal context for the analysis of cultural values as they arise on a folk basis, and it is a nation that creates culture which concentrates values.
The notion of values is studied within two approaches. The subjectivist approach claims that values depend on individual consciousness because they comprise things that people appreciate. Thus each person has his/her own values which reveal his/her own attitude to the world. Within the objectivist approach the source of values is God, nature, culture (or history) (Prichepiy, 2006:332–334). Thus, these approaches differ in the place of formation and existence of values: individual consciousness on one hand and a transcendent phenomenon on the other hand.
This research views values as the positive significance of different objects, phenomena, patterns of behaviour etc. for people. In other words, values are not connected with objects themselves but with people’s attitude to them. For instance, if a family as a cell of society is highly appreciated, it becomes a value and the thing all people will long for and aspire to.
The results of the research allow to assert that English proverbs with the lexical component “fire” contain the following values:
moderateness, temperance (better a little fire to warm us, than a great one to burn us);
the ability to learn by / from one's mistakes (a burnt child dreads the fire);
discretion, the ability to forecast consequences (if you play with fire you get burned, don’t jump from the frying pan into the fire);
the ability to be satisfied with little things, to appreciate what one already has (dirty water will quench the fire);
common sense (fight fire with fire);
the ability not to harm more than one has been harmed, so called fair struggle (fight fire with fire);
self-control, restraint, so called gentleman’s behaviour (fire is a god servant, but a bad master);
the necessity to understand the underlying cause of a situation, even if it is distorted or disguised (there is no smoke without fire);
the ability to analyze a situation rationally (much smoke little fire);
the value of a settled life (three moves are as bad as fire);
the value of privacy, avoidance of interfering with family problems of other people (you should know a man seven years before you can stir his fire);
avoidance of hurry as the way to reach the best result (soft fire makes sweet malt).
Thus English proverbs with the lexical component “fire” contain mainly socialization values and personal character values, which help to define the ideal behaviour accepted in English society. In view of the results the analysis of English proverbs can contribute to the investigation of national character of English speakers.
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 A paremiological unit (or a paremi) is an aphorism of a folk origin, mainly a proverb or a folk saying (Alefirenko, 2009:40)