The Semantics of Proverbs as a Form of Common Sense


MILLI FOLKLOR, vol.17, no.131, pp.75-86, 2021 (AHCI) identifier identifier

  • Publication Type: Article / Article
  • Volume: 17 Issue: 131
  • Publication Date: 2021
  • Journal Name: MILLI FOLKLOR
  • Journal Indexes: Arts and Humanities Citation Index (AHCI), Scopus, Academic Search Premier, International Bibliography of Social Sciences, Linguistics & Language Behavior Abstracts, MLA - Modern Language Association Database, TR DİZİN (ULAKBİM)
  • Page Numbers: pp.75-86
  • Keywords: Semantics, paremiology, proverb, Marie Visetti / Pierre Cadiot, semiotics, motif, metaphor
  • Hacettepe University Affiliated: Yes


Semantics is based on defining a word in at least two axes: the syntactic axis and the serial axis. The first is based on "examining the units of language in terms of following each other in a chain of words"; the second focuses on the "vertical relationship established between units that can replace each other and are connected on the same level". In the first stage, a syntactic analysis is made, the relationships between words are revealed. In the second step, while choosing the words, a choice is made according to their meanings. At this stage, the semantic associations of the words are defined by their relationships to synonyms, antonyms, and poly-meanings. Other types of affiliation forms, such as inclusive, explicit, implicit and part-and-all relationships may also be added to this. The way to grasp the meaning, that is what is meant in a proverb (or proverbs in general), depends primarily on considering such relationships. Cultural background complements such a linguistic structuring. Another question concerns the repetition of the established motifs of a proverb in other contexts. So, to begin with syntax, making sense of a proverb, a way of thinking (common sense; the main object of a folklore study is to reveal the peculiarity of common sense) is to determine the "condition of reality" related to it. After revealing the linguistic and discursive uniqueness of a proverb in terms of its syntax and seriality, the process of semantic questioning is naturally focused on the context, thus the subject's (proverb) reality conditions (culture, value, intellectual accumulation, context) are examined. On the pragmatic plane, the relationship between proverbs and their users (a person, a society) is viewed as a system of signs. In this way, the effects of proverbs as linguistic acts are questioned. Undoubtedly, it is not possible to describe all these elements of inquiry regarding proverbs in a short article or to determine their functions. Therefore, we have to put a limit on the study. We will be content with making some brief determinations on the syntactic, discursive and narrative dimensions of the proverbs, parallel to the analysis stages in the semantic (structural / semiotic) analysis model that Yves-Marie Visetti and Pierre Cadiot suggested while doing the semantic questioning of the proverbs. The aim of such an approach is to identify some starting points that will make a methodological contribution to the semantic analysis of proverbs that are positioned under short forms, by using the data of structural semantics, and reifying the data via a short application, thus giving some clues about the discursive functioning of proverbs as products of common sense.