A Proverb in Mind : The Cognitive Science of Proverbial Wit and Wisdom

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Honeck, Richard P. [WorldCat Identities]

The books of Proverbs from the Bible and Latin language from the medieval times have played a significant role in spreading proverbs. Like other translations, the translation of Latin proverbs is composed of comprehension and expression. Meanwhile, proverbs elegance and vulgarity, nationality cultural differences and peculiar artistic expression ways must be emphasized in the translation of Latin proverbs.

There are many definitions for translation. From this definition we can come to a conclusion that the process of translation consists of 3 stages: 1. Giving a semantic and stylistic meaning to the source-language 2. The translation of source-language text in the result of which a defined translational strategy is created 3. The reproduction of the source-language text into the equivalent target-language text through the ways which correspond to its literal standards.

Translating from one language to the other we inevitably come into collision with language transformations as each language reflects the reality in its way. Each language uses different categories and structures for expressing the meanings. In language the existence of expressing the same meanings in different ways makes possible to do translations from one language into the other irrespective of the differences of grammatical ways and categories.

A Proverb In Mind The Cognitive Science of Proverbial Wit and Wisdom c

Because of the differences between and the equivalent target-language text we often use so called translational transformation. But the real idea is the transforming from one way to the other during the translation which we figuratively call transformation. A few proverbs are mentioned below to provide a thorough understanding of these powerful sentences : Latin proverb Meaning Translation in Translation in English Russian De gustibus et About tastes there is no Tastes differ.

They play a very important and peculiar role. The peculiarity consists in the separation of the proverbs from the text. It seems that they represent the text in text.

A proverb in mind : the cognitive science of proverbial wit and wisdom

The sources for phrases are different texts. For example: old poetical, legal, medical, theological texts and philosophical tracts. Most widespread idioms can be classified according to particular domains of cultural knowledge, with idioms that go back to well- known sources like the Bible or classical texts making up the largest class. Here the widespread use is often not due to borrowings from one language into another but owed to the fact that individual languages have integrated, independently of one another, texts from the same source into their phraseological systems.

Biblical proverbs were translated into all vernacular languages. Medieval Latin proverbs also were taken over into the emerging national languages. For the analysis of Latin, English and Russian phrases and proverbs we have used the main terms of translational modifications of Barhudarov He suggests 4 main kinds of interlinguistic transmutations that exist during the translation.

They are: 1. The rollickingly malicious undertone of these folk verbalizations constitutes what might be labeled a "paremiological revolt". To avoid openly criticizing a given authority or cultural pattern, folk take recourse to proverbial expressions which voice personal tensions in a tone of generalized consent. While none of these proverbs state directly, "I hate the Czar and detest my situation" which would have been incredibly dangerous , they do get their points across.

Proverbs are found in many parts of the world, but some areas seem to have richer stores of proverbs than others such as West Africa , while others have hardly any North and South America Mieder b, Proverbs are used by speakers for a variety of purposes. Sometimes they are used as a way of saying something gently, in a veiled way Obeng Other times, they are used to carry more weight in a discussion, a weak person is able to enlist the tradition of the ancestors to support his position, or even to argue a legal case.


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In many parts of the world, the use of proverbs is a mark of being a good orator. The study of proverbs has application in a number of fields. Clearly, those who study folklore and literature are interested in them, but scholars from a variety of fields have found ways to profitably incorporate the study proverbs. For example, they have been used to study abstract reasoning of children, acculturation of immigrants, intelligence, the differing mental processes in mental illness, cultural themes, etc.

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Proverbs have also been incorporated into the strategies of social workers, teachers, preachers, and even politicians. For the deliberate use of proverbs as a propaganda tool by Nazis , see Mieder There are collections of sayings that offer instructions on how to play certain games, such as dominoes Borajo et al. However, these are not prototypical proverbs in that their application is limited to one domain. One of the most important developments in the study of proverbs as in folklore scholarship more generally was the shift to more ethnographic approaches in the s.

This approach attempted to explain proverb use in relation to the context of a speech event, rather than only in terms of the content and meaning of the proverb.

Another important development in scholarship on proverbs has been applying methods from cognitive science to understand the uses and effects of proverbs and proverbial metaphors in social relations. A complex, intriguing, and important verbal entity, the proverb has been the subject of a vast number of opinions, studies, and analyses. To accommodate the assorted possible audiences, this volume outlines seven views of the proverb -- personal, formal, religious, literary, practical, cultural, and cognitive.

Because the author's goal is to provide a scientific understanding of proverb comprehension and production, he draws largely on scholarship stemming from the formal, cultural, and cognitive views.

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A Proverb in Mind: The Cognitive Science of Proverbial Wit and Wisdom

The only book about proverbs that is written from the standpoint of cognitive science, cognitive psychology, and experimentalism, this text provides a larger, more interdisciplinary perspective on the proverb. It also gives a theoretically more integrated approach to proverb cognition. The conceptual base theory of proverb comprehension is extended via the "cognitive ideals hypothesis" so that the theory now addresses issues regarding the creation, production, and pragmatics of proverbs.

This hypothesis also has strong implications for a taxonomy of proverbs, proverb comprehension, universal vs.

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In general, the book extends the challenge of proverb cognition by using much of what cognitive science has to offer. In so doing, the proverb is compared to other forms of figurative language, which is then discussed within the larger rubric of intelligence and the inclination for using indirect modes of communication. Child developmental and brain substrates are also discussed. Honeck has reviewed what we know about proverbs and, just as importantly, as he did almost 20 years ago, he has given us a roadmap for further explorations in figurative language.

This book is very much needed. It is well argued and researched and will introduce scholars and students of the proverb to the fascinating discoveries which cognitive scientists have achieved regarding proverbs.


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Professor Honeck makes the complex theories of language and cognition accessible to readers from many fields and various backgrounds in a readable, understandable, and enjoyable style. The book is a joy to read, finding a perfect balance between scholarly and readable language.