Universality and Language Specificity: Evidence from Arab and English Proverbs

Turki Mahyoub Qaid Mohammed, Imran Ho-Abdullah

Abstract


All languages have proverbs that reflect their community’s attitudes, thoughts, values, and beliefs. Similarities between proverbs of different languages can be accounted for in cognitive semantics as motivated by shared human experience and universal schemas. At the same time, differences in the proverbs can be linked to the general idea of cultural diversity and hence language specificity in proverbs. This paper investigates twelve Arabic proverbs from a cognitive semantics viewpoint to determine their underlying schemas. The main aim is to arrive at a better understanding of the universal and language-specific nature of the Arabic proverbs. The methodology employed in the analysis is to explicate and determine, utilizing a cognitive semantics framework, whether the twelve Arabic proverbs have literal equivalence in English with shared schemas. In this regard, the Arabic proverbs and their English counterparts that have shared schemas are evidence for universality. While Arabic proverbs that have no literal equivalence in English and hence no shared schemas are good candidates in support of language specificity. Some of the proverbs might have shared schema but still, exhibit some variations that could be a manifestation of diversity of values and cultural background. Based on the analysis presented in this study, the Arabic proverbs examined fall into three categories: (i) proverbs that demonstrate universal construals; (ii) proverbs that demonstrate universal construal with variations; and (iii) proverbs that demonstrate language-specific construals.

Keywords


Arabic and English proverbs, cognitive semantics, cultural variance, linguistic universals

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References


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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.7575/aiac.ijclts.v.9n.1p.24

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