A Comparative Study of Proverbs' Characteristics of Mesopotamian Language, and a Local Dialect of Persian

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Different types of comparative studies of proverbs have, so far, been carried out, but no geolinguoistic or historical or in other words diachronic or synchronic studies of the characteristics of proverbs have been recorded. The present study has compared the proverbs of two different historical sites viz. Mesopotamia and Jiroft. As the proverbs of Mesopotamian language were already studied, their characteristics were used as a yardstick to consider those of a remote local dialect of Persian. The results proved the viability of the previous studies and the correspondence of those characteristics in the languages under scrutiny. The data were collected through field work.

Keywords: Proverb, Mesopotamian, Persian, Sardooieeh (n), Sardooyee (adj)

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1. Introduction

Proverbs are said to be an intuitive aspect of adults' mental functioning. How they are used and understood is maintained to be less intuitive. Because proverbs are complex, an interdisciplinary perspective is needed to explain how people use and understand them. Cognitive science provides our best prospect for revealing the secrets of the proverb. (Honeck, 1997)

Sometimes, proverbs are included in the list of forms of figurative speech. Honeck (ibid) has considered metaphor, simile, idiom, metonymy, and oxymoron the major alternatives. He has addedthat some scholars would include sarcasm, irony, hyperbole, understatement, and rhetorical questions, although these are said to be better treated as linguistic functions than as unique linguistic forms. Elsewhere, they are defined as 'the wisdom of many, the wit of one' (Dundes, 1981), oras figurative expressions that capture the shared beliefs and values of a society (Nipold &.Haq, 1996).More recently, Hagopian (2008) stated that proverbs are folk sayings common in use and pithy in sense and structure; they contain a special conclusion or recommendation in regard to almost every life situation.

Moreover in American Heritage Dictionary (2001) proverb is defined as: "A short pithy saying in frequent and widespread use that expresses a basic truth or practical precept." Also in Oxford Dictionary of Literary Terms (2008) it is defined as "a short popular saying of unknown authorship, expressing some general truth or superstition."

Different types of comparative studies of proverbs have, so far, been carried out. The first detailed study that critically compared and contrasted the wisdom sentences of the Book of Proverbs with classical and post-classical Arabic proverbs was by Kassis, (1999). In his work, reference is made to current Arabic proverbs. In a review of the book by Williams (2000 p. 151) it is stated that,

"It is rather surprising, given the quantity of secondary literature spawned by the comparison of biblical proverbs with those of other cultures, that so little has been written about the relationship between biblical proverbs and Arabic ones. Kassis's pioneering survey of extensive corpora of Arabic sayings that elucidate biblical material is therefore invaluable."

As mentioned before, proverbs of different cultures have been collected and sometimes compared. However, comparing characteristics of proverbs of different cultures is still in need of attention, because this would pave the way to come up with a set of universal characteristics for proverbs.

Scholars have, separately, tried to identify the characteristics of proverbs as multifunctional linguistic forms to understand them more objectively. To verify validity of such proposed characteristics in Persian and hence to carry out a comparative investigation, this study has aimed at analyzing a sample of proverbs of a local dialect of this language. To this end, a list of proverbs was collected from a rural parish of Jiroft, i.e. Sardooiyeh. The significance of the area is in that the language is less changed than the Tehrani Persian of today, and is close to early Modern Persian. …