Yoruba Proverbs, Names and National Consciousness

By Fasiku, Gbenga | Journal of Pan African Studies, June 2006 | Go to article overview

Yoruba Proverbs, Names and National Consciousness


Fasiku, Gbenga, Journal of Pan African Studies


Introduction

Among Africans, names reflect the worldview of a people, hence some names are used to accentuate and situate the significance of an experience, an event or a phenomenon. In this respect, especially in Yoruba language, some proverbs underscore the importance of names and others specific names that correlate with proverbs.

This paper is an attempt to situate Yoruba proverbs, names, role-expectations, aspirations and consciousness towards building and contributing to the development of a national consciousness. The paper proceeds with a critical exposition of the general nature of Yoruba proverbs, an exploration of the dialectical relationship between Yoruba proverbs and names, and argues that this relationship instantiates a descriptivist theory of reference of names in the philosophy of language, with concluding particulars that critically espouses the values and virtues embedded in selected Yoruba proverbs and names.

The General Nature of Proverbs

Proverbs is one of the phenomena that human beings are mostly familiar with yet lacks a universally accepted definition (i). As Wolfgang Mieder (ii) has shown in his discussion of various attempts at defining proverbs, it is difficult to arrive at universally acceptable and unambiguous proverb markers that would enable us to identify positively a sentence as proverbial. As a result, in talking about proverbs, the puzzlement one often finds oneself in is that it is easy to detect a flaw in the definitions others have proffered, but it is difficult to propose one own's which is infallible. In fact, R.C. Trench noted that most attempts at defining proverbs merely identify what are considered as the ornaments of good proverbs, but (not) the essential marks of all (proverbs) (iii). Defining a phenomenon

However, it must be noted that though it may be difficult to arrive at a universally accepted definition of proverbs, we know what it is, because proverbs are a universal phenomenon. (iv) What differs from one culture to the other is the meaning that is attached to proverbs. Hence, 'proverb must be analysed in each of its unique social contexts' (v). In other words, "the proverbs of a community or nation is in a real sense an ethnography of the people which if systematized can give a penetrating picture of the people's way of life, their philosophy, their criticism of life, moral truths and social values" (vi). And in Africa, proverbs 'have a different function and level of theoretical meaning that make them key components, as well as expressions of a culture's viewpoints on a variety of important topics and problems.' (vii)

The Yoruba, the subject of this paper, constitute the majority of people in South Western part of Nigeria, and are also found scattered in diverse countries all over the world. One distinct feature of the Yorubas is their language, and how proverbs give it an aesthetic quality. Hence, the proverb, for the Yoruba, 'constitutes a powerful rhetorical device for the shaping of moral consciousness, opinions, and beliefs" (viii). Among the Yoruba, proverbs has become so interwoven with living speech that can be heard at anytime and occasion. Proverbs, among the Yoruba also serve as means of achieving clarity and conciseness in discourse. For example, when a Yoruba proverb says that 'Owe l'esin oro, bi oro ba sonu, owe ni a fi nwa a', ('A proverb is the horse which carries a subject under discussion along; if a subject under discussion goes astray, we use a proverb to track it') (ix), this shows that in every statement made to reflect decisions taken by Yoruba people, proverbs are vehicles used in driving home their points.

It must be noted that though as Hallen hints, "proverbs do not introduce themselves to us as universal truths, as generalizations that always apply. Their pith, their point, their punch is situational or context-dependent to an essential degree" (x). Hence, proverbs are products of peculiar and particular experiences of a people. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Yoruba Proverbs, Names and National Consciousness
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.