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

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

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

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

Synopsis

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.

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. culture-specific aspects of proverbs, and some structural aspects of proverbs.

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.

Excerpt

The proverb is a complex, intriguing, and important verbal entity. As a result, it has been the subject of a vast number of opinion studies, and analyses. To accommodate this outpouring, seven views of the proverb have been outlined: personal, formal, religious, literary, practical, cultural, and cognitive. Because the goal of this volume is to provide a scientific understanding of proverb comprehension and production, I have drawn largely on scholarship stemming from the formal, cultural, and cognitive views. In particular, the cognitive view provides the leitmotif for this volume. The essence of this view is that there are universal principles that underlie proverb cognition, irrespective of the individuals who use proverbs or the particular situations and cultures in which they are used. To address this emphasis, it has been necessary to draw on much of what cognitive science has to offer regarding minds. The general point is that in the long run an interdisciplinary perspective will provide the best chance of understanding all aspects of proverb functioning.

There is a great deal of theoretical speculation in this volume. The speculation is mainly about proverbs, but I have also attempted to provide a larger perspective by relating the proverb to other forms of figurative language and to intelligence. The reason for this is that it is unsatisfying to treat proverbs in isolation from other language forms and from mental capacity and activity in general. In particular, proverbs have been framed in terms of a building metaphor for intelligence, and intelligence further still in terms of indirectness. Thus, for all forms of figurative language there is an indirect, nonliteral relationship between what is said and both that about which it is said and the . . .

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