A Syntactic and Semiotic Analysis of Some Yoruba Sexist Proverbs in English Translation: Need for Gender Balance

By Asiyanbola, A. A. | Nebula, September 2007 | Go to article overview

A Syntactic and Semiotic Analysis of Some Yoruba Sexist Proverbs in English Translation: Need for Gender Balance


Asiyanbola, A. A., Nebula


Abstract

Using systemic, structural and contrastive linguistic theories as bases of analysis, the paper identifies and explicates eighteen English-translated Yoruba proverbs associated with women and brings out their inadequacies with regard to gender prejudice against the female race. Out of the eighteen, fourteen are found to be gender-biased while only four of them are gender-neutral and can apply to both sexes. From the foregoing, the paper suggests the second versions of these proverbs that cater for the gender not represented in the first set. Thus, the paper is able to prove that the same set of proverbs can be used as reprimand for both the female and male sexes and not for only one of them as they were originally.

Introduction

Just like among many races of the world, the Yoruba people of the south-western geopolitical zone of Nigeria hold the use of proverbs in esteem. This is to the extent that there are different sets of proverbs that accompany various human activities, events, things and ideas (Daramola, 2004; Salami, 2004 and Asiyanbola, 2006). Although some scholars look at proverbs as being archaic and moribund, nowadays; some of these so-called archaic proverbs, which are legacies of our forbears, are still relevant. In this paper, therefore, we have attempted to do five things. First, we have identified some proverbs that are associated with women in Yoruba-Nigerian society. Second, we categorized the proverbs into four classes according to their functions. Third, we translated the proverbs into English for international intelligibility. Fourth, we examine critically each of the proverbs with regard to their meaning and relevance to the present time. Lastly and most importantly, we attempt at re-creating some of the proverbs that are gender-biased in order to make them gender-neutral, and thereby, prove that the second version of each proverb concerned can also apply to the gender eliminated in the first versions. We have to note ab-initio that the Yoruba society that this paper is concerned with is a male- dominated one right from time immemorial and little wonder then that we have proverbs such as we have originally in this corpus. It is very important that we have this at the back of our minds before we proceed further.

Theoretical Framework and Research Methodology

The theoretical framework gains insights from structural grammar of Quirk, Greenbaum, Leech, and Svartvik (1985) and systemic grammar of Scott, Brockett, Brown and Goddard,1971 in the analysis of the proverbial sentences considered in this paper. We also found the contrastive analysis of Robert Lado (1957) very helpful as it is basically concerned with how two languages and cultures can be compared and contrasted in terms of their similarities and differences. The two languages that we are concerned with are Yoruba, the source language and English, the second language. Our main concern, however, is to translate into English some Yoruba proverbs in such a way that their meaning and essence are not lost. This, we have done by employing two modes of translation as practised by Olorode (1987) and Adegbite (1988). First, we did a parallel word-to-word translation (PWT) of Yoruba source language (YSL) into English, and lastly, we did a normal sentential translation into English (NST). We have employed this mode of translation to enable us to have a thorough understanding of Yoruba culture as it is presented in English. These, we hope, will not cause the messages in the proverbs to get lost in translation. To categorize and analyze the proverbs, however, we have also employed the methodology of Daramola (2004); Salami (2004) and Asiyanbola (2006). This involves the categorization of the proverbs into four functional or semiotic classes as they are used in Yoruba society. Our theoretical framework also involves the use of linguistic stylistics as practised by Enkvist (1971) and Awonuga (1988) in order to explicate the sentential proverbs to arrive at their meaning, essence and usage in Yoruba society. …

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