KHATUNA TUMANISHVILI                                                                                                                                                  # 19



The data registered by means of the use of statistical methods confirm the active knowledge at work in the modern world and the great interest in proverbs - stereotypic communicative units expressing a national world view. Accordingly, the constructive methods are discussed how to organize the collection and preservation of proverbs so that based on them to allow researchers not only to study further national proverbs, but also compare them with data of other cultures in order to obtain the common stock of international proverbs with their diverse functions in different cultures.

The proverb is a multifaceted topic. The aim of the present study at this stage is, on the basis of finding and comparison of parallels in Arabic (Syrian)1 and Georgian proverbs, to interpret from the theoretical point of view the phenomenon which results from the dialectical combination of the specific/ethnic and the universal in the proverbs.

The collection and study of Arabic proverbs has a long history, commencing from the 8th c. in Arabic philology. “Proverbs excited the interest of the learned from the very beginning of Arabic literature; historians and philologists emulated one another in collecting and explaining them” (Brockelman 1913:408). Today, this phenomenon is in the centre of attention of Arab (e.g.,Abdelkafi 1968; Barakat, 1980 etc.) as foreign (e.g., Buckarest q972; Webster 1986 etc.) scholars. Noteworthy enough, this is the first attempt in Geprgian Arabistics to study this problem.

As is known, proverbs reflect the national character, “the spirit of a nation”, etc., what is characteristic and specific for the given ethnos. Without the knowledge of the ethnic peculiarities of a nation, region, it will be naturally difficult to understand them deeply. That is the reason why the profound study of foreign proverbs and, respectively, the identification of the sphere of their use prove difficult. In addition, as T.Shurghaia notes correctly, “any foreigner, no matter how well he/she knows one or another language or nation, can not be impartial in his/her choice of proverbs as this procedure will be impeded, to some extent, by “genetic” knowledge of paremias of his/her own nation” (Shurgaia 2003:31).

If proverb is the form of the historical thinking of a nation, proceeding from the above, the stock of proverbs is “the autobiographical memory” of one or another people (on a vast scale - of mankind). It is “cast” in the national mould, which is placed in the “harmonious consciousness” of the nation, in the system of the common national thinking, which is naturally expressed by each ethnos in its own form. It is based on the genetic information – the approved wisdom concerning the in-depth phenomena of the universe, recorded in the generalized dimension over the centuries.On the basis of the above-mantioned proverbs are a reflection of the lifestyle, an organic part of the collective thinking and language. Hence, their “building material” is formed on the basis of the historical experience of the people who created them. This national (ethnic) specificity is especially evident in the proverbs in which the thematic material derives from the realia characteristic of the given world. E.g., Arab.: [əţ-ţabəl əbdûmā wı l-‘ırs əb-harástā] (Lit.: Music (drum) in Duma, wedding in Harasta2)/Georg.: [siradzem kanashi kitri chama, shin - marilio] (Lit.: Siradze3 ate a cucumber in the field, and salt at home); Arab.: [’ənta ’amîr u ’ana ’amîr u mīn bíddō jesû’ əl-hamîr] (Lit.: You are an emir, I am an emir, who will drive donkeys out?!)/Georg.: [tabakhmelas khuti komli – ocdakhuti mouravi] (Lit.: Five households at Tabakhmela4 – and twenty-five managers); Arab.: [jıt‘amak əl-hažž wın-nās râž‘a] (Lit.: You are going for the Hajj to Mecca when people are already returning)/Georg.: [mola roca mokvda, plavi mashin miutaneso] (Lit.: They brought pilaw to mullah when he died). This is a certain “paremiological paradox” (Levin 1984:122). It is confirmed, on the one hand, that proverbs are undoubtedly a form of the historical thinking of a given nation, a parameter of its mentality. On the other hand, it is well-known in paremiology that the meaning and area of use of proverbs in the proverbial space of different peoples mostly coincide with one another, i.e. they are universal. Several paremiological studies has demonstrated that even the proverbs of peoples having totally different languages, ethnopsychology, culture and ideology show resemblance (Permiakov 1979; Dundes, 1962:31-38; Kokare, 1968:250-257; Kuusi, 1972). Similar views are shared in Georgian scholarly literature too: “the allegorical content of two folk works is not typical only of those in whose language they are recorded and used; the main point and idea of each plot, its social, artistic and aesthetic function, one might say, is universal” (Chikovani 1986:19-25). Scholars explain this fact by the cultural and historical contacts between peoples as well as the stereotypic thinking, “common psychic basis” (K.G. Jung) to all mankind. In the given case too it turned out that each proverb finds a similar one in the proverbs of another nation not only on the level of its main meaning – idea (a), but often the form, i.e. wording is identical (b) or very similar (c). E.g. a) Arab.: [dūd əl-ħall mínnō u fī(h)] (Lit.: Vinegar forms a worm itself)/Georg.: [cikhe shignidan tkdebao/khema tqva: culi verafers damaklebs, shig rom chemi gvarisa ar echaroso] (Lit.: A fortress is broken from inside/A tree said: the axe would not harm me, if no one from my clan helped it; b) Arab./Georg.: [danb əl-klb mā bjıt‘áddel/dzaglis kudi ar gascordebao] (Lit.: A dog’s tail will not be straightened out) c) Arab.: [mne l-’ılle şírnā nfáttıš əbdaftárnā l-‘atî’a] (Lit.: Poverty made us look for old accounts)/Georg.: [kaci rom gagaribdeba, dzvel tamasuqebs gamoudgebao] (Lit.: When man becomes poor, he will seek after old bills of exchange).

Evidently, peoples of totally different languages, national mentality and cultures record analogous human notions against the background of now similar, now different logical relations between objects and phenomena existing in the surrounding world. In other words, for the most part they use a common system of conceptual thinking and finally place the experience gained in the process of the cognition of the universe in the “common mould”. This confirms once again the universal nature of the proverb phenomenon.


1 Arabic language proverbs are recorded and translated from the Syrian primary source, directly from Syrian informants. Proverbs are recorded with possible contexts, comments and explanations of informants. This was a necessary condition for grasping their underlying semantic content and identification of the sphere of their use.

2 Duma and Harasta are geographical names of regions situated far from one another.

3 Siradze – Georgian surname.

4 Tabakhmela - Georgian geographical name.




Abdelkafi Mohamed, 1968, One Hundred Arabic Proverbs from Libya. Vernon and Yates, London.

Barakat Robert A., 1980, A Contextual Study of Arabic Proverbs (Suomalainen Tiedeakatemia, Akademia Scientraum Fennica), FF Communication №226, Helsinki.

Brockelman C., 1913 , “Mathal”, The Encyclopaedia of Islam, Vol. 3. E. J. Brill, Leyden, pp. 407-410.

Buckhardt John Lewis, 1972, Arabic Proverbs; or the Manners and Customs of the Modern Egyptions, Curzon Press, 3rd ed., London,

Chikovani M., 1986, Khalkhuri shemokmedebis istoriisa da teoriis sakitkhebi, Tbilisi.

Dundes Alan, 1962, Trends in Content Analysis // Midwest Folklore, pp. 31-38.

Kokare E.R., 1968, Paraleli v latishskikh, litovskikh i russkikh poslovicax i pogovorkakh. Folklor baltiskikh narodov. Riga, pp. 250-257.

Kuusi Matti, 1972, Towards an International Type-system of proverbs, “Proverbium”, №19.

Levin U.M., 1984, Proverbialnoe prostranstvo, paremiologicheskie issledovania, Moskva, pp. 108-126.

Permjakov G.E., 1979, From Proverb to Folk-tale. Moscow.

Shurgaia T., 2003, Pesian Paremiography and Semantic Structure of Pesian Proverb. Author’s Abstract of the Thesis Submitted for the Scientific Degree of the Candidate of Philology. Tbilisi.

Webster Sheila K., 1986, “Arabic Proverbs and Related Forms”, “Proverbium” №3, pp. 179-194.



Volume 1, issue 1


Rustaveli Institute of Georgian Literature

Georgian Electronic Journal of Literature