Are Proverbs Dying?

Sana' Ababneh, Mohammad Al-Ajlouny

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This paper is aimed at investigating the issue whether proverbs are falling out of public usage. A field study is carried out to answer the questions of the study. A sample of Jordanian Arabic native speakers were asked to complete twenty unfinished proverbs and to give an appropriate proverb they would use in each of ten different situations described in a written questionnaire. The responses were graded to gauge the amount of knowledge the subjects have of proverbs. The subjects’ gender was also considered to see whether gender has any effect on a speaker’s amount of knowledge in this regard. The results show that males and females performed equally well displaying comparable knowledge. Age, on the other hand, is crucial: older people of both genders consistently knew more proverbs. This decline in knowledge of proverbs in younger people is not seen here as an indication that proverbs are ‘dying’. Rather, the authors believe that the nature of proverbs as what might be considered complex lexical items may be the reason behind their acquisition coming later in life compared to productively-combined phrases which  require less effort on the memory. However, the issue is not completely settled and further, large-scale research is needed to probe other issues of education beside these young people’s knowledge of proverbs. They could be lagging behind older people in other aspects of knowledge as well.

Key Words: Proverbs, Jordanian Arabic, complex lexical items, gender, language acquisition.


Proverbs, Jordanian Arabic, complex lexical items, gender, language acquisition

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ISSN 2334-9182 (Print)

ISSN 2334-9212 (Online)


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