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Words and MeaningsLexical Semantics Across Domains, Languages, and Cultures$
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Cliff Goddard and Anna Wierzbicka

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780199668434

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2014

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199668434.001.0001

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A stitch in time and the way of the rice plant

A stitch in time and the way of the rice plant

The semantics of proverbs in English and Malay

(p.184) 8 A stitch in time and the way of the rice plant
Words and Meanings

Cliff Goddard

Anna Wierzbicka

Oxford University Press

In many cultures, knowledge of and skill at using proverbs is an essential part of linguistic and cultural competence, as it was in Shakespeare’s England, where proverbs were treasured and used by all on daily basis. This chapter explores the meanings of proverbs with special reference to examples from English and Malay (Bahasa Melayu). It argues that the meanings of proverbs can be stated in a rigorous and precise way and shows how it is possible for proverbs to compress so much meaning into such concise forms. Semantic templates are proposed that articulate some of the cultural assumptions and semantic mechanisms implicit in the genre of the English proverb, and its near-counterparts in other languages. The cultural semantics and cultural politics of proverbs are also discussed.

Keywords:   proverbs, genres, semantic template, cultural semantics

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