[Lingtyp] Metaphorical subject-object order in proverbs with parallel sentences

paolo Ramat paolo.ramat at unipv.it
Sat Jun 19 11:00:09 UTC 2021

Dear All,
I wouldn't like to enlarge the discussion to topics which are similar to
the debated question here (as it often happens in the linguistlist !).
However, the two nice examples from the  *Hitopadeśa *quoted by Siva Kalyan
seem very similar to the rhetorical figure called 'similitudo' (Engl.
*simile*), much used by poets from Homer on. Cp. Milton's *Paradise
Lost, *where
the source domain  (*the Wolf*) precedes the target domain (*the grand Thie*f):
precisely as 'tiger' and 'water'  precede  'person' and 'heart' in the
Korean proverbs .
*As* when a prowling Wolf,
Whom hunger drives to seek new haunt for prey,
. . . . . . .
*So *clomb this first grand Thief into God's Fold

Vergil and Dante are plenty of metaphorical similes introduced by *sicut X,
ita Y *and,respectively,* come X, così/similemente  Y *(as X, so /similarly
Y) Cp. *Parad*. 23, 1-10 etc.


Prof. Dr. Paolo Ramat
Istituto Universitario Studi Superiori (IUSS Pavia) (retired)
Accademia dei Lincei, Socio corrispondente
'Academia Europaea'
'Societas Linguistica Europaea', Honorary Member
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Il giorno ven 18 giu 2021 alle ore 18:51 David Gil <gil at shh.mpg.de> ha

> Dear all,
> Two well-known poetic forms which place the source before the target (like
> Korean) are:
> 1. The Malay pantun — a ubiquitous quatrain form in which the first
> couplet presents the source while the second couplet follows with the
> target.
> 2. Homer's Iliad and Odyssey.
> In contrast, both orders are attested in
> 3. Virgil's Aeneid
> For the Malay Pantun, this feature is pervasive and almost definitional of
> the genre.  For brief discussion see Gil (@).  For Homer and Virgil, the
> source is a personal communication from Yeshayahu Shen, alluding to a PhD
> dissertation from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, whose precise
> reference he was unfortunately unable to provide.
> Gil, David (1993) "'Il pleut doucement sur la ville':  The Rhythm of a
> Metaphor", *Poetics Today* 14:49-82.
> On 18/06/2021 15:41, Siva Kalyan wrote:
> At least some Sanskrit proverbs have the "metaphorical subjects" preceding
> the "metaphorical objects". The example that comes to mind is the
> following:
> varam eko guṇī putro na ca mūrkhaśatair api
> ekaścandrastamo hanti na ca tārāgaṇair api
> “A single intelligent son is preferable to a hundred fools;
> [just as] the sun is not blotted out by the multitude of stars.”
> Also the following:
> na daivam iti saṃcintya tyajed udyogam ātmanaḥ
> anudyogena kas tailaṃ tilebhyaḥ prāptum arhati?
> “Do not abandon your work, thinking it is foreordained by fate;
> [for] who is capable of obtaining oil from sesame plants without effort?”
> (Both of these examples are from the 12th-century text *Hitopadeśa*.)
> In addition, all the examples of metaphorical proverbs in Tamil that I can
> think of also have the subject-before-object order. (I don’t remember the
> original, but one of them goes along the lines of, “Don’t think that only
> your relatives can help you; the poison that you are born with may threaten
> your life, but the herb that saves you may come from a distant mountain”.)
> At the very least, there are probably strong areal tendencies here. I
> wouldn't be surprised if Sinospheric languages pattern one way, and
> Indospheric languages pattern the other way.
> By the way, I wouldn’t recommend using “subject” and “object” to talk
> about metaphor, given how overloaded these terms are already. I think the
> standard way of talking about metaphors is in terms of “source domain” (=
> your “object”) and “target domain” (= your “subject”).
> Siva
> On 18 Jun 2021, at 2:08 pm, JOO, Ian [Student] <ian.joo at connect.polyu.hk>
> wrote:
> Dear all,
> in Korean proverbs consisting of two parallel sentences, the metaphorical
> object precedes the metaphorical subject:
>    - 호랑이는 죽어서 가죽을 남기고, 사람은 죽어서 이름을 남긴다. A tiger leaves its hide when it
>    dies, and a person leaves their name when they die.
>    - 열 길 물 속은 알아도 한 길 사람 속은 모른다. You can see through ten feet deep water,
>    but you cannot see through a one foot deep heart.
> In these proverbs, the metaphorical objects (tiger, water) precede the
> metaphorical subjects (person, heart).
> I have been assuming that this is the “natural” way of making a parallel
> comparison, until I came across Mongolian proverbs today that have the
> opposite structure:
>    - Хүн ёс дагана, нохой яс дагана. A person follows traditions, and a
>    dog follows bones.
>    - Уур биеийг зовоодог, уул морийг зовоодог. The anger torments the
>    body, and the mountain torments the horse.
> I assume here that the person and the body are being compared to the dog
> and the horse (and not the other way around).
> Is this metaphorical subject - metaphorical object order common in
> proverbs of other languages as well?
> From Hong Kong,
> Ian
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> David Gil
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