African Proverb Studies and the Contributions of Linguistics: Perspectives from Hausa and Swahili Genres

Author: Dahiru Muhammad Argungu (Usmanu Danfodiyo University Sokoto, Nigeria)
Speaker: Dahiru Muhammad Argungu
Topic: Linguistic Anthropology
The GLOCAL AFALA 2023 General Session


Like numerous other languages of the world, African languages are replete with proverbs and because of their endemic nature, it is sometimes argued that proverbs are language universals. Indeed, Africans have always exploited proverbs to spice up language by way of adding flavor to speech, particularly during dialogues and conversations. Hausa and Swahili proverbs are among the African proverbs that have continuously been studied for a very long time. Their genres, probably, have been studied far more than any such genres on the continent. Nonetheless, Hausa and Swahili proverbs have rarely been compared. Over the years, a key problem with African proverb researches has been the somewhat exaggerated view of the genre by scholars as a literary possession or a cultural artefact, thus minimizing or de-emphasizing its relevance in relation to other disciplines, among them linguistics. In this regard, there is an urgent need for more contributions of linguistics to African proverb studies in order to help balance its researches, academically. In addition, such an undertaking will help provide concrete and fitting answers or resolve certain decades-long issues in the research area. Among such issues or questions are those particularly relating to the definition, translation and classification of the genre.
Undoubtedly, some of these questions about the African proverb have consistently been raised by scholars of the genre, but who come mainly from disciplines other than linguistics. Surely, certain questions in the domain of African proverb research keep challenging some scholars because they have failed to understand their clear linguistic import. As a unit of its language, no doubt, the proverb can best be understood, analyzed and described, first and foremost, from a linguistic perspective, afterwards its other worths or values could be pursued. Examining the African proverb from the perspective of linguistics on top of comparing two of its significant (Hausa and Swahili) genres will not only help expose the genres as rich sources of their languages, but the discussions will also highlight issues that relate or distinguish Hausawa (Hausa speakers) and Waswahili (Swahili speakers) as Africans.

Keywords: Hausa and Swahili genres