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    英汉谚语的比较

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    [Abstract] Proverbs are the cream of a language. They reflect the relationship between language and culture. Human beings’ common social activities are in many aspects similar, so English and Chinese proverbs have similarities. Because of the cultural differences, English and Chinese proverbs have differences in their detailed contents. The author compares their similarities and differences and also proposes that English and Chinese proverbs will break the boundary and accomplish interfusion. English and Chinese proverbs have similar origin and similar linguistic characters. They both originate from folk life, mythology, literary works and from other languages. Differences between English and Chinese proverbs also exist. That is different geography; different history customs; different religions and different value concepts.
    [Key Words] proverbs; similarities; differences; interfusion


    [摘 要] 谚语是语言的一个重要组成部分,是各国语言文学艺术宝库中的一朵奇葩。谚语体现了语言与文化的关系。由于人类的普遍社会活动和心理思维过程有许多共同之处,因此英汉谚语也存在着相同之处。但由于各国具体历史文化背景的不同,所以英汉谚语又存在着差异。本文分析了英汉谚语的相同点与不同点,并提出英汉谚语在跨文化交际中的渗透与融合。英汉谚语有着相同的起源和语言特点。都来自民间生活,神话传说,文学作品和外来语。英汉谚语的语言具有简炼和生动形象的特点。但从具体内容来看,英汉谚语表现了不同的地理、历史、宗教和文化价值观念。最后指出随着世界文化的交流,谚语逐渐打破国家和民族的界限,英汉谚语在互相渗透与融合。
    [关键词] 谚语;相同点;不同点;融合

    1. Introduction
    The definition of proverb by Oxford Advanced Learner’s English-Chinese Dictionary is “short well- known saying that states a general truth or gives advice.” (精练的俗语,或为普遍道理或为劝诫语) Wu Zhankun said that proverbs are the crystal of national wisdom and experience. They are frequently used orally and handed down from generation to generation and usually give people information and speak the truth. They are short sentences with common style, concise structure, and vivid language.[1] Wang Qin said that proverbs are the summing up of practical experiences. They are the oral forms of language that give people experience, advice or warning. [2] The great English philosopher Francis Bacon once said:“The genius, wit and spirit of a nation are discovered in its proverbs.”
    From these definitions, we can see common characters of proverbs. Proverbs are the crystal of the national wisdom and experience. Proverbs are colloquial, so they are very easy to be remembered and handed down. They usually give people advice and warning.
    Proverbs are the cream of a language. Language and culture are tightly interacted with each other; each influencing and shaping the other. Language is part of culture. The Chinese language is part of China culture and English language is part of English culture. Language is the carrier and container of culture. Human knowledge and experience are described and stored in language.[3] As a part of language, proverbs closely integrated with the society and culture. Proverbs reflect many aspects of the nation such as geography, history, religious faith and values.
    English and Chinese belong to two different language systems, having great differences in their cultures. But human beings’ common social activities and emotional reflection and observation of the world are in many aspects similar. So not only differences but also many similarities exist in English and Chinese proverbs. With the communication of world, English and Chinese proverbs are permeating and interfusing each other.

    2. Similarities between English and Chinese proverbs
    The similarities between English and Chinese proverbs mainly lie in their origins and linguistic characters.

    2.1 Similar origins
    Proverbs are concise, vivid and common short sentences which be used and passed on orally. They are the summing up of the experience in the production struggle and the social life and the crystal of wisdom. [4] An English proverb itself tells us that“Proverbs are the daughter of experience.” From these we can find that English and Chinese proverbs enjoy the similar origin: they both originate from people’s daily life and experience. Specifically speaking, they both come from folk life, mythology, literary works and from other languages.

    2.1.1 Originating from folk life
    Proverbs are the summary of people’s daily life and experience, and closely related to the practice of people’s life and work, revealing a universal truth from details so as to enlighten people. There are many proverbs originated from folk life. They are created by working people, such as farmers, workmen, hunters, businessmen, army-men and so on. They use familiar terms that were associated with their own fields. E.g.:
    Farmers created the following proverbs:
    (1) Make hay while the sun shines.
    (2) April rainy for corn, May for grass.
    (3)肥不过春雨, 瘦不过秋霜。
    (4)春天不忙,秋后无粮。
        Workmen created the following proverbs:
    (5) Strike while the iron is hot.
    (6) A good anvil does not fear the hammer.
    (7)木匠怕漆匠,漆匠怕光亮。
         Hunters created the following proverbs:
    (8) He that is afraid of every bush will never prove a good huntsman.
    (9)上山打虎心要狠,下海提龙心要齐。
         Businessmen created the following proverbs:
    (10) You pay your money and take your choice.
    (11)货有高低三等价,客无远近一样待。
         Army-men created the following proverbs:
    (12) A good general make good men.
    (13)养兵千日,用在一时。
    These were first used by a limited group of people in the same fields. Because they are philosophical colloquialism, later they gradually gained wide acceptance and partly became part of the common corn of language and are now used in many other situations.

    2.1.2 Originating from mythology
    Each nation has its own mythology, fable and allusion. Chinese traditional culture, ancient Greek and Roman civilization bequeath many mythologies and allusions. They become one of the major sources of proverbs. The stories and heroes in Greek Mythology, The Fable of Aesop and The Homer left a lot of proverbs. E.g.:
    (14) I fear the Greeks, even when bringing gifts. (From the well-known story of the Trojan horse by which the Greeks took the city of Troy.)
    (15) You cannot make a Mercury of every dog. (From Roman Mythology. It means that not every mind will answer equally well to be trained into a scholar).
    (16) The fox said the grapes were sour. (From The Fables of Aesop. It means that one said something is bad when one cannot get it.)
    Chinese culture can trace back to ancient times. There were many natural phenomenons and our ancestor can’t explain these phenomenons. They created the mythology and fable to explain the phenomenon. So many Chinese proverbs come from mythology and fable. E.g.:
    (17)八仙过海,各显神通。(from《八仙过海》)
    (18)过着牛郎织女的生活。(from a folk legend)
       
    2.1.3 Originating from literary works
    Many English and Chinese proverbs come from literary works. A nation’s literary languages are its language’s ginger. They promote the development of language. Some of brilliant sentences, plot and hero’s name in literary works become proverbs.[5]
    There are many great writers in western society, such as Shakespeare, Francis Bacon, John Milton and so on. They had made distinctive contributions to the development of English literature. Their works were accepted and passed on by English people from generation to generation. Many sentences become the English proverbs.
    Shakespeare’s works are the most colorful literature origin of proverbs. Many English proverbs are from the works of Shakespeare. E.g.:
    (19) “The biter is sometimes bit.” is from Shakespeare’s Hamlet. It tells people that those who do bad things to others will bring themselves trouble.
    (20)“All is not gold that glitters.” is from Shakespeare’s The Merchants of Venice. It means that those who have a good appearance are not necessarily profound or learned.
    Some other writers, philosophers’ words also become proverbs. E.g.: (21)“Reading makes a full man, conference a ready man, and writing an exact man” is from a distinguished English philosopher and writer Bacon’s On Reading. It tells people that reading, conference and writing can make a person learned, sharp and precise. And(22) “The childhood shows the man” is from Milton’s Paradise Regained.
    Many Chinese proverbs are from classic Chinese literary works. The four great works: The Pilgrimage to the West, The Three Kingdoms, A Dream of Red Mansions and The Marsh Rebellion are the most popular classics in China. Such as:
    (23)温故而知新。(By studying the old one learns something new )---《论语》(Selected Reading)
    (24) 三个臭皮匠顶个诸葛亮。(Three cobblers with their wits combined equal Zhuge Liang the master---the wisdom of the masses exceeds that of the wisest individual.)---《三国演义》( The Three Kingdoms)
    (25)三十六计,走为上计。(Of the thirty-six stratagems, the best is running away.)---《水浒传》(The Marsh Rebellion)
    (26)谋事在人,成事在天。(Man proposes; God disposes.)---《红楼梦》(A Dream of Red Mansions)
     (27)说曹操,曹操到。(Talk of the devil and he is sure to appear.) ---《三国演义》( The Three Kingdoms)

    Literature, as a mirror of social life, is another source of proverbs. Many sentences in these literary works are full of wisdom and easy to be remembered, so people like them and use them again and again. At last, they become the proverbs and are widely used. We can say that proverbs are the cream of the literary works.
    2.1.4 Originating from other languages
    With the communication of world, nation’s boundary is being broken. More and more languages contacted with each other. Because of the geography and history, English was influenced and impacted by other languages in its development process. So English have absorbed a great number of expressions of other nation’s culture. So do proverbs. Many English proverbs are from Latin, Greek, French and Chinese. As the reason of history, most of these loaned proverbs were transferred into English and some maintain the original languages.
    Many English proverbs originate from Latin. E.g.:
    (28) Art is long, life is short.
    (29) The wish is father to the thought.
    Some Latin proverbs are transferred into English. For example English people have got (30)“Soon ripe, soon rotten” from “Citomaturum cito putridum”.
    Many English proverbs come from French. For example, English people have got(31) “When the fox preaches, take care off your geese” from “Quand le renard se met a precher, garde aux poules”.
    English proverbs also come from foreign writers’ works. For example, (32)“Constant dripping wears away the stone.” is from Roman poet Ovid.
    Chinese people have also got some proverbs from other languages. Such as
    (33)“吃不到葡萄说葡萄酸”is from “The grapes are sour.”
    (34)“谁笑到最后,谁笑得最好”is from “He who laughs last laughs best.”
    (35)“条条大路通罗马”is from “All roads lead to Rome.”
    These have been accepted by Chinese people and become Chinese proverbs.

    From above we can find out that English and Chinese proverbs have similar origins from folk life, mythology, literary works and from other languages. From these similar origins we can see that English and Chinese people have similar social activities and emotional reflection and observation of the world.

    2.2 Similar linguistic characters
    Proverbs are created by common people and orally handed down from generation to generation again and again. English and Chinese proverbs are concise and vivid.

    2.2.1 Conciseness
    The cleanest water is spring; the most refined words are proverbs. Proverb diction is neat and simple. Proverbs use the fewest words to express the contents. They are concise, condensed and compact. Most of English and Chinese proverbs are simple sentences. E.g.:
    (36) Easy come easy go.
    (37) No pains no gains.
    (38)人勤地不懒。
    (39)人心齐泰山移。
    Proverbs are simple and short sentences, so they can be remembered and handed down from generation to generation.

    2.2.2 Vividness
    Proverbs use rhetorical devices to attract the readers deeply. Many Chinese and English proverbs use the same rhetorical devices such as simile, metaphor, repetition and hyperbole, etc.
    Simile is used very frequently. It is a figure of speech, in which a more or less fanciful or unrealistic comparison is made, using “like ”or “as”.[6] Here are some examples:
    (40)割麦如救火。
    (41)剩秧如剩草,缺秧如缺宝。
    (42) A good friend is as the sun in winter.
    (43) A black plum is as sweet as a white.
    Metaphor is a figure of speech, which concisely compares two things by saying that one is the other.[7] It does not literally denote in order to imply a resemblance. E.g.:
    (44) Time is father of truth.
    (45) Failure is the mother of success.
    (46)一寸光阴一寸金。
    (47)谎言怕真理,黑暗怕阳光。
    Repetition is another rhetorical device used to express strong feelings or emphasize some meanings. E.g.:

    (48)哪个老虎不吃人,哪个地主不狠心。
    (49) Many lords, many laws.
    Gorky said that, “The true art is authorized to exaggerate.” Hyperbole is an exaggeration used to give emphasis and strike the readers deeply. E.g.:
    (50) A thousand years cannot repair a moment’s loss of honor.
    (51)谷子栽得稀,不够喂小鸡。
    The exaggeration is not false. It comes from the true feelings and bases on reality.[8]
    Apart from the above rhetorical devices, there are other devices. They are Antithesis, Synecdoche, Personification, etc.
    The use of rhetorical devices makes proverbs fresh, humorous, implicit and full of wit.

    Though English and Chinese proverbs enjoy the similar origins, they also have differences in their detailed contents. We will discuss their differences from the following aspects: different geography; different history customs; different religions and different value concepts.

    3. Differences between English and Chinese proverbs
    Language is strongly influenced and shaped by culture. Language is the mirror of culture. It can represent every aspect of culture.[9] Proverb is an important part of a national language and they reflect the relation between culture and language. Different nations have different culture. Generally speaking, the major differences lie in geography; history customs; religions and value concepts. As a result, English and Chinese proverbs are different in the detailed contents.

    3.1 Reflecting different geography
    A nation’s geographical environment is a framework in which a language and culture have been developing. The geographical features of a country are inevitably reflected in the national language in general and proverbs in particular.[10]
    England is an island country and located in the western seaside of Europe. English people live by seaside and their life cannot do without sailing and fishing. So many English proverbs are related to sea and sailing. E.g.:
    (52) The best fish smell when they are three days old.
    (53) All at sea.
    (54) Being on the sea, sail; being on the land, settle.
    (55) Let another’s shipwreck be your navigation mark.
    China is an agriculture country. Every feudal dynasty pays much attention to agriculture. Agriculture is the fundamental and crucial trade. So there are many farming proverbs about agriculture. Farming proverbs constitute a large part of Chinese proverbs. They are the crystal of agriculture experiences of Chinese people. It can be seen in the following examples:
    (56)春雨贵如油。(Rain during spring time is precious as oil.)
    (57)种瓜得瓜,种豆得豆。(As a pan sows, so shall he reap.)
    (58)人勤地不懒。(If man is diligent, soil is not idle.)
    (59)瑞雪兆丰年。(A snow year, a rich year.)
    (60)一粒下地, 万粒归仓。(From one grain sown into the earth, one thousand grains will spring.)
    (61) 前人种树, 后人乘凉。(Ancestors plant trees while descendants enjoy the cool under the tree shade—enjoying the fruits of labor of one’s ancestors.)

    From above, we can see that English and Chinese proverbs reflect their different geographical conditions. England is an island country, so many English proverbs are about “sea”, “fish”, “ship” and so on. While many Chinese proverbs are about agriculture, such as “豆”,“雪”,“仓”,“地”,etc.

    3.2 Reflecting different history customs
    Each nation has its own history. Since proverbs are historical products, they may reflect some aspects of the national history.
    English proverbs are related to the history of England. E.g.: (62)“It is as hard to please a knave as a knight.” A knight refers to a man given the rank of knighthood by the British monarch. There are many legends about the English knights (e.g.: King Arthur and his green knights) in the ancient times; and (63)“From whipping post to pillory.” A whipping post is a post to which a person was tied for a public whipping and a pillory is a wooden framework with three holes into which the head and hands of an offender were loked, exposing him to public abuse and ridicule.[11]
    China has a long history. There is thousands of years’ feudal society in China. People were bonded by the rank of class. The rulers exploit and bully the people cruelty. There are many Chinese proverbs about feudal and gender discrimination. E.g.:
    (64) 只许州官放火,不许百姓点灯。(The magistrates are free to burn down houses, while the common people are forbidden even to light lamps. –The powerful can do what they want, the weak are not allowed to do anything.)
    (65)朱门酒肉臭,路有冻死骨。(Behind the red doors meat and wine go to waste while out on the roads lie the bones of the frozen.)
    (66) 嫁鸡随鸡,嫁狗随狗。(Marry a cock and follow the cock, marry a dog and follow the dog. —Follow the man you marry, be he fowl or cur.)[12]

    From above we can see that English and Chinese proverbs reflect the different history. English proverbs are related to king and knight while Chinese proverbs reflect the Chinese people’s grudge and resistance to rulers.

    3.3 Reflecting different religions
    Religion is a very important part of culture. Different religions reflect different cultural characters, different cultural backgrounds and different cultural traditions. Religion is a cultural phenomenon. Proverbs are closely related to the culture, so proverbs can reflect the different religious faith. [13]
    English people believe in Christianity and it is the most influential religion in the west. Many English proverbs reflect English people’s religious faith and many of them are about “God”, “devil”, “heaven”, “church”, “cross” and “hell”. E.g.:
    (67) As poor as the church mouse.
    (68) God helps those who help themselves.
    (69) The devil can cite Scripture for his purpose.
    (70) Better go to heaven in rags than to hell in embroidering.
    (71) The way to heaven is by Weeping Cross.
        The proverbs above are apparently related to Christianity, because in them “God”, “devil”, “heaven”, “church”, “cross” and “hell” appear which are the embodiments of Christianity.
    In contrast, Buddhism is the most popular religion in China. Many proverbs are about Buddhism such as:
    (72)平时不烧香,临时抱佛脚。(Never burning incense when all is well, but clasping Buddha’s feet in an emergency.)
    (73) 跑得了和尚,跑不了庙。(The monk may run away, but the temple can’t run with him. —A fugitive must belong to some place that can provide clues.)
    (74)泥菩萨过河,自身难保。(Like a clay idol fording a river --hardly able to save one.)
    (75)放下屠刀,立地成佛。(The butcher who lays down his knife at once becomes a Buddha.)
    These proverbs are about 佛,和尚,庙and 菩萨。The doctrines of Buddhist admonish people to do good deeds and so they can go to the heaven after their death. Taoism comes next to Buddhism in China. There are proverbs about Taoism such as         
    (76)一人得道,鸡犬升天。
    (77)道高一尺,魔高一丈,etc.

    English and Chinese people have different religious faith. Different religions lead to the differences between English and Chinese proverbs. Christianity is the main religion in English-speaking countries, so many English proverbs are related to “God”. While Chinese people believed in Buddhism and Taoism, so many Chinese proverbs are about“佛”and “道”。

    3.4 Reflecting different value concepts
    The differences between Chinese and western value concepts mainly lie in individualism and collective.
    Westerners believe that everyman is equal. They aspire to freedom and equality. Many English proverbs show American’s advocating of freedom and individualism. E.g.:
    (78) God helps those who help themselves.
    (79) He helps little that helps not himself.
        These two proverbs illustrate the individual role. The words “themselves” and “himself” show that independence plays an important role in their life.
    (80) Everyman is the architect of his own fortune.
    (81) If you want a thing well done, do it yourself.
    These two proverbs attach importance to independence and self-reliance. Self-reliance impels people to create opportunities, seek competition and be ready for risks.
            (82)“It is the squeaky wheel that gets the oil.” gives prominence to the individualism.
    (83)“Everyman after his fashion.” lays stress on individual differences.
    On the contrary, Chinese people take modesty as virtue. They respect the old and take good care of the young. Their characteristics are “justice and humanity”, “modesty” and “love”. [14] Chinese people pay much attention to collectivism and think highly of the role of groups. They lay stress on help each other and reliance each other. They also pay attention to the harmonious human relationship and they try to save the other side’s face. Many Chinese proverbs reflect this trend.[15] E.g.:
    (84)“孤树结成林不怕风吹,滴水集成海不怕日晒。”shows the strength of collective or union.
    (85)“四海之内皆兄弟。”reflects the importance of mutual help and reliance.
    (86)“相互协助事好办,各自揣私心事难成。”lays stress on the harmonious human relationship.
    (87)“忍一时风平浪静,退一步海阔天空。”suggests that people should save the other side’s face.
    There are exceptions that are opposite to the mainstream. Some English proverbs also reflect the importance of collectivism. For example, (88) “make yourself necessary to someone.” Chinese traditional value concept has been greatly impacted with the input of individualism. (89)“一个和尚挑水吃;两个和尚抬水吃;三个和尚没水吃” is contrary to Chinese collective tendency. In spite of these exceptions, their mainstreams are not changed.

    English and Chinese proverbs have many similarities and differences. With the communication of world culture, proverbs will break the boundary of states and nations, promote the cultural convergence and achieve interfusion. English and Chinese proverbs are permeating and interfusing each other constantly.

    4. Permeation and interfusion
    With the progress of science and technology, the development of society and dissemination of information, the communication and cooperation among countries are expanding. The contact among states and nations is more and more frequent. Different national cultures are permeating and interfusing. Language is the carrier of culture. Cultural convergence is directly reflected in the integration of language, at the same time the interfusion and changing of language reflect and record the evolution of cultural convergence. [16] Proverb is the crystal of language. It has no exception.
    The communication between Chinese and Western culture is more and more frequent. These two cultures affect and permeate mutually. English absorb many Chinese words, and a great number of English words also enter in the Chinese culture. For example:
    (90)“以眼还眼,以牙还牙”is from “An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.”
    (91)“谁笑到最后,谁笑得最好”is from “He who laughs last laughs best.”
    (92)“吃不到葡萄说葡萄酸”is from “Sour grapes” and so on.
    (93)“Distant water cannot quench a fire nearby” is from “远水解不了近火”
    (94)“Don’t climb a tree to look for fish.” is from “勿缘木求鱼。”
    (95)“Take away fuel, take away flame.” is from “扬汤止沸,不如釜底抽薪。”
    (96)“The truth by incessant endeavors.” is from “愚者千虑,必有一得。”—《史记》(Records of the Historian)
    (97)“Better return home and make a net than long for fish by the waterside.” is from “临渊而捕鱼,不如退而结网。”—《汉书》(History of the Han Dynasty)

    From above proverbs we can see that many Chinese proverbs become English proverbs and Chinese people also accept a lot of English proverbs. English and Chinese proverbs are permeating and interfusing each other constantly.

    5. Conclusion
    Proverbs are the cream of a language. They are closely related to a nation’s culture and enjoy great cultural values. They reflect the relation between culture and language. Each nation has its own geography, history, religion and social attitude. Because of the cultural generalities and differences, English and Chinese proverbs have their similarities and differences. They are permeating and interfusing each other. So a comparative study of them can help us to learn a language well and understand the true meaning of other’s word in cross-culture communication.

     


    References

    [1]武占坤. 中华谚谣研究[M]. 保定: 河北大学出版社, 2003.P6
    [2]王勤. 谚语歇后语概论[M]. 长沙:湖南教育出版社,1980.P8
    [3]王振亚. 语言与文化[M]. 北京:高等教育出版社,1999.P18-19
    [4]成志伟. 中华谚语大观[M]. 北京: 金盾出版社, 2005.P1
    [5]胡文仲主编.平洪, 张国扬著. 英语习语与英美文化[M]. 北京: 外语教学与研究出版社,1999.P139
    [6] Tom McArthur, Roshan McArthur. Oxford Concise Companion to the English Language [M]. Shanghai: Shanghai Foreign Language Education Press, 2001.P550
    [7]同[8].P374
    [8]同[2].P54
    [9]同[3].P19
    [10]同[3].P192
    [11]同[3].P198-199
    [12]武世花. 英汉谚语对比研究[J]. 镇江高专学报,2003.4.P50
    [13]同[5].P107
    [14]徐涛. 英汉谚语民族性的比较[J]. 阿坝师范高等专科学校学报,2004.2 .P46
    [15]李彩歌, 张华明. 谈谈英汉谚语的文化取向[J]. 安阳师范学院学报,2002.4. P60
    [16]曹瑞明. 跨文化交际翻译中的差异与融合[J]. 西安外国语学院学报,2006.1. P47


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