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A LINGUISTIC STUDY OF IDIOMS AND PROVERBS IN SELECTED LITERARY WORKS OF ALIYU KAMAL
1.1 Background to the Study
Linguistic creativity is an innate tendency that manifests at various degrees in human beings. According to Leech cited by Okpe (2011), the poet, (by inference, the literary artist) is nothing if not creative, and since language is his medium, one might as well imagine how he could be creative without using language in some sense creatively. From the above, it is discernable that the literary artist lives up to his professionalism only by being creative, but creativity cannot take place without the instrumentality of language. Similarly, it is pertinent to stress that the function of any linguistic expression is determined not only by its literal meaning in a speech event but also by its contextual meaning which contains hidden intention of the speaker as seen in the case of idioms and proverbs. It is expedient to state that, meaning can be studied as part of Linguistics since meaning is a part of Language and not independent of Language. There is no escape from Language and it is a fundamental tool for expression of meaning. Also every language builds up a system of meaning based on concepts and relations between concepts (sense relations and references). This becomes a level of organization or system within the language itself, in the same way as phonology and syntax. Therefore, semanticists and pragmatists are concerned with the description of meaning of words, sentences etc., and the manner in which words and sentences are meaningful. The native speaker of a language has a ―semantic‖ and ―pragmatic competence‖ which helps in recognizing and analyzing meanings, including those of idioms and proverbs which are studied under semantics and pragmatics. Idioms and Proverbs,which are aspects of culture cherished the world over,are preserved in language which is the medium of expressing them.In Africa and all over the world, Idioms and Proverbs are of fundamental significance in day to day discourse. They have psychological, cosmological and sociocultural roots and make special demands on the listener or reader, as their interpretations usually demand more than sheer linguistic processing. Every discourse (oral or written) among or between adults in Africa is expected to be spiced with Idioms and Proverbs for impact. Therefore, the use of Idioms and Proverbs and other linguistic elements that abound in the written or oral discourse stands as a clear testimony of such great creative ability in language useIdioms and Proverbs cannot be separated from language, where they are best accommodated. It is possibly because of this accommodation, coupled with other things that Okon (2008) claims that language provides a vehicle for the transmission of technical inventions and social conventions within the framework of culturally and linguistically circumscribed possibilities. There are so many definitions of ‗Idiom‘ and ‗Proverb‘ as there are many scholars and paremiologists, even though many of them contend that the concepts are difficult to define. This is because of their variability from culture to culture and understanding as well. The sheer diversity of academic interest of scholars has enriched the literature of these linguistic elements (Idioms and Proverbs) with several definition According to Murthy (2006), Idioms are expressions whose meaning connot be arrived at by summing up the meaning of the individual words that make up the expressions. By implication this means that Idioms have meanings outside their structure which have to be specially learnt. Another important definition which the present study adopts is by Omorodion (2006) in which he sees an Idiom as: a group of words whose meaning cannot be explained in terms of the habitual meanings of the words that make up its parts-a group of words that is different from the meanings of each separate word put together. From the two definitions above it can be understood that the meanings yielded by Idioms are non-compositional, that is,Idioms have meanings outside their structures. While, a Proverb, according to Dongall (1991), cited in Ogwuche (2007:1), is a saying popularly known and repeated, usually expressing simple and concretely, though often metaphorical, a truth based on common sense or practical human experience. In line with the above, Meider (1985) sees a Proverbas … a short, generally known sentence or expression of the folk which contains wisdom, truth, morals, experience, lessons and advice concerning life and traditional views in a metaphorical, fixed and memorable form and which is handled down from generation to generation (1985: 5). Another important definition, which the present study finds useful is the one offered by Onyemelukwe, (2004: 26). According to her Proverb is ―a popular expression which succinctly conveys truth and wisdom with the aim to teach, praise, commend, advise, correct, indict, warn, rebuke, or castigate, denounce, reprimand or condemn an undesirable act or behavior or a vice‖. However, majority of the Proverbs in the two texts under study are examined/analyzed along the critical insight given by Meider above. The basic concern of the present work is a linguistic study of the meaning of an idiom or a proverb in the two texts understudy Hausa Girl and Life Afresh by Kamal. It is imperative to stress that grammar cannot be separated from meaning, as grammar describes a language.Part of it (grammar) in this case must describe meaning also. Thus grammar must contain semantics. Taking these two considerations together, it seems reasonable that semantic information is an integral part of grammar. Therefore, the analysis of the idioms and proverbs in the two texts under study will effectively be carried out when their structural patterning is given due consideration.
Hausa Girl and Life Afresh: Synopsis
Hausa Girl(2010), being one of the two novelsselected for this study, is a novel of Hajjo Gano, a lady lured into life on the first lane, into the glamour of the northern Nigerian film venture. She joins the film crowd against the wishes of her father and other family members. It has always been her dream to become a famous film actress, who will be fervently chased by directors to her in films.She meets SK who easily entices her and shoots her in a film. It becomes a hit and instantly turns her into a star. She achieves greater fame with a music video, Hausa Girl, which clearly reveals Hajjo‘s failure to heed SK‘s real motives of turning her into a celebrity. The CD scandalizes Kano city and the members of her family, who summarily disown her. She eventually encounters her great misfortune as the film Director rejects her in favour of Zeenat Amin, who fears God, and has impeccable manners in the case of Life Afresh,which is the second text chosen for this study, itexplores the theme of gender warfare, as characterized by strict male adherence to religious precepts and passionate female adherence to the antics of native culture. The protagonist of the novel, Audi Adam, a hardworking teacher of English, leads a life unfettered by the dispensable aspects of native Hausa culture that his wife, Dijengala Maikano, finds so alluring as to risk infringing his rights, especially concerning polygamy. Matters reach to a head when Audi proposes to Uwani Lallan, leading to Dijengala‘s deserting her marital home. Audi who sticks to bow and arrows, finds another home in feminine disappointment by writing a novel after a novel.
In the two novels under study, Aliyu Kamal, to a greater extent, employs reasonable volume of Idiomatic and Proverbial expressions which can be subjected to rigorous analysis to allow for effective understanding of the texts. Though studies abound on the use of Proverbs employed in some of his novels and those of other authors, for example Ogwuche (2007), Bilkisu (2006), Adedimeji (2008), Chafe (1968), Fernando & Flavell (1981), there is still the need for further research on the Linguisticanalysis of Idioms as well as Proverbs particularly in his works to bridge the existing gaps between the previously done works and the present one. It is envisaged, therefore, that the work will equally help in Language teaching, by providing additional paremiological insights into literature studies. The linguistic elements to be studied reflect the imagery implicit in the Hausa natural environment where they live. The present study additionally explores the socio-geographical experiences captured in the texts and how these aid the understanding of the Idioms and Proverbs used.Idioms and Proverbs are richly employed in literature to depict culture. The present study, therefore, carries out a Linguisticanalysis, using contextual theory,of the Idiomatic and Proverbial expressions in Kamal‘s Hausa Girl and Life Afresh with a view to examining their lexical and sentential structures, the context in which they are employed, their suitability and impact of usage and the meaning that can be negotiated from them as a result of the shared experience of the parties involved in the discussions and finally the likely effects they yield in the texts.
1.2 Statement of the Research Problem
Idioms and Proverbs are linguistic items with a special kind of meaning. Their meanings, as argued by scholars such as Murthy (1991), Ogwuche (2007), depend on psychological, cosmological and structural roots hence their interpretation by language users requires some amount of congnitive intervention for interlocutors to arrive at their meanings. The act of interpreting Idioms and Proverbs becomes increasingly difficult when they are borrowed from one language and translated into another language – as in Hausa Idioms and Proverbs translated into English and used in written text. This is as a result of the variations in the linguistic and ethnic backgrounds of the users. Thus, when Idioms and Proverbs, like other linguistic elements, are translated from one language to another and used in a written texts, the reader must rely on the context which they appear in order to decipher their meaning, hence Idioms and Proverbs may have different interpretation based on the context they appear or the linguistic background of the reader. For example, the idiom ―You have taken a firm grip of the ground‖ (LA: p. 75) may have more than one interpretation based on the context and understanding of the interpreter: (i) It may be used to refer to a person that is living a comfortable life, (ii) it could be used ironically to tease someone that is poor and living in abject poverty. It has been claimed that Idioms and Proverbs are used and interpreted uniquely from one context to the other. Sometimes the use of such by older or young people could add meaning to the Idioms and Proverbs depending also on how and where such are used. This is also one of the problems that the study investigates using the literary works of Aliyu Kamal.In addition, Idioms and Proverbsare conceived in many quarters as items used only by older people within the framework of folklore and when engaged in conversations to teach morals to the younger ones, and to warn or advise them. However, the analyses done in this study by focusing on the characters of the studied texts, some of which are young, dismisses the said claim.
Furthermore, it is important to add that, although Idioms and Proverbs have been collected, researched and studied by foreign and native African scholars, yet it is very unfortunate that the value of most of these collections has severely suffered from poor understanding or interpretation, especially by foreign scholars. Closely related to the reason above is the fact that, the writer has authored eleven novels in which Idioms and Proverbs are significantly used, but unfortunately, not much study has been done to analyze his use of such linguistic features. The focus, therefore, of this research work is an examination of the different contextual meanings of Idioms and Proverbs as used by Aliyu Kamal in his selected novels