Proverb: what it is, characteristics, definition, meaning, examples of proverbs and more


What is the subgenre proverb?

It is one of the most important subgenres in the literary world, characterized by being a popular saying with a precise and clear purpose: the exposition of an instructive or moral message or a teaching that leads to reflection. It belongs to the didactic genre because of this sense of teaching.

Sayings are also sayings that do not have an identified author, however, this does not detract from the teaching purpose they provide. They are often used in common speech, but also in literature, which is why they are considered a traditional element of origin.

Meaning of the subgenre refrain

The term -refrain- comes from the French -refrain-, which refers to “refrain”, although some others bring the term closer to “short sentence”. This is how it determines its extension in the first place, since it maintains a short structure, making its diffusion from generation to generation easier. This is due to the fact that, in addition, it maintains a composition in verse and rhyme.

Definition of the subgenre refrain

In other words, sayings are a type of short popular sayings in rhyme, which convey a moral teaching and are transmitted from generation to generation. They are characterized because they maintain a composition linked to the language of the geographical area to which they belong, thus having their own theme. They are transmitted especially by sages or elders and constitute an important part of the culture of a people.

History and origin of the subgenre refrain

The origin of the proverb is considered to be in the Middle East, especially in the flourishing of Greco-Latin and biblical literature, however, it is considered that the most important moment for the proverb will be in the Renaissance, when it will become crucial for the literature of the time. Its origin also dates back to Provençal lyric poetry.

The proverb also makes its appearance in other works of greater extension, as it is in the “Cantar del Mio Cid”, one of the most important works of Spanish literature. It will also appear in other works of classic authors such as Miguel de Cervantes, Don Juan Manuel, Arcipreste de Hita, Alfonso X el Sabio, among others.

Definition of the subgenre refrain

Characteristics of the subgenre refrain

These are the most important characteristics of the saying:

Content: although the content of the proverb may vary, it focuses particularly on the expression of a popular phrase that exposes a teaching or a concrete reflection to which it directs the reader or the person who listens to it, based on the speaker’s experience or else on one’s own thought. On the other hand, the proverb provides a content that speaks of real life, since it is a product of experience to lead to teaching or to redirect a behavior. Their content may include other rhetorical figures such as irony and humor.

Author: since they are a type of text that is known thanks to the transmission from generation to generation, it is not possible to identify a particular author of them by their use over time, being often alien to families and known in a population or nation in particular. This is due to the fact that they were first known by oral transmission and later, by written transmission, they are part of popular knowledge and are subject to the growth of the people.

They do not depend on time: another relevant particularity of the proverb has to do with the ease with which they can be adapted to any time in which they are mentioned, which is why they can remain in force even when they were conceived in previous times, since they can even be modified to adapt to other times and geographical places.

Language: one of the most relevant characteristics of the proverb is the way in which it is composed and the type of language it uses, since it maintains an extremely simple language that facilitates memorization, since it contains colloquial words typical of the area in which it is reproduced.

Structure of the subgenre refrain

As for the structure of the refrain, this, as we mentioned, uses a short extension that can be in rhyme and constitute a single stanza. It often includes literary figures such as irony, parallelism and antithesis, elements that allow guaranteeing the correct interpretation and transmission of the message to be sent in relation to a particular conduct, bad habit, etc.

In this sense, although the order may vary or not be explicit, the saying must have a lesson or a comparison that leads to teaching and reflection.

Example of the subgenre proverb

Some examples of well-known sayings are:

“No matter how early you get up, the sun rises earlier.”

“Where there was fire, ashes remain”.

“A shrimp that falls asleep is carried away by the current”.