– A proverb is a brief statement full of hidden meaning and which expresses wisdom and truth.
– The term adage, or wise saying, is sometimes used to mean the same thing as a proverb.
– It is one of the short forms of oral literature.

Classification of Proverbs

– Proverbs are classified according to:

  1. The theme
  2. Alphabetical letters
  3. Function served
  4. Styles used

(a) According to the Theme

Thematically, proverbs can be classified as:

  1. Proverbs on fate
  2. Proverbs on authority
  3. Proverbs on greed
  4. Proverbs on love
  5. Proverbs on marriage
  6. Proverbs on co-operation
  7. Proverbs on arrogance
  8. Proverbs on communal life, etc

(b) According to the Alphabetical Letters

Alphabetically, proverbs can be categorized as:

  1. “A” proverbs if the first words begin with letter “A”
  2. “B” proverbs
  3. “C” proverbs, etc

(c) According to the Function served by the Proverb

Functionally, proverbs can be classified as:

  1. Cautionary proverbs, which warn against what is undesirable
  2. Normative proverbs, which reinforce what the community considers acceptable and desirable
  3. Summative proverbs. They summarize issues and even narratives

Get Other Oral Literature Notes Here

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(d) According to Styles Used

Stylistically, classify proverbs as:

Consider this Kiswahili Proverb:
Wajua tamu yaua sumu umenipiani?
(You know that sweetness kills, why have you given me poison?)
It can be classified as:
Alphabetically : “W” Proverb
Stylistically : Interrogative
Thematically : Love
Functionally : Normative


Features of Proverbs

– Proverbs have features such as brief and contain wisdom.

See also  Silent Song and Other Stories KCSE Prediction Questions and Answers

Stylistic Qualities of Proverbs

-Proverbs possess unique stylistic qualities like:

  • Mnemonic features
    • Alliteration – e.g Forgive and forget
    • Consonance – e.g Practice makes perfect
    • Assonance – e.g Upendapo, uendapo
  • Parallelism – This is a balance between two similar words, phrases, or clauses
    e.g Nothing ventured, nothing gained
  • Ellipsis – Unneeded words are left out in order for us to fill what is missing
    e.g Penny wise, pound foolish
  • Hyperbole – An idea is exaggerated in order to evoke strong feelings, or to create a strong impression
    e.g The half is more than the whole
  • Paradox – It is an apparently true statement that leads to, or intentionally expresses a contradiction or situation, which defies intuition
    e.g The longest way is the shortest way home
  • Personification – the attribution of a personal nature or human characteristics to something non-human, or the representation of an abstract quality in human form.
    e.g Love is blind

Functions of Proverbs

Proverbs play the following roles:

  1. Normative functions. Proverbs usually:
    • Congratulate
    • Give suggestions
    • Warn
    • Advise
    • Request
  2. Aesthetic functions. When we use proverbs in speech, we make it more appealing
  3. Convey wisdom
  4. Summarize experiences

Get Other Oral Literature Notes Here

Puns / Word Play In English

English Tongue Twisters

Proverbs-Introduction To Proverbs

Oral Poetry and Songs Notes

Oral Narratives

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