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Knowledge is and will be produced in order to be sold, it is and will be consumed in order to be valorized in a new production: in both cases, the goal is exchange. Knowledge ceases to be an end in itself, it loses its use-value.
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( Lyotard, Jean Francois | Knowledge )


G. Permjakov


1. It is known that every sign has a measure of autonomy from its referent. For this reason it can signify, not one thing (phenomenon, property or relation), but two, three or more things, and conversely, two, three or more signs may refer to one and the same thing (phenomenon, property or relation). The absence of an indissoluble bond between the sign and the referent provides the fundamental basis for the existence of homonymy and synonymy, phenomena inherent in any set of signs, including, no doubt, signs of the natural languages.

2.0. Like any other language signs, paremia also posses the properties described in § 1.
2.1. Not infrequently, "one and the same" saying acquires vastly different meanings in different contexts. Thus, the Russian colloquial saying Bud' zdorov' (lit. "Be healthy!") is used in its normal sense when uttered after someone sneezes or after the words "I am going". But the same collocation used in the sentence: A on bud' zdorov: kosaya sazhen' v plechah (which translates roughly as "He is all right: a husky broad-shouldered fellow") expresses approbation and admiration and differs sharply from the above meaning of wishing somebody good health.
2.2. At the same time locutions totally different in lexical composition and even in syntactic and paremiological structure often have the same meaning. Cf. the Russian folk saying Out gets the tail, in sticks the beak, out gets the beak, in sticks the tail and the "winged" indivisible phrase Trishka's kaftan from Krilov's fable of the same name. Both describe the same typical situation. A similar relationship obtains between the two popular Russian proverbs: You cannot wash a black dog white and No matter how well you feed the wolf, he will look towards the forest.

The full text of this article is published in De Proverbio - Issue 5:1997 & Issue 6:1997, an electronic book, available from amazon.com and other leading Internet booksellers.


5.1.0. Paremia, then, like other language signs, posses the properties of homonymy and synonymy, and this must be taken into account in recording and analysing paremiological items.
5.1.1. To avoid homonymy, it is not sufficient (in a dictionary or collection) to just cite a folk saying or a quotation, it is necessary to indicate to which paremiological type it belongs, i.e. whether it is a proverb, a proverbial phrase, an omen, a riddle, a superstitious belief, a riddle question, etc., because that will provide a pointer to the correct understanding of its meaning. Alternatively, one should give the locution in its normal context, since homonymy is usually removed in speech.
5.1.2. As for synonyms, explanation could be dispensed with inasmuch as locutions are models of situations they denote. However when the general meaning is unmotivated (which is the case almost exclusively with proverbs, proverbial phrases and riddles) explanation is in order.


*This is summary of a paper presented to the 1972 "Summer school on Secondary Modeling Systems" at the Tartu University.

  1. See Ittmann J. "Sprichwörter der Nyang", 245. Zeitschrift für Eingeborenen-Sprachen, Band XXII. Berlin 1931.

Translated by E. Filippov

G. Permjakov

*First published in Proverbium 24, 1974


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