Publication details [#59226]

Lee, Sang-Oak. 2014. Proverbial homogeneity: A cross-linguistic examination of Korean and Indonesian: With reference to English and Chinese proverbs. Korean Linguistics 16 (1) : 63–81.
Publication type
Article in journal
Publication language
Language as a subject
Place, Publisher
John Benjamins
Journal DOI


This study explores the use of keywords in proverbs in Korean, English, Chinese, and Indonesian. The study applies the traditional corpus linguistic tools of frequency and ranking to the keywords found in proverbs in an attempt to characterize the proverbs of these languages. The frequency data show that English proverbs are dominated by abstract keywords like “love, God, age, foolishness, wisdom, poverty, good, evil, and truth.” On the other hand, Chinese proverbs are dominated by more “action oriented” and “pragmatic concern” keywords such as “heart, time, talk/say, act/do, words, method, and knowledge,” showing a clear divergence from the frequency structure of English proverb keywords. Surprisingly, Korean proverb keywords, just like the English keywords, are also found to share very little in common with Chinese, a longstanding neighbor which has strongly influenced the cultural life of Korea over the last two millennia. Instead, the data show that the proverb keyword structure most resembles that of Indonesian, both having material/physical terms dominating the keywords and both sharing three common top-ranking keywords: water, dog, and cow.