Research studies

The Study of Pragma-Discoursal Analysis of Baghdadi Proverbs Translation into English


Prepared by the researcher 

Assistant Professor – Ibrahim Talaat Ibrahim AL-Bayati – AL-Iraqia University/ College of Arts

Researcher – Muhammad Sadoon Hameed AL-Musawi – AL-Iraqia University/ College of Arts

Democratic Arab Center

Journal of cultural linguistic and artistic studies : Twenty-fourth Issue – June 2022

A Periodical International Journal published by the “Democratic Arab Center” Germany – Berlin.

Nationales ISSN-Zentrum für Deutschland
 ISSN  2625-8943

Journal of cultural linguistic and artistic studies

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Every nation’s proverbs are a valuable part of its culture. Nations’ cultures may vary, but they all have the same ways of using their surroundings to develop new proverbs that mirror their lives. This study focuses on the pragma-discoursal analysis of professional translators and undergraduates’ English translations of Baghdadi proverbs. To achieve the purpose of the study, the researcher carefully chose ten Baghdadi proverbs within a real-life context (RLC) by relying on two books about Baghdadi proverbs: Proverbs of Baghdad Vols. 1 and 2 by Sheikh Jalal Al-Ḥanafi, 1962; and A Collection of Baghdadi Proverbs Vol. 1 by Abdul-Rahman Al-Tikriti, 1971. Furthermore, the researcher formulated a translation questionnaire via Google Forms in which ten translators and undergraduates aged 22 to 30 years old from different governorates across Iraq were randomly chosen and asked to translate the Baghdadi proverbs into English. In analysing the Baghdadi proverbs, the researcher applied the Discourse-Historical Approach (DHA) by Wodak and speech act theory by Austin. Accordingly, after assessing the participants’ translations of Baghdadi proverbs into English, the conclusions of the study verified the researcher’s hypothesis. Finally, the researcher presented solutions for translating proverbs to enable translators to address the barriers in translating proverbs.

     1. Introduction

Translation has been seen both favourably and adversely throughout history. Chiefly, this is a good thing, since translation may bring to light new ideas and experiences that would otherwise remain hidden behind the barrier of a foreign language. This is because translated writings will never be “the genuine thing.” They will always be second-hand and subpar imitations. Translation has been compared to a good deed because it builds bridges and broadens perspectives. Translators are in high demand because they bridge the communication gap that exists between people who can only communicate in their native tongue. When viewed adversely, every translation plainly lacks authenticity: it just provides people access to content that already exists in another language. Therefore, translation is, by definition, a kind of secondary communication (House, 2018, p.9). An original communication experience is repeated throughout the translation process to allow others to comprehend and enjoy the actual event, from which they would otherwise be absent. Al-Bayati (2020: 4), describes translation as a procedure by which an original text or speech, referred to as the “source text,” is transposed by another text in a different language, referred to as the “target text.” It is classified into two types: textual translation and spoken one (ibid).

Sociolinguistically, a characteristic known as “diglossia” distinguishes the Arabic language. This implies the presence of two variants of the language, classical and vernacular, coexisting with variable extents of distinction. “Literary,” “written,” “formal,” and “Modern Standard Arabic” (MSA) are all synonyms for Classical Arabic (CA), the language of reading and writing. All Arab nations speak the same language. It is often employed in formal settings, such as in articles, newspapers, publications, and lectures, as well as on the radio, television, and social media. Colloquial Arabic, on the other hand, is the language of daily life at home, at work, on the street, and in social settings. It differs not just across Arab countries but also within the same country, depending on education, social status, and religion. In each Arab nation, however, there is one standard and dominating colloquial vernacular based on the dialect spoken in the capital city or a major commercial city. Al-Kalesi (2007) in his introduction opines that:

“The differences between MSA and colloquial Arabic are basically phonological and morphological, whereas the differences between the dialects are in pronunciation, everyday expressions, and idiomatic phrases.”

In modern Iraq, there are three broad geographical groupings of dialects that may be classified as northern, southern, and central. The northern dialect is centred in Mosul (the main city in the north), whereas the southern dialect is centred in Basra (the largest city in the south). The central dialect is spoken in Baghdad and its neighbouring towns. When it comes to dialect, Baghdadi is the most frequently spoken and understood across Iraq.

Over the centuries, proverbs have found a place in the lives of people throughout the globe. A civilization cannot function without them because of their ability to inspire, preserve, transmit, and illustrate the culture of the people they represent. They are a critical topic in literary and anthropological circles. Proverbs, according to Stone (2006: xii), are found in practically all civilizations, contemporary and traditional, literate and illiterate. They are, in general, famous expressions that reflect frequently believed truths, including their main parts. Common proverbs, as part of popular literature, have been discovered to have an impact on other aspects of life. People mention them at meetings or in their regular dealings. Poets, writers, policymakers, and regular people all utilise proverbs to support, preserve, or criticise a particular phenomenon. According to Barajas (2010: 50), one key feature of proverbs is that they serve a comparing function between what appears to be at least two previously unconnected referents. Al- Ḥanafi (1962) argues in his introduction that a proverb must be widespread among people for a lengthy period of time and must include universal and permanent knowledge. No statement can be considered a proverb unless it has been shown repeatedly to be true. In addition, the most crucial characteristics of proverbs are shortness and grandeur (ibid). Proverbs are generally one sentence long, and rarely more than two. They are distinguished by their simple and consistent creative style. Several are distinguished by telegram style: words, particularly articles, verbs, and pronouns, are frequently removed, resulting in fairly ambiguous speech (Schipper, 2010: 26). Proverbs aim to support an argumentative assertion about behaviour; to instruct or inspire contemplation via advice; to develop interpersonal connections; to give diversity to a discussion; and to amuse or engage the listener through the linguistic inventiveness displayed in the proverb’s poetic character (Barajas, 2010: 70).

2. Pragmatics

     Two schools of thought have overshadowed pragmatics throughout history: the cognitive-philosophical Anglo-American and the sociocultural-interactive Continental-European. The former is distinguished by a much narrower research focus, while the latter regards pragmatics as a theory of linguistic communication rather than merely a fundamental component of a linguistic theory (Huang, 2006: 4–6). Traditionally, the Anglo-American approach emphasised a component view of pragmatics, emphasising phenomena like metaphors, implicit meaning, speech acts, deixis, presuppositions, politeness, and conversation. Continental-European techniques, which assert that pragmatics is a general paradigm for comprehending language. The boundary between these traditions is becoming more blurred. According to Verschueren (2017), discrepancies between Western-based conceptualisations of language use and those rooted in non-Western cultures and communities should be given greater weight.

     The origins of pragmatics may be traced back to linguistic studies in the 1930s, notably the work of Charles Morris (1938), who constructed a typology of syntax, semantics, and pragmatics as part of a broader science of signs, i.e., semiotics. Syntax is the study of the formal connections of one sign to another; semantics refers to the ties of those signs to things in the outer world; and pragmatics is the study the relationship of signs to individuals who use them. (Mey, 2006: 51).

      Pragmatics is the science of context. Stalnaker (1999:43) says that the science of linguistic acts and the contexts wherein they occur is known as pragmatics. Levinson (1983:32) adds that pragmatics is a theory of language comprehension that takes context into consideration.

Modern academics, on the other hand, define pragmatics as the study of something that is not expressly spoken, as well as the significance of context in deciphering the speaker’s or writer’s intended meaning (Almanna, 2016:7). Relatedly, Baker (2018:236) opines that pragmatics is the study of meaning as it is transmitted and controlled by actors in a communication setting, rather than as it is created by the language system. Bruti (2019:13) argues that pragmatics is a branch of linguistic and semiotic studies that is concerned with the interaction of signs and their users, or with the use of signals that are strongly linked to contextual realisation.

2.1. Speech Act Theory

People use language for a variety of reasons, including informing or influencing others, expressing their own emotions, and so on. Nevertheless, what is explicitly transmitted differs from what is intended (Almanna, 2016:172). Therefore, language serves two functions: one on the surface (e.g., it is hot here), which is helpful for expressing something, and the other, which implies either a request or an offer to open the window. Accordingly, an utterance has three aspects in the natural act of communication: literal (obvious) meaning, pragmatic (hidden) meaning, and the impact of the utterance on the listener (ibid).

In William James’s prestigious lectures given at Harvard, the English philosopher J. L. Austin observed that many statements are more related to acts or expressing a state of events than they are to communicating information (Al-Hadla, 2004: 21). In his study of the force of linguistic expression, he (1962) describes three categories of acts that each utterance has:

  1. Locutionary act: The speaker’s actual form of words and their semantic meaning.
  2. Illocutionary act: What the speaker performs when he or she utters those words: commanding, offering, promising, threatening, thanking, etc.
  3. Perlocutionary act: The locution’s actual effect. It shows how the speaker’s words affect the listener. It may or may not be what the speaker intends, but it is nevertheless caused by the locutionary act.

     In 1969, J. Searle – Austin student- categorised illocutiary as follows:

  1. Representatives (assertive verbs): They refer to the acts of speech that show whether or not the addresser considers something to be true.
  2. Directives (directive verbs): They refer to the acts of speech that show what the addresser wants.
  3. Commissives (commissive verbs): They refer to the acts of speech that reveal the addresser’s intention.
  4. Expressives (expressive verbs): They refer to the acts of speech that reveal how the addresser feels.
  5. Declaratives (declarative verbs): They refer to the acts of speech that change the world by stating them.

Interestingly, in the last lecture, which was given in 1995 at Harvard by Austin and later published under the title “How to Do Things with Words,” speech act theory was officially came into existence.

2.3. Pragmatics and Translation

Various approaches to pragmatics in the construction of translation theories and models may be seen in early advances in translation and translation studies. For example, Nida (1964) and Taber (1969) utilised a receptor-oriented approach to Bible translation to attain pragmatic equivalence and ensure the message’s immediate comprehension. Whereas many scholars saw this as a problematic “dethroning” of the source text in subsequent receptor-oriented approaches (e.g., functionalist approaches), it did highlight the importance of communicative intent in the translation process, attempting to draw attention to translator agency and the complexities of translator decision-making.

The rise of discourse analysis in applied linguistics influenced translation studies in the 1970s and 1990s (Munday, 2008), allowing for a more in-depth exploration of pragmatic aspects and their problematisation in the translation process. However, they are primarily English-language-focused. Halliday’s (1978) and Hasan’s (1985) work on systemic functional linguistics was especially helpful in shaping communicative approaches to translation, for example, in relation to House’s (1977, 1997) model of translation quality assessment and Baker’s (1992-2018) In Other Words: A Coursebook on Translation. Baker’s emphasis on pragmatic equivalence through detailed analysis of the characteristics of presupposition, coherence, and implicature was a significant development in approaches to translator training, and she was one of the first to emphasise the significance of the Gricean notion of cooperation and its function throughout cultures and languages.

Hatim and Mason (1990, 1997), whose significant contribution emphasised the interdependence of pragmatics and semiotics in trying to help translators (and interpreters) understand the “full communicative thrust” of an utterance (1990: 101) in the process of textual analysis, were influenced by Halliday’s approach to discourse analysis. They propose a semiotic dimension as a revision to past methods to register analysis in translation studies, focusing on Halliday’s ideational and interpersonal meta-functions to discourse analysis and the textual function.

In contrast to Hallidayan and Gricean-inspired approaches, Gutt’s (1991) relevant theoretical and competence-based (as opposed to behaviour-based) method of translation choice marked the first effort to introduce cognitive pragmatics to bear on the theoretical foundation of translation in a technique that moved away from semiotics and toward an inferential paradigm of communication. Morini’s pragmatic translation theory, which builds on descriptive approaches rather than developing a new paradigm, emphasises locative, interpersonal, and performative aspects. The concept of “pragmatic possibilities” that are available to translators in each translation event is central to the approach, not only in terms of changing interpersonal interactions across linguistic barriers, i.e., between senders, receivers, and mediators, but also in terms of relations as they are “depicted or presupposed within texts” (Morini, 2013:24).

3. Discourse Definition

Discourse may be viewed as a set of segments used to generate spoken and written forms of communication that transmit a message that is not always obvious at the syntactic level. It is any logical sequence of phrases, whether written or spoken (Matthews, 2005:100). To put it differently, “discourse” refers to how linguistic elements are organised below, above, and inside the level of the sentence (Sharma & Sharma, 2010).

Theories have established different assumptions concerning the two paradigms by examining linguistic form versus linguistic function. Consequently, there are three critical aspects to definitions of “discourse.” The first definition focuses on the language’s structural structure, which concentrates on examining language “above the sentence or above the phrase” (Stubbs, 1983:1). On the other hand, discourse might have meaning below the level of the sentence (Widdowson, 2004). The second definition concerns language usage and discourse coherence, i.e., the operational paradigm of linguistic approach, or Social Theorists’ Discourse, as Cameron (2001) refers to it. Finally, the third definition illustrates the relationship that emerges between language’s function and form (discourse).

Bloor and Bloor (2007) provide a more straightforward illustration of “discourse,” stating that it refers to all components inside a sentence, such as phrases, words, and clauses. It is also the oral sort of language used in practicing communities, and it encompasses all the modes of communication used by people in their interactions.

     As established in the preceding explanation, discourse is illustrated as linguistic behaviour in a spoken or written setting. Discourse analysis is the scientific study of such behaviour.

3.1. Definition and History of Discourse Analysis

     As previously established, discourse entails language use that extends beyond the structural constraints of utterances. Discourse analysis, instead of studying grammatical features within a specific utterance, seeks to examine language beyond that utterance. By comprehending discourse coherence, discourse analysis involves analysing language users’ ideas meant to be transmitted in a particular conversation.

     Harris (1952) was the first to employ the term “discourse analysis” to describe the formal approach to analysing the pattern of a particular text based on its various components. Stubbs (1983) agrees with Harris’ definition, stating that discourse analysis studies the contextual pattern of a succession of utterances rather than single utterances. Chomsky (2002:103) elaborates on this idea by arguing that to comprehend an utterance, we must know more than the language-level analysis of the utterance. Grammar will not assist us in comprehending the meaning and reference of the words or morphemes from which they are formed (ibid).

     Leech (2008:76) provides a similar definition, noting that language knowledge encompasses more than single utterances. Sharma and Sharma (2010) also contend that discourse analysis is not restricted to describing language forms without reference to the functions and purposes that these linguistic forms serve. Discourse analysis may also be defined as studying the linguistic production of utterances concerning the single units’ reference and the context in which they occur.

3.2. Critical Discourse Analysis

     Earlier in the 1990s, Critical Discourse Analysis (hereafter CDA) was developed by Fairclough, Kress, van Dijk, and van Leeuwen (Wodak & Meyer, 2001). Since then, CDA techniques and theories have been developed to distinguish this method from other discourse analysis methodologies and theories. Later on, the term was referred to by several other names. While some researchers choose the term “critical linguistics” (CL) to describe their areas of research, others prefer the term “critical discourse studies” (CDS). As a result, according to Bloor and Bloor (2007), CDA is an interdisciplinary approach that may be used by experts from diverse backgrounds, such as historians, attorneys, legislators, corporate organisations, and others, to explore societal issues relating to their work.

     It is worth mentioning that CDA and DA are not two sides of the same coin, i.e., they are not considered interchangeable terms. DA is defined as a set of multidisciplinary methodologies that may be used to examine a broad scope of social domains in various studies (Jørgensen and Phillips, 2002:12). This implies that discourse analysis may be used in any field of study with a method of analysis that is inextricably related to its methodological and theoretical underpinnings. Doing DA entails not just semantics and syntax, but also pragmatics (Brown and Yule, 1983:26). As a result, the context in which a part of speech emerges should be critical to the analyst of discourse.

CDA is concerned with social issues, mainly the function of discourse in the reproduction and development of domination or abuse of power (van Dijk, 2001:96). As a result, CDA establishes a tie between power and language. In this respect, Wodak (2001) considers it primarily concerned with analysing transparent structural and opaque connections of power, dominance, control, and discrimination expressed in language.

CDA differs from previous discourse analysis methods in that it comprises not just an interpretation and description of discourse in a specific context but also an answer to how and why discourses function (Rogers, 2004:3).

Fairclough and Wodak (1997) outlined eight CDA core tenets, which Rogers (2004) deems an excellent starting point for academics interested in doing CDA. The eight CDA core tenets are as follows: (i) discourse includes culture and society; (ii) power relations are discursive; (iii) discourse is considered a form of social action; (iv) the connection between society and text is mediated; (v) discourse is considered historical; (vi) discourse accomplishes ideological work; (vii) discourse analysis is explanatory and interpretative; and (viii) CDA can solve social problems (cf. Van Dijk, 1995:353; Jahedi, Abdullah & Mukundan, 2014:29).

3.3. Critical Discourse Analysis Approaches

There are several approaches to CDA. Among them, the three approaches of three well-known academics will be highlighted. These academics are: Fairclough, Van Dijk, and Wodak.

3.3.1. The Socio-Cultural Approach by Fairclough

Fairclough’s approach to discourse analysis has three dimensions as long as discourse is regarded as:

  1. A text, whether written or spoken (including visual images).
  2. A discourse practises the production, consumption, and distribution of a particular text.
  3. Discourse is a social practise.

He proposes a three-dimensional paradigm for text and discourse analysis:

  1. The linguistic representation of the text’s formal features.
  2. The interpretation of the connection between discursive processes or interaction and text.
  3. The explanation of the connection between discourse and cultural and social reality.

Fairclough argues that there are some implicit assumptions behind various choices of speech. These assumptions are never innocent and value-free; rather, they are ideologically driven and motivated. Therefore, discursive practises might well have ideological consequences since they may generate and repeat unequal power relations across gender groupings, social classes, and ethnic and cultural majorities and minorities through the ways they describe things and place people.

From this approach, Fairclough (1989) believes that the exercise of power in modern society is essentially conducted through ideology. Furthermore, Fairclough introduces the concept of hegemony, which he defines as a way of theorising change in relation to the evolution of power relations that allows for a particular focus on discursive change while also seeing it as contributing to and being shaped by larger processes of change (Fairclough, 1993:92, cited in Jahedi et al., 2014:30).

For him, the political term of “hegemony” might be helpful in analysing discourse orders (Fairclough, 2001:124). He goes on to say that, in its linguistic aspect, a discourse order is a network of social practises. Discourses, genres, and styles are the elements of orders of discourse, not nouns and sentences (elements of linguistic structures) (Fairclough, 2003:24). He also claims that discourse orders are not fixed and may change throughout time. These changes are determined by changing power relations in social interactions (ibid).

3.3.2. The Socio-Cognitive Approach by Van Dijk

     In Van Dijk’s socio-cognitive approach, discourse is considered a type of social practise. It does not, however, concentrate on discursive practise. Instead, Van Dijk focuses on social cognition as the link between society and text. According to him, CDA must account for the various types of social cognition shared by groups, organizations, and institutions (Van Dijk, 2001). He also believes that social cognitions are socially shared perceptions of organisations, relationships, and societal arrangements as well as mental functions including interpretation, thinking, debating, inferencing, and learning (Van Dijk, 1993:257). Van Dijk goes on to say that there are two types of discourse analysis: micro and macro. The micro level of social order is determined by language usage, discourse, verbal engagement, and communication, while the macro level relates to power, dominance, and disparity amongst social groupings (Van Dijk, 2003).

     Moreover, his approach is built on an understanding of the ideological structures and power relations contained in language. He regards ideas as the bedrock of group social representation and defines social power as control (Van Dijk, 2006:131). As a result, he claims that organisations have more or less influence depending on their ability to control their members’ actions and thoughts (Van Dijk, 2003:354-5). He also emphasises that ideological discourse follows a basic pattern of negative other-presentation, i.e., derogation, and positive self-presentation, represented by boasting (ibid).

     To sum up, Van Dijk contends that CDA must not be limited to the analysis of the relationship between social structure and discourse but that discourse and language use always postulate the language users’ intervening mental goals, models, and general social representations (attitudes, knowledge, norms, values, and ideologies). In other words, discourse analysis connects culture, society, or cognition to a situation and language/discourse. Van Dijk’s socio-cognitive approach is supported by the tripartite discourse-cognitive society paradigm of ideology. Van Dijk’s critical study of texts seeks to make clear the ideological component of “Us against Them” and to reveal the discursive structures and techniques adopted in exercising dominating power, as evidenced by the majority of his studies.

3.3.3. Discourse-Historical Approach by Wodak

This approach considers discourse as a type of social practise. Wodak has concentrated on the eclectic and interdisciplinary aspects of CDA since contemporary society’s issues are too complicated to be investigated from a single viewpoint (TodolÍ et al., 2006:20). Therefore, to comprehend and explain the object under examination, it is necessary to combine several ideas and approaches. As a result, she claims that CDA studies are diverse, arising from a variety of theoretical perspectives and focusing on a variety of data and approaches (Wodak, 2001:5).

One core tenet of CDA is that all discourses are considered historical and, as such, can only be comprehended in their context (Meyer, 2001:15). This confirms that discourse is linked diachronically and synchronically to other conversations that are occurring at the same time or have occurred before. According to Wodak, the concept of context is critical for CDA since it expressly covers ideological, political, and socio-psychological components, implying an interdisciplinary method.

     Wodak (2001:11) summarises several significant study objectives that are now of attention in CDA by arguing that identity politics on all levels always requires the synthesis of future aspirations, current occurrences, and past experiences in many sectors of our existence. Analysing, comprehending, and explaining the link between complicated historical processes, hegemonic narratives, and CDA techniques is required. Wodak (2001) adopts the principle of triangulation to examine the interrelationships between discursive and other social practises and structures. Since there is no conventional means of collecting data in CDA, this concept suggests a variety of data collection strategies (Meyer, 2001:23).

3.4. Translation and Critical Discourse Analysis

CDA in the area of translation, especially for translators, is very essential in analysing the SL to be rendered. Nida illustrates that a single word may have several meanings. Social, cultural, and political factors, as well as any other external factors that provide context for the text, often impact the text (Nababan, 2016: 47).

     Since analysing a discourse requires a critical mind, we, as translators, are also required to have the competence, or at the very least, comprehend the discourse background that we analyse in terms of both knowledge and science, particularly in the social and political fields. Therefore, there are two risks to be borne by a translator: one as a translator and the other one as a critical discourse analyst. As a result, it is clear that critical translation is one of the most important parts of the study of translation and it plays a key role in translation (Shahbazi & Rezaee, 2017:97).

     Despite the fact that the words “criticism” and “critical” have a negative meaning, Bloor and Bloor (2007) argue that the word “critical” might be deceptive since it is often employed to express a negative evaluation. It is used in critical discourse analysis in the sense of a criticism, implying that the analysis has a positive result.

4. Pragma-Discoursal Analysis of Baghdadi Proverbs


علي: آني المَفروضْ هِسَة طَالِبْ كُليَة مَرحَلَةْ رَابْعَة بَسْ بَطَلِتْ مِنْ المَدرَسَةْ لَمَنْ چِنِتْ بالإعدَاديةْ.
أحمد: لو بمُكانَكْ ما اعَوفْ الدِراسَةْ بهيجِ مَرحَلَةْ بَسْ شِسّوي بَعَدْ … بَعَدْ خَرابْ البَصرَةْ ما تفِيد الحَسرَةْ.


Ali: Ānī Ɂl-mafrōḍ hissa ṭālib kulīa bil-marḥalah Ɂirrabiҁah bas baṭalit minl-madrasah lamman tʃinit bil-ҁdadīah.

Aḥmed: Lū bmukanak mā Ɂҁōf Ɂidirasah bhītʃ marḥalah bas šsawy baҁad… Bʕad ẖarāb Ɂl-baṣra mā tfīd Ɂl-hasrah.


Ali: I’m supposed to be a senior student right now, but I dropped out when I was in high school.
Ahmed: If I were you, I wouldn’t drop out. But It’s what it’s. Don’t cry over spilled milk.


This proverb goes back to the eighth century A.D. In 886, a revolt against the Abbasid Caliphate erupted, known as the Zanj revolt. The insurgency, which began in Basra in modern-day southern Iraq and was headed by Ali ibn Muhammad, featured enslaved Bantu-speaking people (Zanj) who had been seized off the coast of East Africa and carried to the Middle East so as to drain the salt marshes in the region. When Al-Mu’tamid, the Caliph, learned of the revolt, he tasked his brother Al-Muwaffaq with the task of defeating the insurgents. On the other hand, Al-Muwaffaq heard that Persia had a rebellion. As a result, instead of fighting the Zanj in Basra, he marched there with his army. In the aftermath of these events, Al-Muwaffaq returned from Persia with his army. He fought the Zanj in fierce engagements that concluded with their defeat, the death of their leader, Ali ibn Muhammad, and the submission of the Zanj’s surviving soldiers. This war cost a great deal of time, money, and lives. Nevertheless, despite the triumph, the people were dissatisfied since the rebellion had wiped away everything, so they said, “A victory, in the wake of Basra’s devastation!” (Naṣrun, Baʕda ẖarāb Ɂl-baṣra / !نَصرٌ، بَعَدَ خرابِ البصرة) with remorse and passion (Al-Ḥanafi, 1962:92). It has become a well-known proverb that is still used today and refers to the idea that there is no use in being upset over something that has already happened and cannot be changed, which lends itself to “do not cry over spilled milk” in English, with the same meaning.


Semantically, the proverb refers to the city of Basra and its devastation, and there is no use remorsing over it.

Pragmatically, the proverb’s implied meaning is that it is pointless to be upset about something that has already happened and cannot be avoided (Al-Ḥanafi, 1962:92).

The proverb has the illocutionary force of an implicit directive speech act as advice. The addressor advises the addressee not to regret something that has happened.


ليلى: هاي بيبيتيّ ظهرها يوجَعهة أخذناهة للدكتور  وانطاهَة دوة وكللهة لازم تلتزمين بي وتاخذي على المَوعِد، بس هي ما يفيد وياهة تظل تروح عالدَجالين وينطوهة أعشاب وهي توثق بيهم أكثر مِن الدكاترة!
كوثر: يعني ما فادتهة الروحة للدكتور؟ بعدهة مُصرة على العلاج بالطب الشَعبي؟
ليلى: مو دا أكلچ أبو عادَة ميجوزْ مِنْ عادتَه! بيبتي لساعهة عايشة عالخُرافات وتصَدِگ الدَجالين.


Laīlā: Haī bībītī ẓaharha ywǧaҁhah Ɂẖḏnahah lil-dictūr wi-nṭahah diwa w galilha lāzim tiltazmīn bī w tāẖḏī ҁlā Ɂl-mawҁid, bas hīah mā yfīd wyaha tẓal trōḥ ҁadaǧālīn w ynṭōha Ɂaҁšāb w hīah tūṯaq bīhum Ɂkṯar minl dakāta!

Kawṯar: yaҁnī mā fādathah Ɂrrohah lil-diktūr? baҁadhah musirra ҁala Ɂl-ҁilāǧ Ɂišaҁbī?

Laīlā: mō da Ɂgulitʃ Ɂҁādah mā yǧōz min ҁādtah. bībītī lisāҁhah ҁāyšah ҁal-ẖurafāt w tṣadiq Ɂdaǧālīn.


Leyla: My granny has a backache. We took her to the physical therapist, and he prescribed her some medications and told her she had to stick to the prescription and take the medicine on time. But she doesn’t listen. She keeps visiting charlatans as they keep giving her herbs and she trusts them more than she trusts physical therapists!

Kawthar: Were her physical therapists’ visitations for nothing? Does she keep insisting on using conventional medicine as a method of treatment?

Leyla: You know that old habits die hard! My granny still has a superstitious mentality and believes in those charlatans.


Historically, this proverb is attributed to the ḥadīth (tradition) of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH): “If you hear that a man’s nature has changed, don’t believe it, for he remains true to his inborn disposition.” (Ɂḏā samiҁtum biraǧulin taġayara ҁan ẖuluqihi falāā tuṣadiqō bihi w Ɂinahu yaṣīru Ɂilā mā ǧubila ҁalayih /  إذا سمعتم برجل تغير عن خلقه فلا تصدقوا به وانه يصير إلى ما جبل عليه) . The proverb means that it is very hard to stop doing things that one has been doing for a long time (Al-Tikriti, 1971: 63). The Baghdadis took this prophetic tradition as a proverb in their dialect, as (Ɂbō ҁādah mā yǧōz min ҁādtah / أبو عادَة ميجوزْ مِنْ عادتَه), which lends itself to “Old habits die hard” in English, with the same meaning.


Semantically, the proverb refers to people and their unchanging habits.

Pragmatically, the proverb refers to people who are often reluctant to change their ways of doing something (Al-Tikriti, 1971:63).

The proverb has the illocutionary force of an implicit representative speech act as an affirmation. The addressor assures the addressee that her grandmother will not change her habit.



محمد: آني گلت لأمير سالفة وراح طشهة وصارت مشكلة.
بشار: أمير أحفَظْ مِن غِربال. ما لكيت إلا هذا العينتين حتى تگُلة عليهة!


Muḥammad: Ɂānī gilt l-Ɂamīr sālfah w rāḥ ṭašhah w ṣārat muškilah.

Bašār: Ɂamīr aḥfaẓ min ġirbāl. mā ligīt Ɂlla haḏa Ɂl-ҁīntīn ḥatta tgulah ҁalīhah!


Muhammad: I told Ameer something, and he went and told everyone about it and made me a trouble.

Bashar: Ameer can’t keep the cat in the bag. You found no body but this guy to tell him about your thing!


The historic origin of this proverb goes back to the proverbial saying in CA, lit. “If you entrust him with a secret, he is like a sieve.” (KaɁanahu ġirbālun Ɂiḏā Ɂstawdҁtahu siran / كأنه غِربالٌ إذا استودعته سراً). The Arabs compare the person who cannot keep a secret to a sieve that cannot hold water, and the Baghdadis use this proverb in their dialect as (aḥfaẓ min ġirbāl / أحفظ مِنْ غِربال) to refer to someone who cannot keep a secret (Al-Tikriti, 1971:89). It lends itself to the phrase “to keep the cat in the bag” in English, with the same meaning as the Baghdadi proverb.


Semantically, the proverb refers to a sieve that cannot hold water.

Pragmatically, the proverb compares a person who divulges a secret to a sieve that cannot hold water.

The illocutionary force in this proverb is declarative, but indirectly, the speech act is a warning. The addressor warns the addressee not to tell his friend a secret because he is a bean spiller.



ثامِر: البارحة ردت أشتري آيفون 13 پرو ماكس بس شِفت الجالكسي أس 22 أرخص.
مصطفى: آيفون 13 پرو ماكس أحسن من الجالكسي ومواصفاته راقية. أخذ الزين وَلَو تِخصَر.


Ṯāmir: Ɂl-bārḥah ridit Ɂaštarī Ɂāyfōn tlaṭҁš pro maks bas ṣift Ɂl-galaksī Ɂas ṯnīn w ҁišrīn Ɂarẖaṣ.

Muṣṭafā: Ɂāyfōn tlaṭҁš pro maks Ɂaḥsan min Ɂl-galaksī w mwāṣafātah rāqyah. Ɂuẖḏ Ɂl-zīn wa law tiẖṣar.


Thamir: Yesterday, I wanted to buy an iPhone 13 Pro Max, but I found that the Galaxy S22 was cheaper.

Mustafa: The iPhone 13 Pro Max outperforms the Galaxy S22 in terms of specs .The best is cheapest.


The origin of this proverb comes from the neighbourhood of Al-Adhamiyah in Baghdad (Al-Ḥanafi, 1962: 27). This proverb refers to taking or purchasing expensive items because they are the best and last a long time, despite their high cost. However, low-cost items do not last long. As a result, this proverb suggests that the most costly product is the best, even if it is exorbitant, which translates to “the best is the cheapest” in English, which has the same meaning as the Baghdadi proverb.


Semantically, the proverb refers to taking or buying the best things, even if they cost someone a lot.

Pragmatically, the proverb refers to buying or taking high-priced things instead of low-priced things, owing to their quality.

The proverb has the illocutionary force of a directive speech act as advice. The addressor advises the addressee to buy the best thing, even though it is expensive.


مَروان: أشو سافرت لأستراليا عساس تهاجر بس رجعت بسرعة؟!
أحمد: ما ارتاحيت أهناك صراحة وحسيت بالغربة.
مَروان: رحت لبيت الله مِثل بيتي، لا والله.


Marwān: ʕašō sāfarit l-ʕuturalia ҁasās thāǧir bas riǧaҁit bisurҁa?!

Aḥmed: Mā ʕirtāhīt ʕihnāk ṣarahatan w ḥasyt bil-ġurbah.

Marwān: Riḥt ʕl-byt ʕallah, miṯil bytī lā wallah.


Marwan: You travelled to Australia to immigrate, but you returned so quickly!

Ahmed: I didn’t like it there, honestly, and got homesick.

Marwan: East or west, home is best.


Baghdadis have used this proverbial expression for years to signify that home is the finest place to live. The proverb refers to the Great Mosque of Mecca in Saudi Arabia, which Muslims regard as the holiest site on the planet. Pilgrims are still distant from their homes, where they feel comfortable and protected, despite the fact that it is the holiest, quietest, and safest place for them (Al- Ḥanafi, 1962:189). As a result, this proverbial saying conveys the concept that no matter where one goes in the world, home is the ideal place to be. This proverbial saying translates to “east or west, home is best” in English, which has the same meaning as the Baghdadi proverb.


Semantically, the proverbial expression refers to going to the Great Mosque of Mecca, but there is no place like home.

Pragmatically, the saying suggests that no matter how far away someone is, returning home is always the best and final option.

The proverbial saying has the illocutionary force of an implicit representative speech act as belief. The addressor believes that home is the best place to live.



مريم: شنو أخبار زينب؟ بعدها ما انخطبت؟
نور: لا بعدها. گامت متوثق بأحد ومتقبل تنخطب من تركت خطيبها اللي خانها وية وحدة ثانية.
مريم: حَقهة. العَضِتة حَيةْ، يخاف مِن جَرة الحَبِل.


Mariam: šinō Ɂaẖbār Zainab? Baҁadhah mā Ɂinẖuṭbat?

Faṭimah: Lā baҁadhah. Gāmat matwṯaq bɁḥad w matiqbal tinẖutub min tirkat ḥaṭībhah Ɂlli ẖanhah wya wiḥdah ṯanyah.

Mariam: Ḥaqhah. Ɂl-ʕaḍitah ḥayah, yiẖāf min ǧarat Ɂl-ḥabil.


Mariam: How’s Zainab? Hasn’t she been engaged yet?

Noor: No, she hasn’t. She no longer trusts anyone and refuses to be engaged to anyone since she broke up with her fiancé, who cheated on her with another girl.

Mariam: I don’t blame her. Once bitten, twice shy.


This proverbial saying is historically attributed to the ḥadīth (tradition) of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH): lit. “No true believer should be stung twice by the same hole.” (Lā ywldaġu Ɂl-marɁu min ǧuhrin maratayn / لا يُلدَغُ المَرءُ مِن جُحرٍ مَرَتين).  To elaborate on this tradition, poisonous crawls and insects do stinging. According to the Prophet’s saying, (No true believer should be stung), this is a command in the form of a statement, which means that a true believer ought to be careful and should not be taken aback one time after another (Ibn Ḥajar, 1988:320). This prophetic tradition was transmitted into the Baghdadi dialect, which literally means, “Those who have been stung by a snake, dread pulling a rope.” This indicates that people who have been stung by a snake are afraid of tugging on a rope because it looks like a snake. This proverb suggests that someone who has been through a bad situation or consequence would try to avoid repeating the same mistake or encountering the same predicament. This Baghdadi proverbial expression translates to “once bitten, twice shy” in English, which has the same meaning as the Baghdadi proverb.


Semantically, the proverb refers to those who have been stung by a snake and dread pulling a rope.

Pragmatically, the proverb refers to those who have been through a bad experience and would not repeat it.

The proverb has the illocutionary force of an implicit representative speech act as a belief. The addressor believes that if one goes through a bad situation, s/he will not repeat it again.



محمد: سمعت آخر خَبر؟
علي: لا. شنو؟
محمد: عزيز  راح لحسين وصالَحَه ودعمه بحملته الانتخابية!
علي: حسين زنگين! فلوسك بعبك كل الناس تحبك، خوية.


Muḥammad: Simaҁit āẖir ẖabar?

ҁli: Lā. Šinō?

Muḥammad: ҁšzīz rāḥ li H̱ussein w ṣālaḥah w diҁmah bi-ḥamiltah Ɂl-Ɂintiẖābyah!

ҁli: H̱ussein zangīn. Flōssak bʕibak, kul Ɂinnās tḥibak, ẖōyah!


Muhammad: Have you heard the last news?
Ali: No. What?
Muhammad: Aziz patched things up with Hussein and supported him in his electoral campaign!
Ali: Hussein is filthy rich. Money talks, bro.


Baghdadis use this proverb to imply that those with a bunch of cash have a position of clout and respect, according to Al-Ḥanafi (1962:287). This proverb dates back to the early nineteenth century (ibid.). In the Baghdadi dialect, the words (Flōss /فلوس) and (ʕib / عِبْ) mean “money” and “pocket,” respectively. The proverb means, “If someone has money in his pocket, everyone will love him,” simply because money has a great influence on people’s behaviours and choices. The proverb lends itself to “money talks” in English, with the same meaning as the Baghdadi proverb.


Semantically, the proverb refers to people whose pockets are full of money and who are loved.

Pragmatically, the proverbial expression implies that people with money have a position of influence and reverence.

As an affirmation, the proverb bears the illocutionary force of an implicit representative speech act. The addressor assures the addressee that everyone would love him if he had a lot of money.



وسام: حسين تزوج دانية اللي جانت بقسمنة بكلية الهندسة.
محمد: هو تدهدر الجِدرْ ولگة قبغة.


Wissām: Ḥussein tzawaǧ Danīa ʕlli tʃānat bqisimnah bi-kulyat ʕl-handasah.

Muḥammad: Hōa tidahdar ʕl-ǧidir w liga qabaġah.


Wissam: Hussein tied the knot with Dania, who was in our department at the college of engineering.

Muhammad: Every Jack has his Jill.


This proverbial expression dates back to the Ottoman Era. It is used by Baghdadis to signify that someone will finally find what suits them (Al-Ḥanafi, 1962:115). In the Baghdadi dialect, the words (tidahdar /تدهدر ) and (ʕl-ǧidir  / الجِدرْ) mean “to roll over” and “saucepan,” respectively. As for the word (qabaġ/ قَبَغ), it means in the old Turkish language “lid”. In this proverb, there is a simile. The Baghdadis compare a man to a “saucepan,” and what suits him to a “lid.” The proverb means that every man will someday meet a suitable woman to be his loving partner. The proverb lends itself to “every Jack has his Jill” in English, with the same meaning as the Baghdadi proverb.


Semantically, the proverb refers to a saucepan that has been rolled over and found its lid.

Pragmatically, the proverb implies that people will finally get their suitable partner.

As a conclusion, the proverbial saying bears the illocutionary force of an implicit representative speech act. The addressor concludes that everyone will eventually find a suitable woman.



فاطمة: الباچر عيد و أبوية راح يوزّع زكاة الفِطِر.
مريم: سمعت أنه خالتچ أرملة فقيرة وعدهة بس بنية. الخالة وبنت الخالة، والغَريب عالفضالة.


Faṭimah: Ɂl-bātʃir ҁīd w Ɂabwyah rāh ywazҁ zakāt Ɂl-fiṭr.

Mariam: Simaҁit ẖāltitʃ faqīrah w ҁidhah bas bnayah. Ɂl-ẖāla wu bint Ɂl-ẖāla, wilġarġb ʕalfḍālah.


Fatimah: Tomorrow is Eid, and dad’s gonna dole out Al-Fitr alms money.

Mariam: I heard that your maternal aunt is poor and a widow, and she only has a daughter. Charity begins at home.


This proverbial saying is historically attributed to Surah Al-Baqarah (2/215) in the Holy Qur’an: “Say thou: whatsoever ye expend of wealth, let it be for the parents and kindred.” (Qul mā Ɂanfaqtum min ẖayrin falilwalidayni wa Ɂl-Ɂaqrabīna / قُلْ مَا أَنفَقْتُم مِّنْ خَيْرٍ فَلِلْوَالِدَيْنِ وَالأَقْرَبِينَ). This Baghdadi proverb literally means that the maternal aunt and her daughter deserve to eat the food that you eat, and the leftovers belong to the strangers. Figuratively, the meaning behind this proverb is that people should take care of those who are close to them before they think about others (Al-Ḥanafi, 1962:161). The proverb lends itself to “charity begins at home” in English, with the same meaning as the Baghdadi proverb.


Semantically, the proverb refers to the maternal aunt and her daughter eating the food that someone who is close to them gives, and the leftovers are given to the strangers.

Pragmatically, the proverb refers to people who should take care of their kindred before others.

As advice, the proverb bears the illocutionary force of an implicit directive speech act. The addressor advises the addressee that her father should give the alms money to the addressee’s maternal aunt and her daughter.



يوسف: علي أنت مو خُوش مترجم ودائماً ترتكب أخطاء بالترجمة.
علي: شوف منو يحجي! عيّرني بعارة وركبني حمارة.


Yūsūf: ҁli Ɂinta mu ẖūṣ mutarǧim w dāɁiman tirtikib aẖtāɁ bittarǧamah.

ҁli: šōf minō yiḥtʃī! ҁayarnī biҁāārah wu rakabnni ḥimarah.


Yusuf: Ali, you are not a good translator. You always have errors in your translation.
Ali: Look who’s talking! People who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones.


The historic origin of this proverb goes back to the proverbial saying in CA, lit. “She chided me with a defect in her and left.” (Ramatnī bidāɁihā w Ɂinsalat / رَمَتني بِدائِها وأنسلت) (Al-Ḥanafi, 1962:271). The proverb is used to say that people who have faults should not criticise others for having the same faults. The Baghdadis transmitted this classical proverb into their dialect literally, as “he chided me with his shame and made me mount his donkey.” This figuratively means, “He blamed me for the same fault he did and left.” The phrase (rakabnni ḥimarah / ركَّبني حمارة) means he made me in his place. The Baghdadi proverb is rendered into English as, “People who live in glass houses should not throw stones.”


Semantically, this proverb refers to someone who chides others with his shame and makes them mount his/her donkey.

Pragmatically, this proverb refers to someone who blames others for the same fault s/he commits.

As a warning, the proverbial saying has the illocutionary force of an implicit directive speech act. The addressor warns the addressee not to blame him for the same mistakes he makes.

5. Study Hypothesis

This study hypothesises the following:

  1. Baghdadi proverbs have historical origins and are used in interpersonal communication as speech acts.
  2. Both professional translators and undergraduates will encounter several difficulties while translating Baghdadi proverbs from Arabic into English.
  3. Not all participants will successfully give a pragmatic rendering of Baghdadi proverbs.
  4. Not all participants will be familiar with Baghdadi proverbs.

6. Methodology

6.1. Population and Sample of the Study

The population of the study was made up of ten professional translators and undergraduate students specialising in translation from several governorates in Iraq. The translation questionnaire was conducted with a group of ten translators and students aged 22 to 30 years old who were selected randomly.

6.2. Study Instrument

In presenting the study findings, the researcher used both qualitative and quantitative methods. The researcher collected and analysed the data needed using the following instrument:

6.2.1. Translation Questionnaire

     To analyse professional translators and undergraduates’ translations of Baghdadi proverbs, the researcher formulated a translation questionnaire via Google Forms. The questionnaire is comprised of ten proverbs that were carefully chosen and written in a real-life context (RLC) to meet the goals of this study. The researcher relied on the following two books about Baghdadi proverbs to design the questionnaire items: Proverbs of Baghdad Vols. 1 and 2 by Sheikh Jalal Al-Ḥanafi, 1962; and A Collection of Baghdadi Proverbs Vol. 1 by Abdul-Rahman Al-Tikriti, 1971.

Table 1
Baghdadi Proverbs
No. BPA AT Author Vol. Page No.
1 بَعَدْ خَرابْ البَصرَةْ ما تفِيد الحَسرَةْ Bʕad ẖarāb Ɂl-baṣra mā tfīd Ɂl-hasrah Al-Ḥanafi 1 92
2 أبو عادَة ميجوزْ مِنْ عادتَه Ɂbō ҁādah mā yǧōz min ҁādtah Al-Tikriti 1 63
3 أحفَظْ مِن غِربال aḥfaẓ min ġirbāl Al-Tikriti 1 89
4 أخذ الزين وَلَو تِخصَر Ɂuẖḏ Ɂl-zīn wa law tiẖṣar Al-Ḥanafi 1 27
5 رحت البيت الله مِثل بيتي لا والله Riḥt ʕl-byt ʕallah, miṯil bytī lā wallah Al-Ḥanafi 2 189
6 العَضِتة حَيةْ، يخاف مِن جَرة الحَبِل Ɂl-ʕaḍitah ḥayah, yiẖāf min ǧarat Ɂl-ḥabil Al-Ḥanafi 2 137
7 فلوسَك بعِبَكْ كُل الناسْ تحِبَكْ Flōssak bʕibak, kul Ɂinnās tḥibak Al-Ḥanafi 2 287
8 تدهدر الجِدرْ ولگة قبغة tidahdar ʕl-ǧidir w liga qabaġah Al-Ḥanafi 1 115
9 الخالة وبنت الخالة، والغَريب عالفضالة Ɂl-ẖāla wu bint Ɂl-ẖāla, wilġarġb ʕalfḍālah Al-Ḥanafi 1 161
10 عيّرني بعارة وركبني حمارة ҁayarnī biҁāārah wu rakabnni ḥimarah Al-Ḥanafi 2 271

6.3. Key to Arabic Transliteration

In order to make the proverbs easier to pronounce, the researcher adopted the following Arabic transliteration (AT) system:

6.3.1. Arabic Transliteration System

Table 2      
Iraqi Arabic Transliteration Iraqi Arabic Transliteration
ء Ɂ ض
ب B ط
پ P ظ
ت T ع ҁ
ث غ ġ
ج Ǧ ف f
چ ق q
ح ك k
خ گ g
د D ل l
ذ م m
ر R ن n
ز Z ه – ة h
ژ Zh و w
س S ي y
ش Š ا -ى a

 6.3.2. Arabic Vowels

Table 3    
Iraqi Arabic   Transliteration
ـَ fatḥah a
ـِ kasrah i
ـُ ḍammah u
ا Ɂalif ā
يَ yāɁ ī
وَ Wāw ū-ō

6.4. Data Collection and Analysis

The questionnaire data is presented in Table 4, along with the numbers and percentages of pragmatic, inappropriate, semantic, and no renderings, as well as texts that describe the table’s contents.

7. Discussion

This section examines both professional translators’ and undergraduate translation students’ performances in the English translation of the Baghdadi proverbs within the real-life context (RLC) and shows the rendering performances of questionnaire participants.

Table 4
Participants’ Rendering Performance in the Baghdadi Proverbs Questionnaire.
Proverb Number Appropriate Rendering Inappropriate Rendering Semantic Rendering No Translation
Proverb 1 6 2 1 1
Proverb 2 4 3 1 2
Proverb 3 2 5 0 3
Proverb 4 2 4 2 2
Proverb 5 6 3 0 1
Proverb 6 7 1 1 1
Proverb 7 8 1 1 0
Proverb 8 6 3 1 0
Proverb 9 4 4 2 0
Proverb 10 4 6 0 0
Note. The table demonstrates the numbers of the renderings of the Baghdadi proverbs.

1- بَعَدْ خَرابْ البَصرَةْ ما تفِيد الحَسرَةْ / Bʕad ẖarāb Ɂl-baṣra mā tfīd Ɂl-hasrah

This proverb refers to the idea that it is useless to be sad over something that has already happened and cannot be reversed, and is similar to the English expression “do not cry over spilled milk.” This proverb was successfully translated as “Don’t cry over spilled milk” by six translators. Two of them were rendered in an inappropriate manner, as “I had taken another decision at that time” and “After the destruction of before, there is no benefit for heartbreak.” Only one translator provided a semantic rendering, as “after the destruction of Basra, there is no point in mourning”; the other did not translate this proverb. Due to the translators’ lack of knowledge of the source language’s culture, they failed to understand its meaning, and therefore the proverb was poorly translated.

2- أبو عادَة ميجوزْ مِنْ عادتَه / Ɂҁādah mā yǧōz min ҁādtah

The proverb implies that it is hard to stop doing things that one has done for a long time (Al-Tikriti, 1971:63). It lends itself to “old habits die hard” in English, with the same meaning as the Baghdadi proverb. Four translators translated this proverb appropriately as “Old habits die hard; a leopard can’t change its spots,” and other pragmatically appropriate renderings. However, three translators rendered it in an improper way as “Abu habit can’t give up his habit; he who has a habit does not leave his habit.” Furthermore, one translator provided a semantic product as “the one who is accustomed to a certain character will not change it,” while two others did not provide any translation. It is likely that some translators used Google Translate instead of specialised proverb dictionaries, resulting in an inappropriate product.

3- أحفَظْ مِن غِربال / aḥfaẓ min ġirbāl

This Baghdadi proverb refers to someone who is unable to keep a secret (Al-Tikriti, 1971:89). It lends itself to the English phrase “to keep the cat in the bag,” which amounts to the same thing as the Baghdadi proverb. Only two translators correctly translated this proverb with the same pragmatic meaning as “can’t keep a secret” and “can’t hold his tongue.” However, five translators translated this proverb inappropriately as “save from a sieve; still waters run deep; and he is like a parrot.” While no translator gave a semantic rendering, three other translators did not give any translation at all. Although some translators recognised the proverb, many were confused and mistook it for a normal sentence rather than a proverbial expression.

4- أخذ الزين وَلَو تِخصَر / Ɂuẖḏ Ɂl-zīn wa law tiẖṣar

This proverb relates to taking or buying costly products because, despite their high cost, they are the best and last a lot longer. This proverb translates into “the best is the cheapest” in English, according to the Dictionary of Common English Proverbs (2004:15), and has the same meaning as the Baghdadi proverb. Two translators rendered this proverb appropriately as “Take a valuable thing at any cost” and “You never waste money on a good quality.” However, four translators provided incorrect renderings, such as “take the zein if you come; buy a good thing even if you break the bank; hitch your wagon to the star; the important thing is the best.” Furthermore, two translators rendered this proverb semantically as “take the best, even if you lose” and “take the good even if you lose,” whereas two provided no translation. Some translators transposed each word separately rather than attempting to infer the proverbial meaning.

5- رحت البيت الله مِثل بيتي لا والله / Riḥt ʕl-byt ʕallah, miṯil bytī lā wallah

This proverbial saying confirms the idea that no matter where one travels, home is the best place to be. It lends itself to “east or west, home is best” in English. Six translators translated this proverb appropriately, as “East or west, home is best; there is no place like home; if I go around the world, I will not find anything like my home; and nothing beats home.” Three translators rendered it inappropriately as “it is not like my home at all” and “I went to the house of God, but like my house, I did not find comfort and God.” While no one provided a semantic rendering, only one translator did not provide any translation. Some translators failed to translate it correctly because of their lack of knowledge of their language and culture.

6- العَضِتة حَيةْ، يخاف مِن جَرة الحَبِل / Ɂl-ʕaḍitah ḥayah, yiẖāf min ǧarat Ɂl-ḥabil

This proverb implies that someone who has experienced a negative situation or outcome would endeavour to avoid making the same mistake or being in the same position again. The English translation of this Baghdadi proverb is “once bitten, twice shy.” Seven translators managed to render this proverbial expression appropriately into English as “a burnt child dreads the fire; he who has a past is afraid of a new experience; those who have tried are afraid to try again; a fox is not taken twice in the same snare.” One translator provided an inappropriate rendering: “from a live bite, he stays away from pulling the rope.” Furthermore, one translator provided a semantic rendering of this proverb: “the one who was caught by the snake is afraid of the rope.” Only one translator did not give a rendering. Some proverbs mislead because they appear to have a fair literal translation. As a result, translators become puzzled and treat the saying as a common phrase, unable to convey its proverbial meaning in English.

7- فلوسَك بعِبَكْ كُل الناسْ تحِبَكْ / Flōssak bʕibak, kul Ɂinnās tḥibak

As illustrated in Table 4, eight translators appropriately rendered this proverb into English: “Money talks; prosperity makes friends; when you have the money, everyone wants you; and he who has money, everyone loves him.” In terms of inappropriate rendering, one translator rendered it as “your money belongs to you, everyone loves you.” Furthermore, only one translator provided a semantic translation: “your money is in your pocket; everyone loves you.” In addition, one translator did not give a translation for this proverb. According to Al-Ḥanafi (1962:287), the proverb implies that those with a lot of money have a position of influence and respect. Some translators thought it was a regular sentence and not a proverbial expression.

8- تدهدر الجِدرْ ولگة قبغة / tidahdar ʕl-ǧidir w liga qabaġah

Six translators successfully rendered this proverb appropriately and pragmatically: “birds of a feather flock together; he found his second half; they are meant for each other.” However, three translators provided an inappropriate translation: “they are the same; he is a chip off the old block; the crumbling walls and took cover.” However, only one translator gave a semantic rendering: “the pot came down and found the lid.” The proverb means that every man will someday meet a suitable woman to be his loving partner. In the English language, it lends itself to “every Jack has his Jill.” Some translators failed to translate this proverb into English correctly due to lacking knowledge of their culture.

9- الخالة وبنت الخالة، والغَريب عالفضالة / Ɂl-ẖāla wu bint Ɂl-ẖāla, wilġarġb ʕalfḍālah

Four translators successfully translated this proverb: “Charity begins at home, ” and “Blood is thicker than water. ” Four translators, however, provided an inappropriate product: “the closest to you are better known; your aunt is a widow, which she need the most than strangers; Aunt, cousin, and the stranger.” Furthermore, two translators rendered this proverb semantically as “the aunt, the cousin, and the stranger on the leftovers.” This proverb means that people should look after those closest to them before thinking about others (Al-Ḥanafi, 1962:161). It lends itself to “charity begins at home” in English. Some translators misunderstood this proverb, which resulted in inappropriate products.

10- عيّرني بعارة وركبني حمارة / ҁayarnī biҁāārah wu rakabnni ḥimarah

This Baghdadi proverb refers to someone who blames others for the same fault s/he commits (Al-Ḥanafi, 1962:271). It is similar to the English saying, “People who live in glass houses should not throw stones.” Four translators rendered this proverb appropriately: “the pot calling the kettle black; know your own faults before you blame others for theirs; better be silent than speak ill; Do you want to blame me for your flaws?” However, six translators rendered this proverb inappropriately: “You do not have the right to give your opinion; lend me naked and ride a donkey; you’re not saying the truth; nobody is perfect.”

The chart below illustrates the percentages of renderings in terms of pragmatic, inappropriate, and semantic renderings of the ten Baghdadi proverbs.

8. Results

The results of the study can be summarised as follows:

  1. Proverbs are familiar and well-known expressions that play an integral part of daily life.
  2. Baghdadi proverbs have historical backgrounds.
  3. All proverbs are speech acts because they can be employed in everyday conversation to confirm views, give warning, offer advice, etc.
  4. The results of the questionnaire suggest that 49% of the ten Baghdadi proverbs are rendered pragmatically, 10% inappropriately, and 9% semantically, with the remaining 32% not rendered at all.
  5. A number of participants are unfamiliar with Baghdadi proverbs since they are from different governorates in Iraq.
  6. Some of the Baghdadi proverbs may have multiple translations, so some participants are unsure which one to use.
  7. Some translators are unfamiliar with proverbs, and instead of dealing with them as a whole sentence, they employ metaphrase.
  8. Some professional translators and undergraduate students are unfamiliar with proverbs in either the source or target language, or both.
  9. Using Google Translate to translate proverbs produces imprecise and wrong translations.
  10. Some participants were unable to find a matching proverbial expression in the target language because they used regular or online dictionaries rather than specialised proverb dictionaries.
  11. Professional translators and undergraduate students lack the use of proverbs in daily life.

9.  Solutions for Translating Proverbs

The solutions to the problems of translating proverbs can be realised in the following points:

  1. Translators need to be more knowledgeable about source and target language cultures.
  2. Translators need to be more familiar with proverbs in both SL and TL.
  3. Translators must avoid metaphrase and instead attempt to grasp the proverb’s hidden meaning and identify an English equivalent.
  4. Using a specialised dictionary for proverbs instead of Google Translate and other regular dictionaries to avoid direct translation and find the appropriate English equivalent.

10. Conclusion

This study comes to the following conclusions after a scrutinised examination of the findings of the proverbs analysis and questionnaire:

  1. Since proverbs are widely used to deliver advice and warning, impart moral and educational lessons, and express distinct societal viewpoints, their use would make language more powerful and elegant.
  2. Baghdadi proverbs have historical origins and speech acts in social interaction.
  3. Professional translators and undergraduates face several challenges when translating Baghdadi proverbs from Arabic into English, such as a lack of knowledge of cultural differences between Arabic and English, an inability to recognise the proverb, and an inability to find a target language equivalent.
  4. Some undergraduates failed to grasp the proverb’s metaphorical meaning, and they have limited knowledge of the English language.
  5. Proverb translation becomes easier with a deeper knowledge of the languages and cultures with which the translators are working.


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