Traditional Paremiological Units in Dialogue with Contemporary Use


Proverbial expressions are a type of set phrases used in every day language and determined by a specific community of users, as well as time and place of emergence. They are short folklore forms with great semantical potential, which reveals worldviews and values, instructions and prohibitions of certain culture. The tradition of their usage and their role of carrying culture through their semantics classifies them as part of intangible heritage. Proverbs are considered cultural signs that encapsulate lots of data on culture and society, and can therefore be used to reveal stereotypes and images that can persist for a long time in a given society. However, a different context can change their semantics even though their form stays the same. The complex intertwining of different semantical levels in proverbs can most efficiently be observed with semiotic and ethnolinguistic approaches which can be efficiently analyzed only with appropriate digital database and methodologies of text-mining that can link the mentioned material with contemporary concrete uses of proverbs.

The ZRC SAZU Institute of Slovenian Ethnology keeps an extensive and highly valuable collection of Slovenian proverbs, 50 years and more in the making, but so far they have not been structured in line with the contemporary standards for digital language resources nor made publicly accessible. Due to the fact that folklore studies have been often overlooked and underestimated as a promising area in Slovenian research, the field has, unfortunately, only been scraping along in trying to catch up with the world research trends, especially in collaborating with digital humanities and extended methods of analysis. The project includes two main goals, which will be reached with parallel research and development. Based on this, the first goal of the project is to establish a link between folklore studies and digital humanities, which will significantly increase the depth of the analysis as well as encourage the linking of folklore materials to digital corpora, thus immensely enriching the corpora content. By so doing, the project will promote a methodological improvement and advancement of Slovenian folklore studies making it more competitive with the most advanced research trends in folkloristics. The second main goal of the project is to use semiotic and ethnolinguistic analysis of the proverbs collected from both the archives and interactions form everyday communication in order to map out the social stereotypes present and communicated in proverbs and thus offer a deeper understanding of the cultural environment. The analysis will also seek to answer the question if proverbs as part of intangible heritage are mainly isolated, unused forms found in archives or they are, and to what extent, part of on-going everyday communication.

The results of the project will be presented to the academic audience through participation on international conferences and symposia, scientific publications in reference journals and concluding proceedings, and by using the project web page, which additionally will be used to communicate the results to the general audience that will be more specifically targeted through mass media and social networks.

The research will contribute to the development of Slovenian science, mostly by connecting and developing the research fields of folklore and digital humanities, a field that has not been yet done in the Slovenian research context; and by positioning Slovenian folklore material on an international research stage through the creation of publicly available data base. The ccomplishment if the latter will not only launch Slovenian folklore material into international stage but will also fill the gap between the current (non-digitized) state of Slovenian research in folklore studies and the more advanced worldwide recognized and practiced trends.

Project steps

Preparation (1. – 6. month): Familiarising with pre-existing research in Slovenia and abroad with focus on methodology and solutions. Follows the integration of research methodology and workshop for project members on preparing folklore material for implementation into digital data-bases with external adviser, dr. Piret Voolaid. Project group created group e-library with relevant literature for research and discussions. Project meetings are planned every year quarter.


Research into existing archival material with comparison and research into contemporary practices of proverb usages, and Technical Development & Research Methods (7–36. month): in-depth research into the proverbs: semiotic and ethnolinguistic approaches will be used to observe the cultural patterns for the region. This WP also includes collecting and observing today's material and its usage. Analysis of archival and contemporary material will provide opportunities to compare and track the changes. 

Technical Development focuses on introducing Computational textual methodologies into the project. It involves the conversion of the Excel database into XML, following the Text Encoding Initiative recommendations, further linguistic annotation of the database (morphosyntactic tagging, lemmatisation, syntactic parsing) and connecting – in cooperation with WP2 and WP3 - it with instances of use in existing language corpora of Slovenian, where the main challenge is the semi-fixed nature of proverbs.  This activity will be focused on conversion plan and proverb database scheme, conversion of materials into the standard format, and prototype integration with corpora. Deliverables for this activity will be:

- Database sorted by category.

- Prototype version of the database of proverbs: prototype integration with corpora and its testing in month 24 of the project.

- Archiving the database in the CLARIN.SI repository.


Dissemination: During the project will be organised national symposium on folklore and contemporary research methods (17. month) and international conference on digital humanistic in folklore and ethnology (35. month or at the end of the project). We will publish scientific and professional articles in scientific journals as well as in general media, on the presentations for different professional meetings including the finishing conference of the project.


Project type
research project

digital humanities

Research areas
Folklore H400
Cultural anthropology, ethnology S220