A quarterly specialized journal
The Message Of Folklore from Bahrain To The World

Us and Time An Anthropological Approach to Algerian Folk Proverbs

Issue 47
Us and Time  An Anthropological Approach to Algerian Folk Proverbs


Dr. Bin Muammar Abdullah, Algeria


Our relation with time is so intimate, because man carries it as an internal rhythm, and follows its flow; time is associated with the essence of human life and human existence.


Man has realized the importance of time in his life since his existence on earth, through various experiments and observations such as the passing of night and day, the succession of the four seasons, the experience of life and death, the aging stages from childhood to youth and beyond, as well as other phenomena that are dependent on time. Our experience with time has been influenced by the various perceptions and beliefs formed through the stages of the history of human thought development, and the development of different cultures and communities and their scientific and technical development.


So, for example, a circular perception prevails in traditional societies where the past plays the most important influence, while advanced industrial societies have a linear perception of time, as it is focused more towards the future. We, as Arabs, have long since seen time as a cruel, obliterating and dominating power.


But what is the perception that prevails today? How do we deal with time? How do we organize and manage it? In this paper, I will attempt to answer these questions using a methodological approach based on the adoption of folk sayings and proverbs. Traditional saying and proverbs are so indicative, because of their brevity and eloquence and because of the heritage legacy they carry; this type of literature reflects a true picture of the society with its shortcomings and virtues. Sayings and proverbs exist in every society and play an educational role and guide for the behavior of individuals.


I have chosen Algerian proverbs as a sample for study alongside other similar Arabic counterparts in other Arab societies, believing that this sample allows me to generalize the results to all Arab societies by virtue of similarities in scientific, economic and technological levels.


In my analysis, I have relied on some social and anthropological studies on the subject of time in Algerian society and other societies. I applied a comparative approach to reveal rationalism of time influence in our Arab societies, trying to answer the question: Have we adopted a culture of time that is the product of Western society and its industrial and technological civilization?


To address the aforementioned question, I have analyzed the proverbs through different dimensions, beginning with the cognitive dimension. Then, through the ethical dimension I discuss and analyse the proverbs that value time and the relationship between time and work. Then I deal with the Algerian standing of the future.


I end with the proverbs that reference seasons and months and conclude that Algerian society has not acquired the culture of time.


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