Toxicity in gendered Sepedi proverbs: A textual analysis

Research Article

Toxicity in gendered Sepedi proverbs: A textual analysis

DOI: 10.2989/16073614.2023.2229386
Author(s): Napjadi Letsoalo University of South Africa, South Africa


This article examines some linguistic features of Sepedi proverbs. The aim is to shed light on how toxic masculinity is manifested in proverbs and to contribute to the emerging research on masculinity. A literature search was first carried out on language use perceived to be contributing to injurious or toxic behaviour from men, barriers to help-seeking behaviour in men and the strategies they use to deal with their psychosocial issues. A collection of proverbs was then analysed according to their structural features. A hybrid descriptive-explanatory qualitative approach was used in analysing and describing the data. The proverbs’ analytic framework involved the semantic analysis of proverbs and three classes of meaning were identified, i.e. a literally translated meaning, a textual meaning and a figurative meaning. The first part of the analysis revealed similar structural properties according to different grammatical structures followed in the proverbs. The second part involved a more abstract level of analysis which was evaluative. Proverbs were categorised according to their potential impact on the formation of attitudes and norms of behaviour in a culture based on a continuum of toxicity. Some proverbs were determined to be harmful, while others were insensitive or discriminatory.

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