THE MATTI KUUSI INTERNATIONAL DATABASE OF PROVERBS The M6 international type system of proverbs

Matti Kuusi was the professor of Finnish and Comparative Folk Poetry Studies (today called folkloristics) at the University of Helsinki from 1959 to 1977. One of his marathon works was to compile a personal card index of proverbs with references to over three hundred multilingual or national collections.

In Kuusi's view, Finland was a convenient look-out point for the international comparison of proverbs. One reason for this is that Finland is situated on a small strip of the world in which it is permissible to demonstrate that the spiritual treasures of the nation are foreign loans. According to Matti Kuusi, researchers of proverbs should have the means to communicate "like students of fairy tales with their AT type numbers".

Kuusi donated most of his paremiological library to the library of the Finnish Literature Society, which has become a special department called M6. This previous home library of Matti Kuusi, the result of active interaction between paremiologists, consists of alphabetically-ordered volumes occypying 25 metres of shelving.

In his "Towards an international type system of proverbs" from Kuusi (1972) was already experimenting with collections from the standpoint of international tradition. Our present the Matti Kuusi type system is based on his card index, which has Baltic-Finnic roots in relation to the concept of proverb type. But there have long been other layers of proverb material in Matti Kuusi's index as well. In 1988, we (Matti Kuusi and Outi Lauhakangas) decided to apply a database system to Kuusi's index file. On that base stands this Internet version of proverb database, which you can now browse and study closely.


Search in the database

By choosing this alternative you find a search box, where you can write English text, a word or part of it. Perhaps, you remember the beginning of the proverb you want to find so you can try it.
The English database consists of the 'global' or nearly global types with additions from Baltic-Finnic proverb tradition and other translations.
If you compare this material to Finnish material, it is not yet as rich as it could be.The material which serves as the basis for this work is quite massive, although the basic type index is not so large. There is the original Finnish proverb index (with additions 8,184 entries). You can also check the analysis of cultural distribution (G or FEwI etc.)

G = global type (e.g. EAIO)
F refers to Finnish or other related Baltic sea cultures,
E stands for European in general;
En = Northern Europe,
Ew = Western Europe including North and Latin America,
Es = Southern Europe and
Ee = Eastern Europe,
(Eb = the Balkans)
A stands for Subsaharan Africa,
I stands for Islamic cultures,
O for older Asiatic (Orient) cultures and
P for the Pacific area.

An other reason not to miss the literature references is that there has been written down a lot of variants in the main European languages including Russian (transliterations). There are also translations from Asian, Islamic and African parallels, if they belong to the universal types (705 types) or their "family" types.

So, jump to see the literature references (33,983 references from 350 collections or articles) after having your list of proverbs.

In the broadest sense of the word "proverb type", our type system gathers together similar proverb titles from different nations into a global type having a common idea. That is why we use the practical term "universal proverb type", when we want to compare a global idea to our local proverb titles or proverb types in the narrowest sense of the word.

Every proverb type has a classification code and its own number in the database 
(normally beginning from 10, because of technical reasons).
In conjunction with most of the proverb titles 
(most of which here represent universal proverb types and  mostly original English proverb texts) 
there are also neighbouring proverb numbers e.g. (+ 16; 17b) or (+ the whole group)
which give information about contents of the whole type cluster. 
You have an opportunity to look at the literature references of 
neighbouring proverb types, too.

A large part of Kuusi's original references are still only to be found on his original "pink cards" arranged according to our type system. Literature references are available primarily for those proverb titles, which are separated as universal proverb types and their "family members".

Search source collections by language or nation

To browse proverb materials by a certain linguistic area or translated language you can choose a language and see a list of the proverb collections or publications used as sourcebooks in the Matti Kuusi database. Maybe you will have an impulse to visit the ethnological library of the Finnish Literary Society to study the M6 special collection, which lists most of the sources in the database (not available for borrowing).

Browsing the database

Opening this alternative you will find The thematic classification of proverbs which consists of 13 main themes or "home districts" and their 52 main classes are divided into 325 subgroups or "home addresses".

The whole system, as well as the Matti Kuusi special library are situated in the Finnish Literature Society.

More information about the construction of this system:
Lauhakangas, Outi 2001 The Matti Kuusi International Type System of Proverbs.
(FF Communications 275) Helsinki: Academia Scientiarum Fennica.
(Sold by Tiedekirja, Kirkkokatu 14, 00170 Helsinki, Finland p. +358-9-635 177)

Outi Lauhakangas

Finnish Literature Society
Hallituskatu 1
P.o.Box 259
00171 Helsinki

Review Editor: Outi Lauhakangas

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