So long ago was I first in Iran, that at the same time the initial heart transplants were taking place in South Africa. Once the news reached Iran, various healthy individuals volunteered their hearts for transplant. This seemed to me “the ultimate ‘taruf’.” What I wonder is, how can we understand this offer? Were the volunteers sincere? Was the offer to be taken literally? If not, what do the words mean?
Taruf more generally appears to be the use of words for effect and affect, but not in a literal sense. Visiting someone’s home, one may well hear the following: “You like this rug? Please take it. No, really, you must take it. It is nothing. Here, I’ll wrap it up for you.” Such an instruction is to convey a desire to satisfy the listener, and to show that the relationship is more important than a material object. Also that the owner does not consider merely material objects important. And that the owner values generosity above all. However, my advice would be, don’t take the rug. You are not intended to take the rug. The words are not to be taken literally. They are being used pragmatically to generate a sentiment.
We can raise the question to a more general level: Is there a heavier emphasis in Persian culture on the pragmatic use of words, than in other cultures? And, at the same time, are literal semantics less often used? If this is the case–and so far only the question has been raised, and no answer given–what are the reasons for this in Persian society and culture, and what are the consequences in Persian society?
To what extent would the reliance on language pragmatics, if this were to be established, explain a report from today’s NATIONAL POST (http://www.nationalpost.com/todays-paper/story.html?id=1656630
) about the failure of drug trials in Iran? Here are the initial paragraphs:
Canadian researchers studying the effects of a heart drug two years ago tried to expedite the experiment by farming out much of their clinical-trial work to developing countries, where suitable human subjects are easy to find and costs rock-bottom low.
But when they looked into some suspicious data coming out of a trial site in Iran, the scientists made a startling discovery. The study results there turned out to be largely fraudulent, to the point where one patient listed by the Iranian researchers as dead was still very much alive.
"It was bad, so bad we thought the data was not salvageable," said Dr. Gordon Guyatt, part of the research group at McMaster University in Hamilton. "It's a different culture, a culture with a lack, perhaps, of a long-standing research tradition dedicated to high standards and integrity."
The question here is whether the difficulties that the Canadian scientists discovered are limited to a lack of research traditions, or whether they reflect something larger in Persian culture. If the latter, what difficulties do these characteristics present to Iranians in their daily lives and in broader social and political lives?