Publication details [#67206]

Rabab'ah, Ghaleb Ahmed and Noor F. Al-Yasin. 2019. Arabic audiovisual translation of taboo words in American hip hop movies. A contrastive study. Babel 65 (2) : 222–248.
Publication type
Article in journal
Publication language
Place, Publisher
Amsterdam: John Benjamins


This study aims to investigate and identify the connotative equivalence of taboo words in American hip hop/musical movies and their Arabic correspondence in the subtitle/Audiovisual Translation (AVT). The sample of this study consists of English subtitles and their Arabic fansubs of three of the most profane American hip hop movies: 8 Mile, Straight Outta Compton, and All Eyez on Me. The study analyzed the data qualitatively and quantitatively. The researchers adopted Ljung’s (2011) typology of swearing to identify the connotative functions of the English taboo words and examine how the corresponding Arabic translation conforms to them. The findings revealed that the Arab fan subtitler managed to translate these tabooed terms in Arabic using certain translation techniques, viz. euphemisms and omission. These are both mainly used for the same reason, i.e. cultural constraints. The subtitler used the ‘euphemistic swearing’ technique where the word remains a swear-word but the degree of offense and insult is milder and toned down (Montagu 1967). The Arabic subtitles in the selected sample correspond to the connotative functions of English taboo words to a significant extent only when the translator used the euphemism technique. But the connotative functions misfired when the translator resorted to omission. Finally, the research provides some implications for translators when facing such hurdles in translation.