Arab World English Journal (AWEJ) Special Issue on Translation No.4 May, 2015                                        Pp. 6-21

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   Towards a Model of Euphemisation in Arabic Subtitling 

Amer Samed Al-Adwan
Translation and Interpreting Institute
Hamad Bin Khalifa University, Doha-Qatar



This paper examines the use of euphemisation as a politeness strategy in subtitling English audiovisual material into Arabic. It draws on core concepts of Brown and Levinson’s theory of politeness (1987), such as the notion of face, face-threatening acts and redressive strategies, to explain subtitlers’ choices in rendering sequences which are potentially offensive to an Arab audience. The study sets out to examine the extent to which a modified and extended model of euphemisation as a strategic output of politeness can be productively applied in the field of audiovisual translation, and specifically to subtitling from English into Arabic. This new and more eclectic model of euphemisation draws mainly on two existing models developed outside politeness theory, by Williams (1975) and Warren (1992). To account for euphemistic expressions identified in Arabic subtitles of Friends and not covered by the categories proposed in Williams and Warren’s studies, two further categories are introduced, namely, semantic misrepresentation and omission. The model has proved helpful in capturing recurrent strategies of euphemisation employed by Arab subtitlers in dealing with a range of face-threatening acts, especially sexual references and utterances related to certain distasteful topics such as death, disease and bodily functions.
Keywords: Audiovisual Translation, Euphemisation, Politeness, Subtitling, The Arabic Language


Dr. Amer Samed Al-Adwan: is an Assistant Professor of Audiovisual Translation in the
Translation and Interpreting Institute, Hamad Bin Khalifa University, Qatar. He obtained his
PhD in Translation and Intercultural Studies from the University of Manchester, UK in 2009. His
research interests focus on audiovisual translation, discourse analysis, intercultural studies,
politeness theory and media translation.