Research Article

Translation Strategies of Taboo Words in Interlingual Film Subtitling


  • Fatma Ben Slamia Assistant Professor, Faculty of Arts and Humanities of Sousse, Sousse University, Tunisia


Interlingual subtitling was singled out for this research, as it is the common mode used to translate English films intended for an Arabic audience in most Arab T.V channels. However, this form of audiovisual translation is often prone to many constraints, and subtitling taboos is a case in point. The research aims to raise awareness about the special use of some strategies and showcase the ensuing changes, omissions and errors in the target language. This article looks into the translation strategies of taboo words, be them lexemes and/or expressions about death, sex, cursing, religion or calling names. Methodology-wise, 214 English-Arabic pairs of taboo words were collected from five popular Arab T.V channels and 23 American and British films were assessed. The data was coded according to Gottlieb’s subtitling strategies (1992) and both quantitative and qualitative analyses were conducted. The quantitative results showed four specific recurrent strategies during the subtitling process to cope with rendering taboo words. The qualitative analysis, however, revealed other lexico-semantic devices such as euphemism, disphemism and general words; translation techniques namely literal translation, partial rendering and inaccurate equivalence, along with other subtitling technical schemes. The research contributes to fill some gaps in the field of film subtitling from English into Arabic and insists on the importance of applying the adequate strategies when conveying taboos in the target language.  

Article information


International Journal of Linguistics, Literature and Translation

Volume (Issue)

3 (6)





How to Cite

Ben Slamia, F. . (2020). Translation Strategies of Taboo Words in Interlingual Film Subtitling. International Journal of Linguistics, Literature and Translation, 3(6), 82–98.



Subtitling, taboo words, strategies, linguistic devices, translation techniques