Research Article

The Linguistic Phenomenon of Politeness in Trevor Le Gassick’s Translation of Ibn Kathir’s As-Sīra an-Nabawiyya (The Life of the Prophet Muhammad) (2006)


  • Dina Hassan Lecturer at the Department of Modern Languages, Literatures, and Linguistics, The University of Oklahoma, Norman, Oklahoma, United States of America


The linguistic phenomenon of politeness has been studied as an area that flourished through the increasing body of knowledge in the field of cross-cultural pragmatics. As Blum-Kulka (1981) notes, “systems of social politeness seem to represent culturally colored interpretations of basic notions of tact, (e.g., face concerns) as conventionalized in any given culture or even speech event type” (p.258). Religious discourse has not received the attention it deserves as far as the linguistic analysis of the socio-pragmatic and pragma-linguistic politeness formulas in translation is concerned. By investigating selected passages for analysis from Trevor Le Gassick’s (2006) translation of Ibn Kathir’s As-Sīra An-Nabawiyya (The Life of the Prophet Muhammad), I aim to explore how the pragma-linguistic and socio-pragmatic functions of politeness formulas are rendered in translation. The methodology of analysis is based upon Blum-Kulka's two proposed dimensions of the means available for mitigating FTAs, as well as her model of cultural variation. First, I locate the polite utterance or redressive strategy to one of the two means, which are 1) directness/indirectness and 2) internal or external mitigation. Second, I examine the TT to find out whether the same linguistic forms exist in the target language, whether they have the same function, and whether their pragmatic value can be expressed by other means if their equivalents are not found in the target language. Third, I attempt to account for the difference or similarity in the use of that strategy using one or more of the four parameters identified by Blum-Kulka as constituting a model of cultural variation. These parameters are; 1) social motivation, 2) expressive modes, 3) social differentials, and 4) social meanings. The purpose is to highlight the (in)appropriate transfer of source language norms to target language situations, which is an important factor in the success or failure of the translation process. The analysis reinforces Blum-Kulka’s (1981) view that translation, as an attempt to render the locutionary and illocutionary acts, very rarely would have the same perlocutionary force on the target reader. Further, the results discussed in the analysis section go in line with her observation that “the more universal the rules governing the performance of any indirect speech act, the easier it will be to reconstruct it in a different language (p.98).

Article information


International Journal of Linguistics, Literature and Translation

Volume (Issue)

5 (2)





How to Cite

Hassan, D. (2022). The Linguistic Phenomenon of Politeness in Trevor Le Gassick’s Translation of Ibn Kathir’s As-Sīra an-Nabawiyya (The Life of the Prophet Muhammad) (2006). International Journal of Linguistics, Literature and Translation, 5(2), 188–204.



Cross-Cultural Pragmatics, translation, the life of the Prophet Mohammad, Politeness