Research Article

Taboo Language in Bahraini Arabic


  • Zainab AlSabbagh Holder of a B.A. in English Language and Literature (minoring in translation) from the University of Bahrain, an M.A. student in Applied English Language Studies at the University of Bahrain, Department of English Language & Literature, and an English & Arabic Language Teacher, Translator, Private Tutor, & Researcher.


This paper explores the use of taboo language in Bahraini Arabic, drawing on two frameworks put forth by Qanbar (2011) and Brown and Levinson (1978, 1987) regarding categorizing taboo language in the case of the former and the politeness theory in the case of the latter. This paper aims to investigate the use of taboo language/expressions in Bahraini Arab society. As well as the social, cultural, and religious factors for labeling certain expressions taboo in Arab societies. This was investigated by looking into previous research, listening to Bahraini Arab university students’ everyday conversations, and administering a self-assessed close-ended questionnaire. As a result of scanning previous research & listening to Bahraini Arab university students’ everyday conversations, a corpus of Bahraini taboo expressions, including but not limited to terms referring to origins, animals, entities, objects, sex and sexuality, and religions was collected, and the principal reason for labeling certain expressions in Arab societies, especially in Bahraini Arab society was found to be primarily religious as well as social. Furthermore, the conducted self-assessed close-ended questionnaire taken by 88 Bahraini Arab university students resulted in finding that both males and females are heard using taboo language equally, receiving 58.6%, young adults aged 17-30 are the age group frequently heard using taboo language, receiving 81.8%, taboo language is mostly used in a private setting, precisely among friends only, receiving 48.9%, and the frequently used category of taboo expressions is animal terms receiving 81.4%.

Article information


International Journal of Linguistics, Literature and Translation

Volume (Issue)

6 (7)





How to Cite

AlSabbagh, Z. (2023). Taboo Language in Bahraini Arabic. International Journal of Linguistics, Literature and Translation, 6(7), 126–155.



Taboo Language, Politness, Face Threatening Act, Arabic, Arabic dialects, Kingdom of Bahrain