Revistes Catalanes amb Accés Obert (RACO)

A sociolinguistic analysis of taboos and euphemisms in an Arab community in Iran

Seyyed Hatam Tamini Sa'd


The current ethnographic study sought to investigate the discourse strategies that Arab interlocutors employ to euphemize tabooed subjects raised in interaction. The objective was threefold: a) to identify topics deemed as tabooed by Arabs, b) to find out the strategies used to euphemize tabooed topics and c) to account for the reasons behind the strategies employed. The data were gathered using ethnography and observations done on a period of two years by the researcher himself in the Arab community in Khuzestan, Iran. The observations demonstrated that such issues as sex, death, health and diseases, politics, religion, possessions, talents, abilities and family relations are construed as tabooed by Arab interlocutors. The findings also indicated that interlocutors sought recourse in such strategies as: a) use of euphemistic terms and expressions, b) silence c) change of tone, prosody and eye contact, d) criticism of the interlocutor to deal with taboo. Furthermore, taboo topics were mostly raised by male interlocutors and only occasionally by female interlocutors and while males hardly ignored or euphemized such topics, females did so very frequently. It is concluded that taboo, euphemism and (im)politeness are highly intertwined and considerably influenced by such factors as age, gender, social distance and so on.

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