Developing a Model for Translating Euphemism in the Qur’an: An Intratextual- and Contextual-based Approach

Sameer Naser Olimat


This paper aims to investigate the role of intratextuality and contextuality in the mechanisms of understanding euphemism in the Qur’an, which in some cases would provide evidence for the intended meaning or a way of interpreting and translating euphemisms. It hypothesises that the dependence only on dictionary, exegesis or single text may yield misunderstanding or misinterpretation of the euphemistic meaning. The paper develops a linguistic model for critical evaluation of the translation of Qur’anic euphemisms based on the textual level, which goes beyond word or sentence levels. Methodologically, certain euphemisms in different verses in the Qur’an which require intratextual or contextual references for their identification and interpretation are selected and then possible interpretations of their meanings are verified via checking semantic coherence with other Qur’anic verses. The size of the selected sample is representative to cover the most common taboos in any society; namely health, death, sex and sodomy. Six translations of these euphemistic expressions of the Qur’an are fully analysed. The paper gives evidence that translation decisions made by translators need to rely on information beyond traditional dictionaries or exegetic works and require the recognition of intratextual and contextual ties within the Qur’an. It also finds that most translators attempt to convey the intended meaning of euphemisms, while the euphemistic style is sacrificed. The study concludes that the translation of euphemism in the Qur’an should adhere to the syntactic patterns and lexical units of the source language (SL) structure, and make cultural and linguistic shifts in the target language (TL).

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