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Pragmatic functions of swearwords in the amateur subtitling of American crime drama movies into Arabic


Swearwords are intentionally employed in movies to express certain pragmatic functions including portraying characters’ inner feelings, their social and educational background and the relationship between the characters. Such functions need to be preserved in the interlingual/intercultural subtitling so that the communicative effects of swearwords are duly transferred to the target audience. However, achieving this objective requires a thorough contextual analysis of the relationship between the characters, the intended illocutionary force of the speech acts expressed by the swearwords and the reaction of the addressee to their implied communicative force. A lack of such an analysis may lead to a change in the intended pragmatic functions of swearwords during the subtitling process. In this light, this study sought to investigate the pragmatic functions of swearwords in selected American crime drama movies and their Arabic subtitles, identifying whether the same pragmatic functions of such words have been preserved in the subtitles. The study also attempted to identify the causes and consequences of the resulting (in)congruity between the expressed functions of the swearwords in the movies compared with those expressed by their subtitles in Arabic. To address these objectives, a corpus comprising the scripts of two American crime drama movies exhibiting high occurrences of swearwords and their Arabic amateur subtitles was collated. The pragmatic analysis approach utilising Speech Act Theory was used whereby the primary speech act/force of each swearword was identified, and Wajnryb’s (2005) model for categorising the pragmatic functions expressed by the swearwords was employed. The findings of the study indicate significant differences in the expressed pragmatic functions of swearwords in the movies compared to those in the subtitles. As a result, the directors’ intentions behind using the swearwords were changed. The main cause of these differences is lack of adequate pragmatic analysis of the uses of swearwords in the movies.



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