An Investigation into the Effect of Foreign Language Learning on the Use of Taboo Words in the Learners' First Language Discourse

Document Type : Original Article


Department of foreign languages and linguistics, Shiraz University, Iran


This study investigated if learning a foreign language like English, French or Arabic was effective on the learners' use of first language (Persian) taboos in their daily written and spoken discourse. More than the possible effect of learning a foreign language, the gender of learners, the language they were learning and the semantic domain to which the employed taboos belonged were scrutinized. To this end, a control group (46 Iranians unfamiliar with foreign languages) and three experimental groups (advanced learners of English, French & Arabic) were selected randomly and recruited for a researcher-made questionnaire and a set of Persian speaking and formal/informal writing tasks. Participants believed that language learning affects L1 taboo words usage; this was attested in their oral and written productions. It was found that control participants and Arabic learners had the highest and the lowest rate of taboo words usage, respectively. Moreover, participants used more taboos in their written than spoken productions. The absolute forbidden words and neutral taboo words were the most common semantic domains for English/French and Arabic learners, respectively. Male participants used more taboos compared with females while English and Arabic learners had the highest and the lowest taboo usage rates, respectively.