Document Type : Original Article
Language, as an effective medium of communication, is totally attached to culture, which in line with Yule (2009), is considered as "socially acquired knowledge" (p. 216). Culture is taken into account as the building blocks of all languages and, as to Yule (2009), it is a phenomenon—like L1—acquired without any conscious awareness. House (2009) outlined culture as a continuum of all conventions and values that are divided up through each speech community. Therefore, unquestionably, language and culture are strongly interrelated, as language is considered as an expression of culture and culture is expressed toward language.
Gottlieb (2008) states that Audiovisual Translation (AVT) is considered as "the translation of transient polysemiotic texts presented on screen to mass audiences" (p. 205). Also, Gottlieb added that AVT does not "refer to just any kind of translation presented on screen, but is restricted to so-called transient texts, including films in cinema theatres, material broadcast on TV screens, DVDs and videogames" (p. 206). Therefore, this can be inferred that, as to Gottlieb, this definition "excludes static material, such as e-mails and web pages, where the audience is in control of how long the text is presented on screen" (p. 206).
Pym (2010) states that translation can be seen as a "general activity of communication between cultural groups" (p. 143). Therefore, translators not only deal with words, but also they are engaged with the target language (TL) culture. Hence, translators not only deal with words, but also they are engaged with the TL culture. Nevertheless, Iran's Islamic culture, with its religious theme, is highly different from that of America and, therefore, censorship is used as one of the devices used to compensate for cultural differences caused by taboos.
Besides, translating cultural terms—amongst which taboo expressions are included in—can be considered as one of the main difficulties in AVT for almost all translators, especially when the process of translation is going on between two different languages and, therefore, different cultures. To Newmark (1988), "translation is a craft consisting in the attempt to replace a written message and/or statement in one language by the same message and/or statement in another language" (p. 190). Relating to culture-specific items (CSIs), it is somehow impossible, though. Indeed, the meanings of these kinds of elements strongly link to a specific cultural context from which they originate. CSIs are loaded with cultural, historical, and ethnographic backgrounds. So, linguistic competence and knowledge of a specific culture is required to suggest suitable translations of CSIs (Horbacauskiene, Kasperaviciene, & Petroniene, 2016).
The term taboo was derived from the Tongan language tabu in the late 18th century which means forbidden. Taboo refers to those topics that the governing norms of the society does not allow to be discussed openly in the public. Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English (2010) defines taboo as "a subject, word, or activity that people avoid because it is extremely offensive or embarrassing" (p. 1793). Taboo expressions serve to give rise to realism, humor, and consistency; to manifest ideologies and control viewer emotion; and to establish settings and happenings as well as constructing characters (Bednarek, 2019).
Allan and Burridge (2006) state that "taboos arise out of social constraints on the individual's behavior where it can cause discomfort, harm, or injury" (p. 1). Furthermore, they considered six different areas for taboo language in the Western world:
Ljung (2011) believes that taboo words can be put into five major categories or themes: religious, scatological, sex organs, sexual activities, the mother themes.
Besides, some taboo words are common among the source language (SL) and the TL, whereas some others are specific to a certain culture. There is no need to elaborate that translators have no problem to find the best equivalent facing with taboo expressions common between the SL and the TL, but the tension exactly rises encountering with taboos specific to a culture. Moreover, some USA movies contain offensive scenes, dialogues, or monologues. Furthermore, in order to keep the original artistic integrity of the movie, taboo words should be translated when they are uttered, though they are offensive.
Pym (2010) states that translation can be seen as a "general activity of communication between cultural groups" (p. 143). Therefore, translators not only deal with words, but also they are engaged with the TL culture. Nevertheless, Iran's Islamic culture, with its religious theme, is highly different from that of America and, therefore, censorship is used as one of the devices used to compensate for the cultural differences caused by taboo expressions.
As to Anderson and Trudgill (1990), different cultures "have different taboo areas, and there may be a difference in the extent to which they are considered taboo" (pp. 56-57). Moreover, it can be inferred that the reason why some words are considered as taboos is that they deal with certain aspects of human life that are appropriate to be used but in certain places and at certain times.
Moreover, taboo usage may have different functions and, as Jay (2009, p. 155) states, using a taboo word or "swearing is like using the horn on your car, which can be used to signify a number of emotions (e.g., anger, frustration, joy, surprise)."
Also, talking about how cultural meanings are expressed in a language, Wardhaugh (2006) believes that language is used to avoid conveying some specific kind of elements while expressing some others.
According to Allan and Burridge (2006), it is a fact that taboo language is an "emotive reaction to anger, frustration, or something unexpected and usually, but not necessarily, undesirable" (p. 78). The use of taboos can be evoked by an unexpected event, reactions to sudden physical or mental pain, or even anger. Thus, not only are taboos evoked by anger and pain, but also they can restore "the normal psychophysical equilibrium of the individual" (Montagu, 1967, p. 72). Montagu's statement is the same as Graven's (2009) claim that taboo demonstrates a "pain-relieving effect and gives people a higher threshold of pain" (p. 53).
It is believed that USA is the first exporter of AVT in the world. The dominant work in AVT field in USA mostly deal with the Spanish film industry and, therefore, the translation of Spanish movies became necessary for the American society. On the one hand, translation of the Spanish products is necessary; on the other hand, there are always some interfering factors in the process of translation that can cause problems, not only for translators, but also for the TL people. From among the category of those problematic issues in translation, taboo words and cultural transfer can be mentioned.
Moreover, movie makers nowadays have to reflect the real and authentic language of the people they use in everyday society in order to make their movies more tangible for their audience. On the contrary, taboo words are an ever-present part in today's USA movies in which in the process of dubbing these movies into Iranian society by Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB) have to be changed in order to be adaptive with the norms of the TL society (i.e., Iran).
Some USA movies contain offensive scenes, dialogues, or monologues. But in order to keep the original artistic integrity of the movies, taboo expressions should be translated when they are uttered—though offensive, of course. Pym (2010) states that translation can be seen as "general activity of communication between cultural groups" (p. 143). So, translators not only deal with words, but also they are engaged with the TL culture. Nevertheless, Iran's Islamic culture with its religious theme is highly different from that of America and, therefore, censorship is one of the devices used to compensate for the cultural differences caused by taboos.
This study was done through using Venuti's (1995) strategies in cross-cultural translation: domestication and foreignization. Domestication "covers adherence to domestic literary canons by carefully selecting the text" (p. 20). It refers to the translation oriented towards the TL culture in which uncommon expressions for the TL culture are transmuted and changed into some familiar expressions so as to make the translated text easy to be understood by the TL readers (Wang, 2014). On the contrary, foreignization stands for "choosing a foreign text and developing a translation method along lines which are excluded by dominant cultural values in the target language" (Venuti, 1995, p. 20). It is a SL-culture-oriented translation that aims at translating the SL and culture into the TL culture to keep a kind of exotic flavor (Wang, 2014).
To put the whole story in a nutshell, this study was an attempt to investigate the quality of dubbed taboo expressions of American movies into Persian by IRIB translators through comparing the dubbed versions with the original versions to discover the different strategies applied in translating taboo expressions and to recognize the role of censorship in taboo translation in Iran's media via Venuti's (1995) cross-cultural strategies in translation.
2. Literature Review
Many scholars (e.g., House, 2009; Newmark, 1981; Nida, 1964; Tytler, 1797) have defined the phenomenon of translation from different aspects. Several scholars (e.g., Dryden, 1992) have defined translation as a SL-oriented phenomenon, whereas others like Dolet (1997) and Tytler (1797) have considered it as a TL-oriented phenomenon.
Both SL and TL contain a wide variety of equivalents ranging from the smallest meaningful units of language (i.e., the morphemes) to the largest units like sentences. These levels, or units, seem to be equivalents in the process of translation from one language to another. For instance, if the level of equivalent in the SL is the word, the equivalent level must be word in the TL, too. So, it can be concluded that the process of translation is, in fact, the matter of establishing equivalences between the SL and the TL. However, the same process seems quite unreachable with regard to cultural items.
The concepts of overt and covert translations were proposed by House in 1977. In line with House, in overt translation, the TL text audience is not directly addressed and, therefore, there is no need to try to recreate a second original because an overt translation must overtly be a translation. On the other hand, House states that the production of a functionally equivalent text to the SL text is dealt with covert translation. Moreover, House argues that in this type of translation, the SL text is not specifically addressed to a TL text audience.
Nida (1964) states that there are two different types of equivalences in translation studies: The first kind is formal equivalence―which in the second edition by Nida is referred to as formal correspondence―which focuses on the message itself, concerning to both form and content. Unlike formal equivalence, dynamic equivalence―also known as dynamic correspondence―is based upon the principle of equivalent effect.Thus, formal correspondence contains a TL item, which represents the closest equivalent of a SL word or phrase. Furthermore, Nida makes it clear that there are not always formal equivalents between the two language pairs of the SL or the TL.
In The Translator's Invisibility, Venuti (1995) elaborates on the current situation of the English language translations, which "aims for fluent translations and readability, so as to be accepted in the target culture” (p. 24). Venuti proposes two types of translation strategies, too: domestication and foreignization. Domestication involves "making the TL text read as fluently as possible, and this involves in the careful text selection" (p. 21). Besides, foreignization involves "choosing a text that is obviously not of the target culture and rendering the linguistic and cultural differences in the translation" (p. 21). Before Venuti, Schleiermacher (1813) agreed that foreignization was the preferred method because "it highlights the foreign culture and prevents it from being absorbed by the target culture" (pp. 36-37).
Also, culture is a very broad term to be defined in a few lines: It is the essence of languages. Some scholars (e.g., Newmark, 2010) aimed to narrow down the term culture in order to be defined in a simplified way. Newmark believes that "culture is the way of life and its manifestations that are particular to a community that uses a particular language as its means of expression" (p. 94). According Huang (2019), "culture is inseparable from language and language learning" (p. 90).
Thus, translating cultural elements can be considered as one of the most demanding tasks most translators will face. So, one of the most arduous tasks for audiovisual translators is rendering CSIs because these items and their meanings are deeply rooted in different parts of various cultures. Newmark (1988) states that translation is "a craft consisting in the attempt to replace a written message and/or statement in another language" (p. 7), even though, with regard to CSIs, this kind of substitution seems impossible.
In line with Thriveni (2002), translating cultural items are strongly entangled to the texture of languages. Hence, according to Thriveni, this is the creative writer's ability to capture the items of primary importance. Moreover, she believes that even in the case of CSIs, a good translator can find the right equivalence by judicious use of resources.
Lewis (2006) believes that "we readily accept that cultural diversity is vast and formidable" (p. 4). So, there are so many cultures in the world, and the difficulties among cultures are caused by “social entities are not always distinct enough to clearly warrant their being considered as separate groups" (O'Neil, 2006, p. 3). In other words, some concepts like "time, space, and reality can be found in many cultures but the notions of these concepts differ from culture to culture" (O'Neil, 2006, p. 4). Thus, it can be deducted that each time that two or more cultures come into contact, many CSIs will appear.
Many different procedures have been proposed by different scholars for translation of CSIs (e.g., Ivir, 1987; Jakobson, 2000; Newmark, 1988). But, all in all, the translation of these elements is among one of the most controversial issues in the field of translation and cultural studies so that Newmark (1988) claims that culture can be considered as "the greatest obstacle to translation, at least to the achievement of an accurate and decent translation" (pp. 172-173).
Pettit (2009) carried out a research in order to illustrate the applied translation strategies by dubbers and subtitlers, regarding the issue of cultural transfer in some movie selections from English into French. After analyzing the relevant data, he concluded that the explication process was less prevalent in the study, but when employed, it helped to explain cultural terms and to clarify the meaning of some words.
Samakar (2010) made an attempt to investigate the applied strategies in the translation of cultural items in the English subtitle of the famous comic Iranian movie, The Lizard, through Pedersen's (2005) classification framework in translating cultural elements. Comparing the cultural elements of the Persian and English subtitled versions, 77 instances of cultural items were observed. The researcher observed that the most dominant used strategy in the translation of these items was paraphrase.
In a study by Sedighi and Najian Tabrizi (2012), they researched the frequent strategies of the taboo words in 30 dubbed romantic films from English into Persian through applying Toury's (1995) norms in translation studies. Analyzing the relevant data indicated that euphemism with 73% had the topmost frequency in dubbing the taboo expressions in the romantic movies.
Considering Coelho's novels between 1990 and 2005 and their Persian translations as the corpus of the study, Vossoughi and Etemad Hosseini (2013), through their inquiry, made an attempt to study the norms of translating taboo words and taboo concepts after the Islamic Revolution of Iran. Their findings indicated that the "dominant ideology in Iran was a determining factor in the process of decision making by the translators" (p. 1).
Therefore, in order to get a more comprehensive insight into the issue of rendering CSIs, the following research questions were formulated to be pursued in this study:
Contacting IRIB for gathering the movies, the IRIB Channel 3 introduced the list of the Hollywood movies dubbed after the Islamic Revolution of Iran. From the beginning of 2004 till June 2014, there were 1,700 dubbed movies of different genres, though few were dubbed action Hollywood movies. Furthermore, some Hollywood movies contained no taboo expressions in their original versions, but because one of the main criteria for selecting the American dubbed movies was the high frequency of taboos, movies with low taboo frequency were omitted from the list. From among the rest, 10 movies were randomly selected from those Hollywood movies that included a considerable amount of taboos to represent the applied strategies better.
Besides, the following criteria were considered in selecting the dubbed Hollywood movies:
A brief introduction of these movies are presented in Table 1:
A Brief Introduction of 10 Selected American Dubbed Hollywood Movies
No. Original Title Year Broadcast Run-Time Dubbed Director
Year in (Min) Run-Time
1 Family 1989 2013 110 85 Sidney
2 Lethal 1992 2010 118 78 Richard
Weapon 3 Donner
3 Sudden 1995 2013 110 104 Peter
4 Welcome 2002 2014 86 70 Mikael
to Collinwood Solomon
5 Anacondas 2004 2013 96 90 Dwigh
6 Lord of 2005 2014 122 100 Richard
7 Deadly 2009 2013 93 76 Robert
8 Law- 2009 2013 108 106 F. Gary
Abiding Citizen Gary
9 Sanctum 2011 2014 109 93 Alister
10 Maximum 2012 2013 97 95 Keoni
After gathering the original Hollywood movies and their dubbed versions, the original versions were compared with their dubbed counterparts by IRIB, seeking for the translated CSIs—specifically taboo expressions—to find out the applied strategies in their translation, as one of the main sources of difficulty in AVT by Iranian audiovisual translators in IRIB. The original movie scripts were used besides using the original and dubbed versions of the movies in order to have a better control over the movies and to search for the (probable) deficiencies in their translations. At the end, the results were interpreted through cross-tabulation and the chi-square test via SPSS (version 22).
After analyzing the original and dubbed versions of the movies, a pattern was gained to render the taboo expressions (here called pattern # 1). According to pattern # 1, four strategies were observed in the rendering of the taboo expressions:
As the name of the first strategy indicates, some taboo expressions of the SL were translated into their equivalent taboo expressions or even less offensive elements in the TL. For instance, in Lethal Weapon 3, the sentence This guy is really an a**hole! was translated into اون یه آشغال کثافته![uːn yə ɑːʃqɑːle kesɑːfӕtə].
According to the second strategy, some of the taboo expressions were translated into nontaboo elements in the TL. For example, It was a piece of sh*t anyway in the Anacondas movie was rendered into به هر حال اوراق شده بود[be hӕr hɑːl ɔːʊrɑːq ʃɔːdə bʊːd] in Persian. In another case, Have you managed to fu*k up today? was translated into امروز چقدر میخای خرابکاری کنی؟ [emrʊːz t̬ʃəqӕdr miχɑːy χӕrɑːbkɑːriː kɔːniː] in the dubbed version.
Regarding the third strategy, some of the taboo expressions of the SL were translated into euphemistic terms in the TL. In other words, they were translated into their equivalent inoffensive taboo expressions whose TL culture considers them as nontaboo euphemistic terms. For instance, in the Sanctum movie, the sentence Fu*k you, Frank! was rendered to لعنتبه تو فرانک، لعنت به تو! [lӕnӕt be tɔː ferɑːnk, lӕnӕt be tɔː!] in the TL.
In the fourth category, audiovisual translators tend not to translate the taboo words of the SL into their equivalents in the TL. In the Maximum Conviction movie, the sentence Where the fu*k is, Bradly? was rendered to بردلی کجاست؟ [berӕdliː kɔːdʒɑːst?] in Persian. Moreover, in the Deadly Impact movie, the audiovisual translators had not rendered the sentence What the fu*k does that mean? and totally had omitted it from the dubbed version. Thus, the first research question of the current study is already answered.
Running the statistical analysis for the movies, the frequency of each applied strategy was gained (Table 2):
Total Number of Each Observed Strategy in the Movies
Moreover, as Table 2 indicates, deletion in each movie had the highest frequency among all the other strategies. The large number of applying this strategy indicates that the Iranian audiovisual translators mainly had aimed not to translate the taboo expressions in order to prevent injection of harmful thoughts into the Iranian society. Therefore, regarding the second research question, we can conclude that deletion with the frequency of 455 was the utmost used strategy in the translation of the taboo words in the dubbed Hollywood movies.
Then, there was a shift of strategy from deletion to the "translation of the SL taboo expressions to their equivalent taboo expressions in the TL." After that, the center of focus changed to "rendering taboos of the SL to the nontaboo expressions of the TL." Though this strategy was absent in the Lord of War movie, the audiovisual translators had used euphemism as the last applied strategy in the rendition of the Hollywood movies.
Focusing on the third research question about the differences of distribution of the strategies among the movies and the application of domestication and foreignization, chi-square was run in SPSS (version 22). With regard to the differences in the distribution of the strategies among the movies (i.e., the third research question), the chi-square results were significant at χ2 (27, N = 10) = 83.49, p = 0, considering **p
*Pearson chi-square is significant at 0.05 level (2-tailed).
Moreover, Phi and Cramer's measurement were significant. Therefore, we can conclude that the four applied strategies were not distributed equally among the movies, and the chi-square results as well as Phi and Cramer's results were significant (Table 4):
Phi and Cramer's Measures
*Phi and Cramer's measurement is significant at 0.05 level.
According to Venuti (1995), two strategies for cultural translation are domestication and foreignization. Domestication implies that everything foreign in the ST is made familiar to the TL reader, whereas foreignization "signifies the differences of the foreign text … by disrupting the cultural codes that prevail in the translating language" (Venuti, 2008, p. 15). Regarding foreignization, Venuti (2008) states that translators should "resist dominant values in the receiving culture so as to signify the linguistic and cultural differences of the foreign text" (p. 18).
Answering the fourth research question, it can be concluded that both domestication and foreignization strategies were used in rendering the Hollywood movies. According to the definition of domestication and foreignization, we can conclude that the translation of the SL taboo words into their equivalent taboo expressions in the TL was applying the strategy of foreignization because the SL elements were rendered into their equivalents in the TL. On the contrary, the translation of the SL taboo expressions into nontaboos, applying the strategy of “euphemism” and deletion, was the reflection of the domestication strategy. According to the observed results, domestication received the frequency of 85.42%, and foreignization gained the frequency of 14.56%. Finally, it was deducted that the tendency of the audiovisual translators was mainly toward using domestication in rendering the CSIs.
Besides, the original and dubbed run-time of the movies were different, and the dubbed run-time of the movies was reduced. This reduction caused by IRIB was a policy to prevent broadcasting of forbidden scenes into the Islamic culture of Iran. Moreover, the continuous use of taboo words in a movie sequence was another reason for omission of the scenes and resulted in the reduction of the dubbed run-time. Audiovisual translators should remember that the issue of transference from the SL into the TL not only is of major importance, but also they must consider the issue of synchronization or lip synchronization. Some other times, neither the issue of scene omission nor lip synchronization were at work; the repetition of the taboo expressions in a sequence had caused the audiovisual translators not to translate all of them. Therefore, in many cases, translation of a single taboo for a couple of them had made the dubbed run-time shorter than the original (Table 1).
Furthermore, movies are considered as the cultural mirrors reflecting the real language of the society to other nations. Aiming to find a meaningful pattern between the release year of the movies and the number of the taboo expressions used, no dominant relationship was observed till 2009, even though the tendency of the American society shifted toward using more taboo expressions in their society from 2009 to 2012. This may be because of the fact that taboos have changed their functions—like other words during times. Therefore, the same pattern had affected the Hollywood moviemakers, too (Fig. 1):
Figure 1. Relationship between the number of taboos and the release year of the movies
Analyzing the movies to answer the research questions, a pattern was gained for the applied strategies (i.e., pattern # 1) in rendition of the taboo expressions as CSIs. These strategies, regarding to their frequency from the highest to the lowest frequent were deletion, translating the SL taboos to their equivalent taboos in the TL, translating taboos to nontaboos, and euphemism.
Answering the second research question, we observed that deletion in each movie had the highest frequency among all the other strategies. The large number of usage of this strategy indicates that the audiovisual translators mainly had tended not to translate the taboo expressions in order to prevent injection of damaging thoughts in the Iranian society. In other words, we can infer that this is the policy of IRIB to keep cultural boundaries. The use of the deletion strategy leads audiovisual translators to the issue of censorship. Moreover, scene omission was another strategy observed in rendering the Hollywood movies to omit the offensive scenes. In fact, the deletion strategy was applied for both verbal and visual taboo expressions.
Censorship is one of the actions and methods that the Government tries to use to prevent the occurrence of harmful thoughts into the society because the Government believes that injection of these thoughts cannot contribute to the mental growth of the human kind, but may cause vice versa. All in all, one can say that censorship is a kind of supervision that effective authorities in the Government perform in order to produce an adaptive final product.
Regarding the third research question, we can conclude that both domestication and foreignization were used in rendering the Hollywood movies. Moreover, Phi and Cramer's results (Table 4) were significant because the chi-square results were significant. Finally, the results indicated that the tendency of the audiovisual translators was mainly toward domestication in rendering the CSIs.
As an answer to the fourth research question, we observed that the Iranian audiovisual translators had applied both Venuti's (1995) strategies in the translation of the taboo expressions as CSIs. Also, the foreignization strategy, which is the act of translating SL taboos to their equivalent taboos in the TL, had the frequency of 14.56%, whereas the domestication strategy had the frequency of 85.42% (see Table 2). Thus, we can infer that the policy of IRIB in keeping cultural boundaries and other factors like time pressure or lip synchronization had led the audiovisual translators to domesticate the CSIs in their dubbings.
Besides, taboo expressions are what nowadays have become more frequent in recent movies. It does not mean that necessarily people have become more careless about using these words, but it may indicate that taboos are not taboos any more or they may have lost their previous functions in the cluster of speaking. Moreover, because TV is a medium by which a great part of every individual's life is spent, the use of taboos is totally inappropriate with the governing norms of the society. Also, continuous use of taboos in a movie sequence was another reason for this omission and caused the reduction of the dubbed run-time. Moreover, repetition of taboos in a movie sequence had caused the audiovisual translators not to translate all of the repeated taboos. Thus, in many cases, translation of a single taboo for a couple of them had made the dubbed run-time shorter than the original.