Euphemism in the Qur'an: A Corpus-based Linguistic Approach

. International Journal of Computational Linguistics (IJCL) 10 (2): 16 - 32 (June 2019)


Euphemism is an important metaphoric resource in language, which has a relatively high functional load in religious texts, such as the Qur'an. This study creates an electronic HTML database of euphemisms in the Qur'an through adopting a more systematic corpus-based approach. The database of Qur'anic euphemisms is released into the public domain and is free for research and educational use (http://corpus.leeds.ac.uk/euphemismolimat/). The mechanism of annotating Qur'anic euphemisms relies on certain procedures including developing a set of linguistic guidelines, analysis of the content of the Qur'an using two renowned exegeses of the Qur'an and a comprehensive dictionary, evaluating scholarly efforts on the phenomenon of euphemism in the Qur'an, and consulting academics and religious scholars. The study proposes a broad classification of euphemistic topics on the basis of the data in the Qur'an and former categorisations produced by others. It suggests an effective strategy to check and verify inter-annotator agreement in the annotation of Qur'anic euphemisms. It presents statistical analysis and visualisation of the euphemistic data in the corpus. It has been found that the thirty parts of the Qur'an vary in the number and distribution of euphemisms across verses. Although the Meccan surahs comprise about three quarters of the Qur'an, they have only 518 euphemisms in 440 verses. By contrast, the Medinan surahs, which make up the remainder of the Qur'an, have 400 euphemisms in 263 verses. Sex and death are the most common euphemistic topics in the Qur'an, while feelings, divorce and pregnancy are the least frequent euphemistic topics. The study recommends that the designed corpus of Qur'anic euphemisms should be used to update existing web pages on the Qur'an with extended linguistic information about euphemism encoded with HTML/XML annotation.

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