Sarah Shubaily

Photograph of Sarah Shubaily

Department of Modern Languages

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PhD title: Semantic shifts in the translation of self-help books from English into Arabic
SupervisorDr Anissa Daoudi
PhD in Modern Languages (Translation)


In this new postmodern, global age, the advanced means of communication and improved modes of travel, mobile phones, the Internet, better roads, faster trains, and low-cost airfares, made it is easier than ever to move through, over, and beyond traditional borders. In addition, new intra-national connections are simultaneously emerging between and among regional ethnic groups, professional associations, different races, genders, language minorities, communities, neighborhoods, and generations. As individuals constantly traverse these multiple and increasing micro-borders, definitions of nations are changing, and so too are definitions of languages and translation. Since communication means became instant and available to everybody through, especially, the Internet, new ideas and trends in all aspects of life are travelling rapidly worldwide. People can find out information, learn about health, lifestyles, political issues, literature, and all disciplines through their computers and smart phones. This, indeed, increased awareness of different cultures and improved understanding and acceptance between peoples from different nations. Through languages as the medium of transmitting ideas and concepts, translation necessarily plays a prominent role in this modern age where people are living in a constantly evolving village.

The aim of the present research is to explore the semantic shifts in the translation of self-help books from English into Arabic. In this regard, globalization is a leading factor that contributes to the widespread of the concepts and practices of self-help. The Internet, particularly, through social media and a large number of websites and blogs, has had a great impact on promoting self-help philosophy, which can be seen in their positive reception worldwide. Many trends that are related to people’s daily lives such as well being, both physically and psychologically, are increasingly found in social media applications and are, in fact, imported from Western cultures. Self-help is one of the themes that gained huge popularity in the Arab World. The reason behind choosing the data is that Self-help as a concept is very popular nowadays worldwide, and due to globalization, Bielsa (2005) emphasizes the significance of translation in globalization theory and its key role in the articulation of the global and the local. In this context, it is worth mentioning that the production of knowledge is mostly in English and translated into other languages. The trend of self-help passed to the Middle East and the Gulf region through translation as one of the channels of modern communication.  In addition, self-help books are available online, twitter, and social media such as Facebook as well as YouTube channels – as well as in the physical form of books. The information is nowadays easily accessed and enjoyed by people belonging to different religions and cultures.  In addition, English books on self-help or self-development are filling bookstore shelves under the genre of mind, body and spirit where they rank among the best sellers and new releases are produced constantly. Moreover, they are usually translated into different languages including Arabic where such books are also found among the most popular category in local bookstores.

This research aims to analyze how self-help concepts are decoded and encoded particularly when dealing with cultural, religious and spiritual concepts that do not have equivalents in the target language, i.e., Arabic.  This was done through accounting for translation shifts that occur in the translation of self-help books from English into Arabic. To this end, the methodology adopted for the study is based on the tools of corpus linguistics for analyzing the data. The present research is a product-oriented research with a descriptive/ explanatory purpose. It is suggested that the analysis of texts in their context of production and reception offers evidence of translator’s decision making, which allows some insight into the translation process (Saldanha & O’Brien, 2013, p. 50).