Subtitling swearwords in reality TV series from English into Chinese: A corpus-based study of The Family


  • Chong Han University of Western Sydney
  • Kenny Wang University of Western Sydney


swearwords, subtitling, reality TV, relevance theory


This study takes a corpus-based approach to investigate the subtitling of English swearwords into Chinese in eight episodes of The Family, an Australian reality TV series produced by Special Broadcasting Service (SBS) in 2011. The results reveal a disparity in the overall frequency of swearwords and in the number of semantic categories and functions represented by the swearwords in both languages. Four strategies of subtitling swearwords are also identified and analysed. By taking Gutt’s (2010) Relevance Theory in Translation as the theoretical framework, we argue that the force of swearing in the original is mildly toned down in the Chinese subtitles; however, this tendency does not significantly nor necessarily impede the communicative goal of the original. Rather, the toned-down Chinese subtitles convey the most accessible contextual information for the audience in the Australian context to generate adequate interpretation of the original.