Seeing the unseen. Euphemism in animated films:a multimodal and critical discourse analysis

Asseel, Dalia (2020) Seeing the unseen. Euphemism in animated films:a multimodal and critical discourse analysis. PhD thesis, UNSPECIFIED.

[thumbnail of 2020asseelphd]
Text (2020asseelphd)
Euphemism_in_Animated_Films_A_multimodal_and_critical_discourse_analysis_2020.pdf - Published Version
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs.

Download (2MB)


Animated films are contemporary popular cultural products recreating the ‘real’ world and engaging massive worldwide audiences of adults and children. Children as the ostensible viewers of animated films may acquire their cultural and ideological knowledge and beliefs about the world from the representations in animated films. Although during the past decade animated films have increasingly been the focus of attention of researchers across different disciplines, including education, gender, sexuality and literacy, studies tackling the discourse and language of animated films are still in their early stages. More specifically, very few studies have investigated the use of euphemism as a major micro-level linguistic device reflecting macro-level discourse and extending to sociocultural structures. To this end, this thesis examines euphemism constructed through the discourse of animated films by employing the strategies of Critical Discourse Studies (CDS). Moreover, Multimodal Discourse Analysis (MDA) is employed to examine discursive strategies involving visual representations accompanying euphemism and what underpins those strategies, and to shed light on the multimodal relations between the representation of both. Euphemism is frequently associated with the notion of taboo. Consequently, new words or phrases are designated to refer to linguistic taboos as alternatives used by speakers to minimise the threat to the audience’s face as well as to their own. In addition, euphemistic occurrences represent a self-interested version of reality by pushing a topic into the background and highlighting instead a particular view of a topic. Therefore, euphemism is a speaker-oriented tool implying the reaction the speaker intends to prompt in the audience. This study shows that euphemism as a discursive linguistic tool has been used extensively in animated films as a manifestation of the discursive role anthropomorphised characters play to transmit certain ideological and social representations. A data set comprising 176 euphemisms found in four full-length anthropomorphised animated featured films, AAFF, extracted from film scripts and online channels was collected. The study identifies the main types of euphemism used in films, drawing on a framework of types based on Warren (1992), Allan and Burridge (1991) and Crespo (2006). After the main types of euphemism have been identified, the data set is approached from the perspective of taboo and culturally repressed topics, such as sexuality, gender and race. Moreover, discursive strategies adapted from Reisigl and Wodak (2016) are applied in order to identify important categories for the analysis of euphemistic discourse. This approach forms the basis for an in-depth, qualitative analysis of several representative scenes extracted from the films under investigation. First, the analysis focuses on racial euphemisms targeting different races. Then, I analyse sexual euphemisms related to nudity and sexual body parts, as well as conceptual metaphoric representations of sexual euphemisms. Finally, I focus on gendered euphemisms targeting the representation of four female characters in the films. The analysis shows that animated films tend to use euphemism to camouflage various taboo areas and manipulate the viewers’ perceptions, such as those relating to sexuality, gender and race. Nomination strategies are used more frequently with euphemisms referring to race, sex and gender. Metaphors and conceptual metaphors are used more frequently with sexual euphemisms. Visual empowerment strategies of female characters to highlight their sexuality are used more frequently with gendered euphemisms. I argue that while the linguistic element attenuates an ideology by virtue of euphemism’s manipulative nature, the visual element, in turn, highlights and confirms the same ideology, values or stereotypes. Hence, animated films can articulate the ideological and social legitimation or normalisation of a particular view of race, sex or gender through the use of euphemism and visual discursive strategies.

Item Type:
Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information:
Asseel, Dalia (Saudi Arabia, 13 April 1981), PhD in Linguistics and academic.
ID Code:
Deposited By:
Deposited On:
08 Oct 2020 12:00
Last Modified:
24 Oct 2023 23:54