The European Journal of Humour Research

Vol 7, No 4 (2019)

Translating irony into Arabic – who’s having the last laugh? Dubbing Monsters Inc.: Egyptian vernacular vs. modern standard Arabic

Rashid Yahiaoui,Basema Alqumboz,Ashraf Fattah,Amer Al Adwan


Monsters Inc., an animated feature film produced by Pixar Animation Studios in 2001, received significant recognition worldwide. The film was nominated in 2002 for the ASCAP Film and Television Music Awards by the Box Office Films. Two dubbed versions of the film were later released with Arabic translations using Egyptian Vernacular, a spoken dialect, and Modern Standard Arabic, used primarily in formal, written communications.This study examines humor in translation and irony as humor which represents a common technique in “Pixar plotting”. The research investigates the strategies, types, and categories of irony as humor within the translations and the success of those translations at accurately transmitting the humorous meaning. Towards exploring the problems of translating irony across languages and cultures, this research examines the shifts in translations between the two Arabic language versions using an interdisciplinary theoretical approach encompassing humor studies, audiovisual translation studies, and descriptive translation studies. Furthermore, the research adopts Muecke’s (1978) classification of irony markers to categorize and identify the strategies used in translating irony as humor. The study finds that the two different versions of Arabic utilize similar strategies at times and divergent ones at others, such as explication, substitution, omission or addition, in translating irony as humor with each succeeding/failing at varied levels of meaning transmission. The research suggests translators’ creativity, or lack thereof, and the language variant used are primarily responsible for the success or failure of transmitting irony as humor for dubbing into Arabic.



Al-Adwan, A. and Yahiaoui, R. (2018). Comedy under Fire: Subtitling Two and a Half Men into Arabic. In Ranzato I. and

Zanotti, S. (eds.). Linguistic and Cultural Representation in Audiovisual Translation (pp. 85-100). London and New York: Routledge.

Arabic Disney. Web. 30 Mar. 2017.

Burman, T. E. (2016). The spacious ironies of translation. The New Centennial Review, 16, (1), 87-92.

Chiaro, D. (2008). Verbally expressed humor and translation. In Raskin, V. and Ruch, W. (eds.). The Primer of Humor Research (pp. 569-608). Berlin: Walter de Gruyter.

Chiaro, D. (2009). Issues in Audiovisual Translation. In Munday, J. (ed.). The Routledge Companion to Translation Studies (pp. 141-165). London: Routledge.

De Wilde, J. (2010). The analysis of translated literary irony: Some methodological issues. Linguistica Antverpiensa New Series: Themes in Translation Studies, 9, 25-44.

Delabastita, D. (1989). Translation and mass-communication: film and TV translation as evidence of cultural dynamics. Babel, 35(4), 193-218

Díaz Cintas, J. (2004). In Search of a theoretical framework for the study of audiovisual translation. In Orero, P. (ed.). Topics in Audiovisual Translation (pp. 21-34). Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

Green, R., Cushman, S., and Cavanagh, C. (eds.). (2012). The Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

House, J. (1981). A Model for Translation Quality Assessment. Tübingen: Narr.

Lucariello, J. (1994). Situational irony: A concept of events gone awry. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 123(2), 129-145.

Jabbari, A.A. & Ravizi, Z. N. (2012). Dubbing verbally expressed humor: An analysis of American animation in Persian context. International Journal of Humanities and Social Science, 5 (2), 263-270.

Kierkegaard, S. (1966). The Concept of Irony, with Constant Reference to Socrates. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.

Kreuz, R.J., and Roberts, R.M. (1993). The empirical study of figurative language in literature. Poetics, 22, 151-169.

Muecke, D. (1969). The Compus of Irony. London: Methuen

Muecke, D. (1978). Irony markers. Poetics (7), 363-375.

Newmark, P. (1993). Paragraphs on Translation. Clevedon: Multilingual Matters.

Oxford English Dictionary online.

Spanakaki, K. (2007). Translation humor For subtitling. Translation Journal, 11 (2).

Toury, G. (1995). Descriptive Translation Studies and Beyond. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

Turek, S. (2010). Foreigners in the margins: English subtitles in ‘Inch’Allah dimanche. The French Review, 83(1), 560-572.

Vandaele, J. (2002). Re-Constructing humour: Meanings and means. The Translator 8(2), 149-172.

Venuti, L. (1995). The Translator’s Invisibility. London/New York: Routledge.

Von Stackelberg, J. (1988). Translating comical writing. Translation Review, 28(1), 10-14.

Zabalbeascoa, P. (1996). Translating jokes for dubbed television situation comedies. The Translator, 2(2) 235-257.

Zabalbeascoa, P. (2005). Humor and translation: An interdiscipline. Humor, 18(2), 185-207.


Monsters Inc. 2013. Dir. Pete Docter. Perf. John Goodman and Billy Crystal. Buena Vista Home Entertainment.