Academic journal article Journal of Pan African Studies

Unveiling the Taboo of Sexual Intercourse in the Beulah Yoruba/English Bilingual Parallel Bible

Academic journal article Journal of Pan African Studies

Unveiling the Taboo of Sexual Intercourse in the Beulah Yoruba/English Bilingual Parallel Bible

Article excerpt

Introduction

The concept of taboo is a universal concept wherein realisation varies from one language to another, one culture to another, and one speech community to another. For instance, while it might be a taboo in the Yoruba language and culture to refer literally to some private body parts, as direct reference to these sensitive body parts carries connotation of shame and embarrassment, it might not be the case in another culture. In the same vein, religions or religious organisations find certain actions or expressions taboo. Therefore, such expressions are often avoided in embrace of more sacred ones. Such is the case, for instance, where certain expressions making overt and direct reference to sexual intercourse are avoided in many Christian English Bibles in general and their Yoruba versions in particular.

In the KJV-based Beulah version of the Yoruba Bible, where excerpts have been drawn for analysis in this study, rather than make direct reference to sexual intercourse and activities, the translators have chosen to leave those expressions veiled as done in the KJV (from which it was translated). This practice is in tandem with the norms of language use in the Yoruba society. One of such norms is to avoid obscene words and expressions in open discourse. In fact, one of the many ways to demonstrate communicative competence in the Yoruba language and culture is to avoid the use of such expressions that could depict a sense of maladjustment, especially in public discourse, on the part of a language user. This is why an adage in the language says: oro to baye ka so niyewu, a kit so o ni gbangba 'it is inappropriate to discuss in public a matter meant to be discussed privately'.

In several instances in the KJV-based Beulah version of the Yoruba Bible, there are many cases of veiled taboo expressions whose interpretation largely draws on contextual variables such as shared situational knowledge (SSK), shared religious knowledge (SRK), inference (INF), etc. Although scholars have investigated the concept of taboo in the Yoruba language and culture, particularly with respect to its definition, conception and realisations, no scholarly work has attempted an examination of the concept as it relates to Biblical discourse. Our choice of a KJV-based translation in this study is predicated on our observation that the version enjoys the largest readership in the Nigerian context, considering the fact that it is the toast of quite majority of Pentecostal churches like The Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG), Deeper Life Bible Church (DLBC), and Winners' Chapel, Mountain of Fire and Miracles Ministry, to mention but a few. These Pentecostal churches, are no doubt, the fastest growing churches in the country. It is equally worthy of note, that, no known translation or version of the Yoruba Bible deviates from what we have observed in the BBPE that we have chosen for our analysis in this study.

The Concept of Taboo and Types

In the opinion of Timothy (1999, p. 25), taboo language can be divided into swearing, obscenity, profanity, name calling, insulting, verbal aggression, taboo speech, ethnic-racial slurs, vulgarity, slang, and scatology. He obviously has defined taboo language from the view point of 'cursing'. Trudgill (2000, p.18) refers to taboo as something prohibited or forbidden (sic). He asserts his position further in the following statements:

   [Taboo is a] behaviour that is supernaturally forbidden or regarded
   as immoral or improper; it deals with behaviour which is prohibited
   or inhibited in an apparently irrational manner (p. 18)

With respect to language, Trudgill claims taboo is associated with things which are not said, and to him, the phenomenon is a broad concept which could be divided into cursing, profanity, blasphemy, obscenity, insults, sexual harassment and any form of vulgar use of language. Speaking on the concept of taboo, Saville-Troike (2003, p. …

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