Lexical wars: Hebrew euphemisms and dysphemisms in phrases relating to the Arab-Israeli conflict

Article in journal
Materia Giudaica 19 (2014), pp. 537-547, ISSN: 2283-6993, ISBN: 9788880575887

Tags: Hebrew language | Israel studies | Linguistics | Semantics | Sociolinguistics


Euphemisms are widely used in public discourse in order to obfuscate potentially unwelcome or unacceptable measures and policies, whereas dysphemisms (i.e. their unpleasant counterparts) offer a means of expressing strong feelings on disputed issues. Alternative phrasings denoting the same referent were observed for several topics in the context of the Arab-Israeli conflict: depending on the choice between euphemism and dysphemism, they convey profoundly different connotations. This research was conducted through a content analysis of the four most widely circulated Israeli daily newspapers in Hebrew; three subjects – the territories, the separation barrier, and violent actions such as targeted killings and terror attacks – were taken into account in order to highlight the connection between linguistic choices and political stances.

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