Newspeak
Overview
Newspeak is a fictional language
Fictional language
Fictional languages are by far the largest group of artistic languages. Fictional languages are intended to be the languages of a fictional world and are often designed with the intent of giving more depth and an appearance of plausibility to the fictional worlds with which they are associated, and...

 in George Orwell
George Orwell
Eric Arthur Blair , better known by his pen name George Orwell, was an English author and journalist...

's novel Nineteen Eighty-Four
Nineteen Eighty-Four
Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell is a dystopian novel about Oceania, a society ruled by the oligarchical dictatorship of the Party...

. In the novel, it refers to the deliberately impoverished language promoted by the state. Orwell included an essay about it in the form of an appendix in which the basic principles of the language are explained. Newspeak is closely based on English
English language
English is a West Germanic language that arose in the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of England and spread into what was to become south-east Scotland under the influence of the Anglian medieval kingdom of Northumbria...

 but has a greatly reduced and simplified vocabulary
Vocabulary
A person's vocabulary is the set of words within a language that are familiar to that person. A vocabulary usually develops with age, and serves as a useful and fundamental tool for communication and acquiring knowledge...

 and grammar
Grammar
In linguistics, grammar is the set of structural rules that govern the composition of clauses, phrases, and words in any given natural language. The term refers also to the study of such rules, and this field includes morphology, syntax, and phonology, often complemented by phonetics, semantics,...

. This suits the totalitarian
Totalitarianism
Totalitarianism is a political system where the state recognizes no limits to its authority and strives to regulate every aspect of public and private life wherever feasible...

 regime of the Party
Inner Party
The Inner Party represents the oligarchical political class in Oceania, and has its membership restricted to 6 million individuals . Inner Party members enjoy a quality of life that is much better than that of the Outer Party members and the proles...

, whose aim is to make any alternative thinking—"thoughtcrime
Thoughtcrime
In the dystopian novel Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell, a thoughtcrime is an illegal type of thought.In the book, the government attempts to control not only the speech and actions, but also the thoughts of its subjects, labelling disapproved thought as thoughtcrime or, in Newspeak,...

", or "crimethink" in the newest edition of Newspeak—impossible by removing any words or possible constructs which describe the ideas of freedom, rebellion and so on.
Encyclopedia
Newspeak is a fictional language
Fictional language
Fictional languages are by far the largest group of artistic languages. Fictional languages are intended to be the languages of a fictional world and are often designed with the intent of giving more depth and an appearance of plausibility to the fictional worlds with which they are associated, and...

 in George Orwell
George Orwell
Eric Arthur Blair , better known by his pen name George Orwell, was an English author and journalist...

's novel Nineteen Eighty-Four
Nineteen Eighty-Four
Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell is a dystopian novel about Oceania, a society ruled by the oligarchical dictatorship of the Party...

. In the novel, it refers to the deliberately impoverished language promoted by the state. Orwell included an essay about it in the form of an appendix in which the basic principles of the language are explained. Newspeak is closely based on English
English language
English is a West Germanic language that arose in the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of England and spread into what was to become south-east Scotland under the influence of the Anglian medieval kingdom of Northumbria...

 but has a greatly reduced and simplified vocabulary
Vocabulary
A person's vocabulary is the set of words within a language that are familiar to that person. A vocabulary usually develops with age, and serves as a useful and fundamental tool for communication and acquiring knowledge...

 and grammar
Grammar
In linguistics, grammar is the set of structural rules that govern the composition of clauses, phrases, and words in any given natural language. The term refers also to the study of such rules, and this field includes morphology, syntax, and phonology, often complemented by phonetics, semantics,...

. This suits the totalitarian
Totalitarianism
Totalitarianism is a political system where the state recognizes no limits to its authority and strives to regulate every aspect of public and private life wherever feasible...

 regime of the Party
Inner Party
The Inner Party represents the oligarchical political class in Oceania, and has its membership restricted to 6 million individuals . Inner Party members enjoy a quality of life that is much better than that of the Outer Party members and the proles...

, whose aim is to make any alternative thinking—"thoughtcrime
Thoughtcrime
In the dystopian novel Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell, a thoughtcrime is an illegal type of thought.In the book, the government attempts to control not only the speech and actions, but also the thoughts of its subjects, labelling disapproved thought as thoughtcrime or, in Newspeak,...

", or "crimethink" in the newest edition of Newspeak—impossible by removing any words or possible constructs which describe the ideas of freedom, rebellion and so on. One character, Syme, says admiringly of the shrinking volume of the new dictionary: "It's a beautiful thing, the destruction of words."

The Newspeak term for the English language
English language
English is a West Germanic language that arose in the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of England and spread into what was to become south-east Scotland under the influence of the Anglian medieval kingdom of Northumbria...

 is Oldspeak. Oldspeak is intended to have been completely supplanted by Newspeak before 2050 (with the exception of the Proles
Proles
Proles is a term used in George Orwell's novel Nineteen Eighty-Four to refer to the working class of Oceania ....

, who are not trained in Newspeak and whom the Party barely regards as human).

The genesis of Newspeak can be found in the constructed language
Constructed language
A planned or constructed language—known colloquially as a conlang—is a language whose phonology, grammar, and/or vocabulary has been consciously devised by an individual or group, instead of having evolved naturally...

 Basic English
Basic English
Basic English, also known as Simple English, is an English-based controlled language created by linguist and philosopher Charles Kay Ogden as an international auxiliary language, and as an aid for teaching English as a Second Language...

, which Orwell promoted from 1942 to 1944 before emphatically rejecting it in his essay "Politics and the English Language
Politics and the English Language
"Politics and the English Language" is an essay by George Orwell criticizing "ugly and inaccurate" contemporary written English.Orwell said that political prose was formed "to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind." Orwell believed...

". In this paper he laments the quality of the English of his day, citing examples of dying metaphors, pretentious diction or rhetoric
Rhetoric
Rhetoric is the art of discourse, an art that aims to improve the facility of speakers or writers who attempt to inform, persuade, or motivate particular audiences in specific situations. As a subject of formal study and a productive civic practice, rhetoric has played a central role in the Western...

, and meaningless words all of which contribute to fuzzy ideas and a lack of logic
Logic
In philosophy, Logic is the formal systematic study of the principles of valid inference and correct reasoning. Logic is used in most intellectual activities, but is studied primarily in the disciplines of philosophy, mathematics, semantics, and computer science...

al thinking. Towards the end of this essay, having argued his case, Orwell muses:

To remove synonyms and antonyms

The basic idea behind Newspeak is to remove all shades of meaning from language, leaving simple dichotomies
Dichotomy
A dichotomy is any splitting of a whole into exactly two non-overlapping parts, meaning it is a procedure in which a whole is divided into two parts...

 (pleasure and pain, happiness and sadness, goodthink and crimethink) which reinforce the total dominance of the State
Totalitarianism
Totalitarianism is a political system where the state recognizes no limits to its authority and strives to regulate every aspect of public and private life wherever feasible...

. Similarly, Newspeak root words served as both nouns and verbs, which allowed further reduction in the total number of words; for example, "think" served as both noun and verb, so the word thought was not required and could be abolished. A staccato
Staccato
Staccato is a form of musical articulation. In modern notation it signifies a note of shortened duration and separated from the note that may follow by silence...

 rhythm of short syllables was also a goal, further reducing the need for deep thinking about language. (See duckspeak.) Successful Newspeak meant that there would be fewer and fewer words dictionaries would get thinner and thinner.

In addition, words with negative meanings were removed as redundant, so "bad" became "ungood". Words with comparative and superlative meanings were also simplified, so "better" became "gooder", and "best" likewise became "goodest". Intensifiers could be added, so "great" became "plusgood", and "excellent" and "splendid" likewise became "doubleplusgood". Adjectives were formed by adding the suffix "-ful" to a root word (e.g., "goodthinkful", orthodox in thought), and adverbs by adding "-wise" ("goodthinkwise", in an orthodox manner). In this manner, as many words as possible were removed from the language. The ultimate aim of Newspeak was to reduce even the dichotomies to a single word that was a "yes" of some sort: an obedient word with which everyone answered affirmatively to what was asked of them.

Some of the constructions in Newspeak, such as "ungood", are in fact characteristic of agglutinative language
Agglutinative language
An agglutinative language is a language that uses agglutination extensively: most words are formed by joining morphemes together. This term was introduced by Wilhelm von Humboldt in 1836 to classify languages from a morphological point of view...

s, although foreign to English
English language
English is a West Germanic language that arose in the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of England and spread into what was to become south-east Scotland under the influence of the Anglian medieval kingdom of Northumbria...

. It is possible that Orwell modeled aspects of Newspeak on Esperanto
Esperanto
is the most widely spoken constructed international auxiliary language. Its name derives from Doktoro Esperanto , the pseudonym under which L. L. Zamenhof published the first book detailing Esperanto, the Unua Libro, in 1887...

; for example "ungood" is constructed similarly to the Esperanto word malbona. Orwell had been exposed to Esperanto in 1927 when living in Paris
Paris
Paris is the capital and largest city in France, situated on the river Seine, in northern France, at the heart of the Île-de-France region...

 with his aunt Ellen Kate Limouzin and her husband Eugène Lanti
Eugène Lanti
Eugène Lanti was a pseudonym of Eugène Adam . Lanti was an Esperantist, socialist and writer. He was a founder of Sennacieca Asocio Tutmonda, and a long time editor of the internationalist socialist magazine Sennaciulo...

, a prominent Esperantist. Esperanto was the language of the house, and Orwell was disadvantaged by not speaking it, which may account for some antipathy towards the language.

To control thought

Some examples of Newspeak from the novel include crimethink
Thoughtcrime
In the dystopian novel Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell, a thoughtcrime is an illegal type of thought.In the book, the government attempts to control not only the speech and actions, but also the thoughts of its subjects, labelling disapproved thought as thoughtcrime or, in Newspeak,...

, doublethink
Doublethink
Doublethink, a word coined by George Orwell in the novel 1984, describes the act of simultaneously accepting two mutually contradictory beliefs as correct, often in distinct social contexts. It is related to, but distinct from, hypocrisy and neutrality. Its opposite is cognitive dissonance, where...

, and Ingsoc
Ingsoc
Ingsoc is the political ideology of the totalitarian government of Oceania in George Orwell's dystopian science fiction novel Nineteen Eighty-Four.-Fictionalised origin of Ingsoc:...

. They mean, respectively, "thought-crime", "accepting as correct two mutually contradictory beliefs", and "English socialism" (the official political philosophy of the Party). The word Newspeak itself also comes from the language. All of these words would be obsolete and should be removed in the "final" version of Newspeak, except for doubleplusungood in certain contexts.

Generically, Newspeak has come to mean any attempt to restrict disapproved language by a government or other powerful entity.

Vocabulary

The "A" group of words deals with simple concepts needed in everyday life (such as eating, drinking, working, cooking, and the like). It is almost entirely made up of words that already exist in the English language
English language
English is a West Germanic language that arose in the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of England and spread into what was to become south-east Scotland under the influence of the Anglian medieval kingdom of Northumbria...

.

The "B" group of words is deliberately constructed to convey more complicated ideas. The words in this group are compound words with political implications, and aim to impose the mental attitude of the Party upon the speaker. For example, the Newspeak word "goodthink" roughly means "orthodoxy
Orthodoxy
The word orthodox, from Greek orthos + doxa , is generally used to mean the adherence to accepted norms, more specifically to creeds, especially in religion...

".

The "C" group of words deals with technical vocabulary and is supplementary to the other two groups. Since the Party does not want its people to be intelligent in multiple fields, there is no Newspeak word for "science
Science
Science is a systematic enterprise that builds and organizes knowledge in the form of testable explanations and predictions about the universe...

". There are separate words for different fields.

See also

  • Code word
    Code word (figure of speech)
    A code word is a word or a phrase designed to convey a predetermined meaning to a receptive audience, while remaining inconspicuous to the uninitiated.- Medical :...

  • Controlled natural language
    Controlled natural language
    Controlled natural languages are subsets of natural languages, obtained byrestricting the grammar and vocabulary in orderto reduce or eliminate ambiguity and complexity.Traditionally, controlled languages fall into two major types:...

  • Dumbing down
    Dumbing down
    Dumbing down is a pejorative term for a perceived trend to lower the intellectual content of literature, education, news, and other aspects of culture...

  • Framing
    Framing (social sciences)
    A frame in social theory consists of a schema of interpretation — that is, a collection of anecdotes and stereotypes—that individuals rely on to understand and respond to events. In simpler terms, people build a series of mental filters through biological and cultural influences. They use these...

  • Language and thought
    Language and thought
    A variety of different authors, theories and fields purport influences between language and thought.Many point out the seemingly common-sense realization that upon introspection we seem to think in the language we speak...

  • List of Newspeak words
  • Logocracy
    Logocracy
    Logocracy is the rule of—or government by—words. It is derived from the Greek λόγος - "word" and from κράτος - to "govern". The term can be used either positively, ironically or negatively.-Historical examples:...

  • LTI - Lingua Tertii Imperii
    LTI - Lingua Tertii Imperii
    LTI - Lingua Tertii Imperii: Notizbuch eines Philologen is a book by Victor Klemperer, Professor of Literature at the University of Dresden...

  • Nadsat
    Nadsat
    Nadsat is a fictional register or argot used by the teenagers in Anthony Burgess' novel A Clockwork Orange. In addition to being a novelist, Burgess was also a linguist and he used this background to depict his characters as speaking a form of Russian-influenced English...

  • Neologism
  • Political correctness
    Political correctness
    Political correctness is a term which denotes language, ideas, policies, and behavior seen as seeking to minimize social and institutional offense in occupational, gender, racial, cultural, sexual orientation, certain other religions, beliefs or ideologies, disability, and age-related contexts,...

  • Sapir–Whorf hypothesis
    Sapir–Whorf hypothesis
    The principle of linguistic relativity holds that the structure of a language affects the ways in which its speakers are able to conceptualize their world, i.e. their world view...

  • Thought-terminating cliché
  • 2 + 2 = 5
  • Philosophy of Language
    Philosophy of language
    Philosophy of language is the reasoned inquiry into the nature, origins, and usage of language. As a topic, the philosophy of language for analytic philosophers is concerned with four central problems: the nature of meaning, language use, language cognition, and the relationship between language...


Further reading

  • Burgess, Anthony. Nineteen Eighty-Five. Boston: Little Brown & Co, 1978. ISBN 0-316-11651-3. Anthony Burgess
    Anthony Burgess
    John Burgess Wilson  – who published under the pen name Anthony Burgess – was an English author, poet, playwright, composer, linguist, translator and critic. The dystopian satire A Clockwork Orange is Burgess's most famous novel, though he dismissed it as one of his lesser works...

     discusses the plausibility of Newspeaak.
  • Green, Jonathon
    Jonathon Green
    Jonathon Green is a British lexicographer of slang and writer on the history of alternative cultures...

    . Newspeak: a dictionary of jargon. London, Boston: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1985, 1984. ISBN 0-7102-0673-9.
  • "Find in a library: Newspeak: A dictionary of Jargon", by Jonathon Green
    Jonathon Green
    Jonathon Green is a British lexicographer of slang and writer on the history of alternative cultures...

    . Retrieved 21 April 2006.
  • Klemperer, Victor
    Victor Klemperer
    Victor Klemperer was a businessman, journalist and eventually a Professor of Literature, specialising in the French Enlightenment at the Technische Universität Dresden. His diaries detailing his life under successive German states—the German Empire, the Weimar Republic, Nazi Germany and the German...

    . LTI - Lingua Tertii Imperii
    LTI - Lingua Tertii Imperii
    LTI - Lingua Tertii Imperii: Notizbuch eines Philologen is a book by Victor Klemperer, Professor of Literature at the University of Dresden...

    : Notizbuch eines Philologen.
    . Original German language editions.
  • Klemperer, Victor
    Victor Klemperer
    Victor Klemperer was a businessman, journalist and eventually a Professor of Literature, specialising in the French Enlightenment at the Technische Universität Dresden. His diaries detailing his life under successive German states—the German Empire, the Weimar Republic, Nazi Germany and the German...

     & Watt, Roderick H. LTI - Lingua Tertii Imperii
    LTI - Lingua Tertii Imperii
    LTI - Lingua Tertii Imperii: Notizbuch eines Philologen is a book by Victor Klemperer, Professor of Literature at the University of Dresden...

    : A Philologist's Notebook
    . Lewiston: E. Mellen Press, 1997. ISBN 0-7734-8681-X. An annotated edition of Victor Klemperer’s LTI, Notizbuch eines Philologen with English notes and commentary by Roderick H. Watt.
  • Klemperer, Victor
    Victor Klemperer
    Victor Klemperer was a businessman, journalist and eventually a Professor of Literature, specialising in the French Enlightenment at the Technische Universität Dresden. His diaries detailing his life under successive German states—the German Empire, the Weimar Republic, Nazi Germany and the German...

     & Brady, Martin (tr.). The language of the Third Reich: LTI - Lingua Tertii Imperii
    LTI - Lingua Tertii Imperii
    LTI - Lingua Tertii Imperii: Notizbuch eines Philologen is a book by Victor Klemperer, Professor of Literature at the University of Dresden...

    : A Philologist's Notebook
    . London, UK; New Brunswick, NJ: Athlone Press, 2000. ISBN 0-485-11526-3 (alk. paper). Translated by Martin Brady.
  • Young, John Wesley . Totalitarian Language: Orwell's Newspeak and Its Nazi and Communist Antecedents. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1991. ISBN 0-8139-1324-1. John Wesley Young wrote this scholarly work about Newspeak and historical examples of language control.
  • An independent compilation of the Newspeak language
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