Newspeak

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To realise English Socialism (Ingsoc) in Oceania, the Party created the controlled language of Newspeak to ensure universal orthodoxy of ideology and politics among the populace.

Newspeak is the language of Oceania, a fictional totalitarian state ruled by the Party, who created the language to meet the ideological requirements of English Socialism (Ingsoc).[1] In the world of George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949), Newspeak is a controlled language, of restricted grammar and limited vocabulary, a linguistic design meant to limit the freedom of thought—personal identity, self-expression, free will—that ideologically threatens the régime of Big Brother and the Party, who thus criminalized such concepts as thoughtcrime, contradictions of Ingsoc orthodoxy.[2][3][4]

In "The Principles of Newspeak", the appendix to the novel, Orwell explains that Newspeak usage follows most of the English grammar, yet is a language characterised by a continually diminishing vocabulary; complete thoughts reduced to simple terms of simplistic meaning.[5] Linguistically, the contractions of Newspeak—Ingsoc (English Socialism), Minitrue (Ministry of Truth), etc.—derive from the syllabic abbreviations of Russian, which identify the government and social institutions of the Soviet Union, such as politburo (Politburo of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union), Comintern (Communist International), kolkhoz (collective farm), and Komsomol (Young Communists' League). The long-term political purpose of the new language is for every member of the Party and society, except the Proles—the working-class of Oceania—to exclusively communicate in Newspeak, by the year A.D. 2050; during that 66-year transition, the usage of Oldspeak (Standard English) shall remain interspersed among Newspeak conversations.[6]

Newspeak is also a constructed language, of planned phonology, grammar, and vocabulary, like Basic English, which Orwell promoted (1942–44) during the Second World War (1939–45), and later rejected in the essay "Politics and the English Language" (1946), wherein he criticises the bad usage of English in his day: Dying metaphors, pretentious diction, and high-flown rhetoric, which produce the meaningless words of doublespeak, the product of unclear reasoning. Orwell's conclusion thematically reiterates linguistic decline: "I said earlier that the decadence of our language is probably curable, those who deny this may argue that language merely reflects existing social conditions, and that we cannot influence its development, by any direct tinkering with words or constructions."[7]

Principles[edit]

Grammar[edit]

The grammar of Newspeak has two characteristics: (i) the virtual interchangeability of linguistic function (noun, verb, adverb, adjective, etc.) among the parts of speech; (ii) the inflectional regularity in the construction and usages of words. In all verbs, the preterite and the past participle constructions are alike, ending in –ed; hence, the preterite of steal is stealed and that of think is thinked.[8]

Prefixes[edit]

Because Newspeak has no antonyms, the prefix "Un-" is used for negation; thus, the Standard-English word warm becomes "uncold" in Newspeak. The lexicographers of the Party usually retain the word that possesses unpleasant nuances (shades of meaning), therefore, uncold is preferred to unwarm.[9] Moreover, the intellectual concept communicated with the word bad is expressed as ungood. When the prefix is appended to a verb, "un-" communicates a negative imperative mood, thus, the Newspeak unproceed means "do not proceed" in Standard English.

  • "Plus-" is an intensifier that replaces more and the suffix -er; plusgood replaced the English words "great" and "better".
  • "Doubleplus-" increases the intensity of the "plus-" intensifier; doubleplusgood replaced the words "excellent" and "best".

Suffixes[edit]

  • "-ful" is a Newspeak suffix that turns another word into an adjective (e.g., "speedful" instead of rapid).
  • "-ed" is the only method of making a non-auxiliary verb past tense in the A-vocabulary. This decreases the number of words required to express tenses by removing irregular conjugations. Ran becomes runned, drank becomes drinked, etc.
  • "-wise" is a Newspeak suffix used to turn another word into an adverb; for example, quickly would be speedwise. Therefore, "He ran very quickly" would become "He runned plus-speedwise."

Synonyms and antonyms[edit]

The political purpose of Newspeak is to eliminate ambiguity and nuance (shades of meaning) from the language, and so reduce the language to simple concepts—pleasure and pain, happiness and sadness, goodthink and crimethink—that reinforce the totalitarian dominance of the State. In Newspeak, root words function as nouns and verbs, which practice further reduced the total number of words available to the speaker; for example, think is both noun and verb, thus, the word thought is not required to communicate thought, and can be abolished from the language. The Party also intend that Newspeak be spoken in staccato rhythm with syllables that are easy to pronounce, which shall facilitate automatic and unconscious speech, thereby diminishing the likelihood of critical thought.[10]

Standard English words that communicated a negative denotation or connotation were eliminated from the vocabulary of Newspeak as redundant; thus, "bad" becomes ungood. Words with comparative and superlative meanings also simplified; thus, "better" becomes plusgood and "best" becomes "doubleplusgood".

Adjectives are formed by adding the suffix –ful to a root-word, e.g. goodthinkful means "Orthodox in thought."; adverbs are formed by adding the suffix –wise, e.g. goodthinkwise means "In an orthodox manner."

Thought control[edit]

"The purpose of Newspeak was not only to provide a medium of expression for the world-view and mental habits proper to the devotees of IngSoc, but to make all other modes of thought impossible. Its vocabulary was so constructed as to give exact and often very subtle expression to every meaning that a Party member could properly wish to express, while excluding all other meaning and also the possibility of arriving at them by indirect methods, this was done partly by the invention of new words, but chiefly by eliminating undesirable words and stripping such words as remained of unorthodox meanings, and so far as possible of all secondary meaning whatever."[9]

The Oldspeak word free existed in Newspeak, but could only be used in terms of something not present, as in the sentences "The dog is free from lice." and "This field is free from weeds." Politically, the word free could not denote free will, because such a humanist concept does not exist in the society of Oceania.[11] The linguistic design of Newspeak is for thought control, by diminishment of the user's range of thought, which is realised with a minimal vocabulary of limited denotation and connotation; hence words such as: crimethink (thought crime), doublethink (accepting contradictory beliefs), and Ingsoc (English Socialism).[9]

The character Syme discusses his work on the latest edition of the Newspeak Dictionary: "By 2050—earlier, probably—all real knowledge of Oldspeak will have disappeared, the whole literature of the past will have been destroyed. Chaucer, Shakespeare, Milton, Byron—they'll exist only in Newspeak versions, not merely changed into something different, but actually contradictory of what they used to be. Even the literature of The Party will change. Even the slogans will change. How could you have a slogan like "Freedom is Slavery" when the concept of freedom has been abolished? The whole climate of thought will be different. In fact there will be no thought, as we understand it now. Orthodoxy means not thinking—not needing to think. Orthodoxy is unconsciousness."[7]

Vocabulary[edit]

As a controlled language, Newspeak influences and limits thought by decreasing the range of expressiveness of the English language, wherein words serve as nouns and as verbs; thus, the word crimethink denotes "a thoughtcrime" (noun) and the action "to commit thoughtcrime" (verb). The adjective is formed with the suffix "–ful" (crimethinkful) and the adverb is formed with the suffix "–wise" (crimethinkwise).

The few irregular-form words, such as Minitrue (Ministry of Truth), Minipax (Ministry of Peace), Miniplenty (Ministry of Plenty), and Miniluv (Ministry of Love) identify the government ministries of the Party. The superlative forms of words are formed with the addition of the positive prefix "plus–" (plusgood) and with the negative prefix "un–" (ungood). To communicate a greater degree, either of negativity or of positivity, requires affixing the prefix double to the other two prefixes to the root word good (doubleplusungood), as in the phrases "Big Brother is doubleplusgood" and "Emmanuel Goldstein is doubleplusungood".

A, B, and C vocabularies[edit]

The words of the A vocabulary describe the functional concepts of everyday-life activities (eating and drinking, working and cooking, etc.), and is composed of words from Oldspeak (Standard English).

The words of the B vocabulary are deliberately constructed to convey complicated ideas; compound words (noun-verb) of political implication meant to impose upon and instill to the user the politically correct mental attitude required by Party, e.g. the Newspeak word goodthink connotes "political orthodoxy", and inflected according to the grammar of Oldspeak.

The words of the C vocabulary are technical terms that supplement the linguistic functions of the A and B vocabularies. Distributions of various fields within the overall C vocabulary are implemented on a need-to-know basis, because the Party do not want the citizens of Oceania to know more than one technique of life and production. Hence, there is no Newspeak word for science; instead, there are specific words for different fields.

Bellyfeel[edit]

The word bellyfeel refers to a blind, enthusiastic acceptance of an idea.

"Consider, for example, such a typical sentence from a Times leading article as Oldthinkers unbellyfeel Ingsoc. The shortest rendering one could make of this in Oldspeak would be: 'Those whose ideas were formed before the Revolution cannot have a full emotional understanding of the principles of English Socialism.' But this is not an adequate translation. [...] [O]nly a person thoroughly grounded in Ingsoc could appreciate the full force of the word bellyfeel, which implied a blind, enthusiastic and casual acceptance difficult to imagine today." — Orwell's 1984 appendix[12]

Blackwhite[edit]

The word blackwhite denotes the Newspeak user's ability to believe that black is white, to know that black is white, and to forget that one has ever believed the contrary. Yet it has two contradictory connotations: (i) Applied to an opponent of Ingsoc ("Impudently claiming that black is white, in contradiction of the plain facts") and (ii) applied to a member of the Party ("A loyal willingness to say that black is white when Party discipline demands"). Moreover, as Newspeak, the word blackwhite also is an example of the Party's doublethink, which re-writes the past.

Crimethink[edit]

Crimethink is the Newspeak word for thoughtcrime (thoughts that are unorthodox or outside the official government platform), as well as the verb meaning "to commit thoughtcrime". Goodthink, which is approved by the Party, is the opposite of crimethink. Winston Smith, the main character, writes in his diary, "Thoughtcrime does not entail death: thoughtcrime IS death."

Duckspeak[edit]

Duckspeak is a Newspeak term that means "to quack like a duck" (literal meaning) or "to speak without thinking". Duckspeak can be good or "ungood" (bad) depending on who is speaking, and whether what they are saying aligns with Big Brother's ideals. To speak rubbish and lies may be "ungood", but to do so for the benefit of The Party may be good. Orwell explains in the appendix: "Ultimately it was hoped to make articulate speech issue from the larynx without involving the higher brain centres at all, this aim was frankly admitted in the Newspeak word duckspeak […]. Like various words in the B vocabulary, duckspeak was ambivalent in meaning. Provided that the opinions which were quacked out were orthodox ones, it implied nothing but praise, and when the Times referred to one of the orators of the Party as a doubleplusgood duckspeaker it was paying a warm and valued compliment."

An example of duckspeak in action is provided in chapter 9, when an Inner Party speaker is haranguing the crowd about the crimes of Eurasia when a note is passed into his hand, he never stops speaking or changes his inflection, but (according to the changed Party position) he now condemns the crimes of Eastasia, which is Oceania's new enemy.

Goodsex and sexcrime[edit]

The term goodsex (chastity) describes the forms of sexual intercourse that the Party deem morally acceptable behaviour for the rank-and-file members of the Party. Specifically, goodsex denotes only heterosexual relations exclusively for procreation; and no pleasure (sexual or emotional) for the woman. All other forms of sexual relations are classified as sexcrime (sexual immorality).[13]

Ownlife[edit]

Ownlife refers to the tendency to enjoy being solitary or individualistic, which is considered subversive. Winston Smith comments that even to go for a walk by oneself can be regarded as suspicious.

Unperson[edit]

An unperson is someone who has been "vaporized"—not only killed by the state, but erased from existence, such a person would be written out of existing books, photographs and articles so that no trace of their existence could be found in the historical record. The idea is that such a person would, according to the principles of doublethink, be forgotten completely (for it would be impossible to provide evidence of their existence), even by close friends and family.

Mentioning an unperson's name, or even speaking of their past existence, is itself thoughtcrime; the concept that the person may have existed at one time and has disappeared cannot be expressed in Newspeak.

See also[edit]

Authoritarian regimes:

Fiction:

References[edit]

  1. ^ George Orwell (1980) p. 917.
  2. ^ The Oxford Companion to the English Language, Tom McArthur, Ed. (1992) p. 693.
  3. ^ Sparknotes on Newspeak accessdate=2017-01-26
  4. ^ Moellerlit Newspeak dictionary accessdate=2017-01-16
  5. ^ George Orwell (1980) p. 918.
  6. ^ George Orwell (1980) p. 917.
  7. ^ a b Orwell, George (1949). Nineteen Eighty-Four. Secker and Warburg. ISBN 978-0-452-28423-4. 
  8. ^ George Orwell (1980) pp. 918–19.
  9. ^ a b c "The Principles of Newspeak". newspeakdictionary.com. Retrieved 20 March 2013. 
  10. ^ George Orwell (1980) p. 917.
  11. ^ George Orwell (1980) p. 917.
  12. ^ George Orwell (1949). 1984. Arcturus Publishing (published 4 January 2014). pp. 229–. ISBN 978-1-78404-373-5. 
  13. ^ George Orwell (1980) p. 921.

Further reading[edit]