Newspeak

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The logotype for Ingsoc from the film Nineteen Eighty-Four (1984), directed by Michael Radford.

Newspeak is the language of Oceania, a fictional totalitarian state and the setting of the novel Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949), by George Orwell. To meet the ideological requirements of English Socialism (Ingsoc) in Oceania, the ruling Party created Newspeak, [1] a controlled language of restricted grammar and limited vocabulary, meant to limit the freedom of thought — personal identity, self-expression, free will — that threatens the ideology of the régime of Big Brother and the Party, who have criminalized such concepts into thoughtcrime, as contradictions of Ingsoc orthodoxy.[2][3][4]

In "The Principles of Newspeak", the appendix to the novel, George 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 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 criticizes 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]

The political purpose of Newspeak is to eliminate the expression of the shades of meaning inherent to ambiguity and nuance from Oldspeak (Standard English) in order to reduce the language's function of communication, by way of simplistic concepts of simple construction — pleasure and pain, happiness and sadness, goodthink and crimethink — which linguistically reinforce the State's totalitarian dominance of the people of Oceania. In Newspeak, root words function as nouns and verbs, which reduced the vocabulary available for the speaker to communicate meaning; for example, think is both a noun and a verb, thus, the word thought is not functionally required to communicate the concepts of thought in Newspeak; hence, the English word thought is not in the Newspeak vocabulary.

As personal communication, Newspeak is to be spoken in staccato rhythm, using short-syllable words that are easy to pronounce, which generates speech that is physically automatic and intellectually unconscious, thereby diminishing the possibility of critical thought occurring to the speaker.[8] English words of comparative and superlative meanings and irregular spellings were simplified into the regular spellings of Newspeak; thus, better becomes gooder and best becomes goodest. The prefixes plus- and doubleplus- are used for emphasis, plusgood meaning "very good" and doubleplusgood meaning "superlatively good". Adjectives are formed by adding the suffix –ful to a root-word, e.g. goodthinkful means "Orthodox in thought."; while adverbs are formed by adding the suffix –wise, e.g. goodthinkwise means "In an orthodox manner".

Grammar[edit]

The grammar of Newspeak has two characteristics: (i) Interchangeable linguistic functions of the parts of speech; at any time, any word can be used and made to function as a noun, as a verb, as an adverb, as an adjective, etc.; (ii) Inflectional regularity in the construction of usages and of words; the preterite and the past participle constructions of verbs are alike, each ends in –ed; hence, the Newspeak preterite of the English word steal is stealed, and that of the word think is thinked.[9]

Prefixes[edit]

Newspeak has no antonyms, therefore the prefix "Un–" is used to indicate negation; the Standard-English word warm becomes uncold, and the moral concept communicated with the word bad is expressed as ungood. When appended to a verb, the prefix "un–" communicates a negative imperative mood, thus, the Newspeak word unproceed means "do not proceed" in Standard English.

  • "Plus–" is an intensifier that replaces more and the suffix –er; thus, plusgood replaced the English words great and better.
  • "Doubleplus–" is an intensifier that replaces plus– to communicate greater intensity; to that purpose, the Newspeak word doubleplusgood replaced the English words excellent and best.
  • "Ante–" is the prefix that replaces before; antefiling replaces the English phrase "before filing."
  • "Post–" is the prefix that replaces after.

Suffixes[edit]

In spoken and written Newspeak, the suffix:

  • "–ful" transforms any word into an adjective, e.g., "speedful" instead of the English fast, quick or rapid.
  • "–ed" forms the past tense of a verb by eliminating irregular conjugations, e.g., ran becomes runned and drank becomes drinked.
  • " –wise" transforms any word into an adverb, e.g., quickly becomes speedwise; therefore, "He ran very quickly" would become "He runned plus-speedwise."

Vocabulary[edit]

As a controlled language, Newspeak limits the user's communications (thought, spoken, and written) with a vocabulary that diminishes the intellectual range allowed by Oldspeak (Standard English), which is realised by using words that function both as nouns and as verbs; thus, the word crimethink denotes two things: (i) A thoughtcrime (noun), and (ii) 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).

Newspeak words of irregular form, such as Minitrue (Ministry of Truth), Minipax (Ministry of Peace), Miniplenty (Ministry of Plenty), and Miniluv (Ministry of Love) usually identify government ministries. The superlative meanings of words are formed with the positive prefix "plus–" (plusgood) and with the negative prefix "un–" (ungood). To communicate a greater degree of negativity and of positivity, the Newspeak user affixes the prefix-word double– to the prefixes "plus–" and "un–" to the root word good (doubleplusungood), as in the phrases: "Big Brother is doubleplusgood" and "Emmanuel Goldstein is doubleplusungood".

  • ante — the prefix that replaces before; e.g. antefiling meaning before filing
  • artsem — artificial insemination
  • bb — Big Brother
  • bellyfeel — the blind, enthusiastic acceptance of an idea
  • blackwhite — the ability to believe that black is white, to know that black is white, and to forget that one ever believed the contrary
  • crimestop — to rid oneself of unorthodox thoughts that interfere with believing the tenets of Ingsoc, the ideology of the Party
  • crimethink — the criminal act of holding politically unorthodox thoughts that contradict the tenets of Ingsoc (English Socialism)
  • dayorder — Order of the day
  • doubleplusgood — the word that replaced the Oldspeak words excellent, best, and benevolent
  • doubleplusungood — the word that replaced the Oldspeak words terrible and worst
  • doublethink — the act of simultaneously believing two, mutually contradictory ideas
  • duckspeak — automatic, vocal support of political orthodoxies
  • equal — physical equality
  • facecrime — a person's facial expression, which communicates that he or she has committed thoughtcrime
  • free — the absence and the lack of something
  • –ful — the suffix for forming an adjective
  • good — a synonym for "orthodox" and orthodoxy
  • goodthink — politically orthodoxy as defined by the Party
  • goodsex — sexual intercourse only for procreation
  • ingsoc — English Socialism
  • joycamp — a forced labour camp
  • malquoted — inaccurate representations of the words of Big Brother and of the Party
  • Miniluv — the Ministry of Love where the secret police, interrogate and torture the enemies of Oceania
  • Minipax — the Ministry of Peace wages defensive war for Oceania
  • Minitrue — Ministry of Truth manufactures consent by way of propaganda and altered historical records, and provides culture and entertainment
  • Miniplenty — the Ministry of Plenty keeps the population in continual economic hardship
  • misprints — Factual errors requiring editorial correction to prove the Party always correct and in the right
  • Oldspeak – Standard English
  • oldthink — ideas from the time before the Party's revolution
  • ownlife — a person's anti-social tendency to enjoy solitude and individualism
  • plusgood — the word that replaced the Oldspeak words better and great
  • pornosec — the pornography production section of the Fiction Department of the Ministry of Truth
  • prolefeedPopular culture for the entertainment of the proletariat of Oceania
  • Recdep — the Records Department of the Ministry of Truth where Winston Smith edits the historical records so they conform to the Party policy
  • rectify — the Ministry of Truth euphemism for the alteration of the historical record
  • ref — to refer (to someone or something)
  • sec — sector
  • sexcrime — sexual intercourse for pleasure
  • speakwrite — a machine that transcribes speech into text
  • telescreen — the two-way television set with which the Party spy upon the population of Oceania
  • thinkpol — the abbreviation for the Thought Police
  • unperson — a dead person, usually executed, whose existence is excised from public and private memory in Oceania
  • upsub — an upwards submission to higher authority; ordered to rewrite fullwise, and upsub antefiling, Winston Smith edits a document so it conforms to the Party policy
  • –wise — the suffix for forming an adverb

A, B, and C vocabularies[edit]

The words of the A vocabulary describe the functional concepts of daily life (eating and drinking, working and cooking, etc.), mostly of Oldspeak words. The words of the B vocabulary are constructed to convey complex ideas; compound words (noun-verb) of political implication mean to impose upon and instill to the user the politically correct mental attitude required by the Party, e.g. the Newspeak word goodthink denotes "political orthodoxy", and is inflected according to the grammar of Standard English. The words of the C vocabulary are technical terms that supplement the linguistic functions of the A and B vocabularies. Distribution of the C vocabulary is limited, because the Party do not want the citizens of Oceania to know more than one way of life and techniques of production; hence, the Oldspeak word science has no equivalent term in Newspeak, instead, there are specific technical words for speaking of technical fields.[10]

Thought control[edit]

The intellectual purpose of Newspeak is two-fold: (i) the expression of the Ingsoc worldview, and (ii) to make impossible all unorthodox political thought. As constructed, the Newspeak vocabulary communicates the exact expression of sense and meaning that a member of the Party could wish to express, whilst excluding secondary denotations and connotations, which eliminates the ways of indirect thinking that allow a word to have second and third meanings. The linguistic simplification of Oldspeak into Newspeak was realised with neologisms, the elimination of ideologically undesirable words, and the elimination of the politically unorthodox meanings of words.[11]

The Oldspeak word free existed in Newspeak, but only to communicate absence and the lack of something, e.g. "The dog is free from lice." and "This field is free of weeds." Politically, the word free could not denote free will, because such a humanist concept is nonexistent in the society of Oceania.[12] The limitations of Newspeak vocabulary enabled the Party's thought control of the population, by allowing the user a narrow range of spoken and written thought; hence, words such as: crimethink (thought crime), doublethink (accepting contradictory beliefs), and Ingsoc (English Socialism) communicated only their surface meanings.[11]

In the story of Nineteen Eighty-Four, the lexicologist character Syme discusses his editorial 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]

See also[edit]

Totalitarian 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) p. 917.
  9. ^ George Orwell (1980) pp. 918–919.
  10. ^ Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949), in George Orwell (1980), pp. 918–922.
  11. ^ a b "The Principles of Newspeak". newspeakdictionary.com. Archived from the original on 17 February 2013. Retrieved 20 March 2013.
  12. ^ George Orwell (1980) p. 917.
  13. ^ "The Emergence of Orwellian Newspeak and the Death of Free Speech". 30 June 2015.

Further reading[edit]