Newspeak

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

Newspeak is the fictional language of Oceania, a totalitarian superstate that is the setting of George Orwell's dystopian 1949 novel Nineteen Eighty-Four. To meet the ideological requirements of English Socialism (Ingsoc) in Oceania, the ruling Party created Newspeak,[1] a controlled language of simplified grammar and restricted 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 criminalised such concepts into thoughtcrime as contradictions of Ingsoc orthodoxy.[2][3][4]

In "The Principles of Newspeak", the appendix to the novel, Orwell explains that Newspeak follows most of the rules of English grammar, yet is a language characterised by a continually diminishing vocabulary; complete thoughts reduced to simple terms of simplistic meaning.[5] Linguistically, the political contractions of Newspeak—Ingsoc (English Socialism), Minitrue (Ministry of Truth), etc.—derive from those of German and Russian, which identify the government and social institutions of Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union, such as Nazi itself (Nationalsozialismus), Gestapo (Geheime Staatspolizei), politburo (Political Bureau 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 those 66 years, "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 showed interest in while working at the BBC during the Second World War (1939–1945), but soon came to see the disadvantages of. In the essay "Politics and the English Language" (1946) he criticises standard English, with its dying metaphors, pretentious diction, and high-flown rhetoric, which he would later satirise in 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—the last one of these which linguistically reinforces the State's totalitarian dominance of the people of Oceania. In Newspeak, English root words function as both nouns and verbs, which reduce 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 and therefore is not in the Newspeak vocabulary.

As personal communication, Newspeak is to be spoken in staccato rhythm, using words "with the stress equally distributed between the first syllable and the last" and that are easy to pronounce, as the Party intended to make speech on any matter not ideologically neutral physically automatic and intellectually unconscious, thereby attempting to diminish the possibility of critical thought occurring to the speaker.[8] English words of comparative and superlative meanings and irregular spellings were simplified into regular spellings; thus, better becomes gooder and best becomes goodest. The prefixes plus- and doubleplus- are used for emphasis (for example, 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 is greatly simplifed compared to English. It also has two "outstanding" characteristics: Almost completely interchangeable linguistic functions between the parts of speech, and heavy inflectional regularity in the construction of usages and of words. This means that any word could function as a verb, noun, adjective, or adverb, and most irregular words were replaced with prefixes and suffixes. For example the preterite and the past participle constructions of verbs are alike, with both ending in –ed. Hence, the Newspeak preterite of the English word steal is stealed, and that of the word think is thinked. Likewise, the past participles of swim, give, bring, speak, and take were, respectively swimmed, gived, bringed, speaked, and taked, with all irregular forms (such as swam, gave, and brought) being eliminated.[9] The auxiliaries (including to be), pronouns, demonstratives, and relatives still inflect irregularly. They mostly follow their use in English, but the word whom and the shall and should tenses were dropped, whom being replaced by who and shall and should by will and would.

Prefixes[edit]

  • "Un–" is used to indicate negation, as Newspeak has no non-political antonyms. For example, the English words warm and hot are replaced by uncold, dark is replaced by unlight, 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 very and more; thus, plusgood replaced very good and English words such as great.
  • "Doubleplus–" is an intensifier that replaces extremely and superlatives; to that purpose, the Newspeak word doubleplusgood replaced words such as fantastic and excellent.
  • "Ante–" is the prefix that replaces before; thus antefilling replaces the English phrase "before filling."
  • "Post–" is the prefix that replaces after.

Suffixes[edit]

In spoken and written Newspeak, suffixes are also used in the elimination of irregular conjugations:

  • "–ful" transforms any word into an adjective, e.g. the English words fast, quick, and rapid are replaced by speedful and slow is replaced by unspeedful.
  • "–ed" forms the past tense of a verb, e.g. ran becomes runned and drank becomes drinked.
  • "–er" forms the more comparison of an adjective, e.g. better becomes gooder.
  • "–est" forms the most comparison of an adjective, e.g. best becomes goodest.
  • "–s" and "–es" transform a noun into its plural form, e.g. men becomes mans and lives becomes lifes.
  • "–wise" transforms any word into an adverb, replacing all English adverbs not ending in "–wise", e.g. quickly becomes speedwise and slowly becomes unspeedwise.

Therefore, the Oldspeak sentence "He ran extremely quickly" would become "He runned doubleplusspeedwise".

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 making root words function as both nouns and 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).

Note: The novel says that the Ministry of Truth uses a jargon "not actually Newspeak, but consisting largely of Newspeak words" for its internal memos. As many of the words in this list (e.g. "bb", "upsub") come from such memos, it is not certain whether those words are actually Newspeak.

  • ante — The prefix that replaces before
  • artsem — Artificial insemination
  • bb — Big Brother
  • bellyfeel — The blind, enthusiastic acceptance of an idea
  • blackwhite — The ability to believe whatever one is told, regardless of the facts. Orwell described it as "the ability to believe that black is white, and more, to know black is white, and forget that one has ever believed the contrary."
  • crimestop — To rid oneself of unorthodox thoughts that go against Ingsoc's ideology
  • crimethink — The criminal act of holding thoughts that go against Ingsoc's agenda, frequently referred to by the standard English “thoughtcrime”
  • dayorder — Order of the day
  • dep — Department
  • doubleplusgood — The word that replaced Oldspeak words meaning "superlatively good", such as excellent, fabulous, and fantastic
  • doubleplusungood — The word that replaced Oldspeak words meaning "superlatively bad", such as terrible and horrible
  • doublethink — The act of simultaneously believing two, mutually contradictory ideas
  • duckspeak — Automatic, vocal support of political orthodoxies
  • facecrime — A facial expression which reveals that one has committed thoughtcrime
  • Ficdep — The Ministry of Truth's Fiction Department
  • free — The absence and the lack of something. "Intellectually free" and "politically free" have been replaced by crimethinkful.
  • –ful — The suffix for forming an adjective
  • fullwise — The word that replaces words such as fully, completely, and totally
  • good — A synonym for "orthodox" and orthodoxy
  • goodthink — Political orthodoxy as defined by the Party
  • goodsex — Sexual intercourse only for procreation, without any physical pleasure on the part of the woman, and strictly within marriage
  • goodwise — The word that replaced well as an adverb
  • Ingsoc — English Socialism
  • joycamp — 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, who wage defensive war for Oceania
  • Minitrue — The Ministry of Truth, who manufacture consent by way of propaganda and distorted historical records, while supplying the proles (proletariat) with culture and entertainment
  • Miniplenty — The Ministry of Plenty, who keep the population in continual economic hardship (starvation and rationing)
  • 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 Oldspeak words meaning "very good", such as great
  • plusungood — The word that replaced "very bad"
  • Pornosec — The pornography production section (Porno sector) of the Ministry of Truth's Fiction Department
  • prolefeedPopular culture for entertaining Oceania's working class
  • Recdep — The Ministry of Truth's Records Department, where Winston Smith rewrites historical records so they conform to the Party's agenda
  • rectify — The Ministry of Truth's euphemism for manipulating a historical record
  • ref — To refer (to someone or something)
  • sec — Sector
  • sexcrime — A sexual immorality, such as fornication, adultery, oral sex, and homosexuality
  • speakwrite — A machine that transcribes speech into text
  • Teledep — The Ministry of Truth's Telecommunications Department
  • telescreen — A two-way television set with which the Party spy upon Oceania's population
  • thinkpol — The Thought Police
  • unperson — An executed person whose existence is erased from public and private memory (Damnatio memoriae)
  • upsub — An upwards submission to higher authority
  • –wise — The only suffix for forming an adverb

A, B, and C vocabularies[edit]

The words of the A vocabulary describe the functional concepts of daily life (e.g. eating and drinking, working and cooking), 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, and the entire English vocabulary used to describe science as a function of thought or habit of mind was also eliminated. Instead, there are simply specific technical words for speaking of technical fields.[10]

Thought control[edit]

The intellectual purpose of Newspeak is to express Ingsoc's worldview, and to attempt to make impossible all unorthodox (i.e. anti-Ingsoc) 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, eliminating 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 word free still existed in Newspeak, but only to communicate a lack of something, e.g. "The dog is free from lice" or "This field is free of weeds". The word could not denote free will, because intellectual freedom was no longer supposed to exist in Oceania.[12] The limitations of Newspeak's vocabulary enabled the Party to effectively control the population's minds, by allowing the user only a very 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". Retrieved 26 January 2017.
  4. ^ "Moellerlit Newspeak dictionary" (PDF). Retrieved 16 January 2017.
  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]