Banning the use of certain words or requiring the use of new ones. Also legislating to revise the meanings of old words. An imperial tradition in ancient China and Egypt, conjured as a bogey in NineteenEightyFour
. For example the old soviet newspaper "Pravda", which represented only the views of the state's leaders, translates as "The Truth".
translates as "the news", which leads to the old saw, "There is no news in Pravda
and no truth in Izvestja
", or something like that.
The etymology of pravda
suggests that it means orthodoxy rather than truth. The word for government, for instance is
and the verb pravit
means to drive, as in driving a car.
In NineteenEightyFour GeorgeOrwell
invented a language for the use of Party members in his imagined totalitarian state: Newspeak. The central principle of Newspeak is that it makes it impossible to contemplate rebellion against the state. In Newspeak peace is
war , love is
hate, freedom is
slavery. Orwell may or may not have had the principle of LinguisticDeterminism
in mind when he wrote this.
was designed to remove all ambiguity and shades of meaning from language, in order to make it a terse mechanism purely for the conveyance of information, without any capacity to form truly complex thought. Poetry would be impossible in NewSpeak
, as would fiery rhetoric, since one "DoublePlusUnGood
" thing is really not so much worse than any other "doubleplusungood", and Triple
plusungood is, well, just triple, and kind of awkward and silly. By standardizing the language, it becomes easier to teach, thus ensuring proles have the useful skills of basic literacy, without having to actually teach anything like literature.
Nevertheless, among the "elite", ambiguity still creeps in. Witness the word "DuckSpeak?
" -- which is itself a highly metaphorical
term and not simply denotative and thus a good candidate for elimination from a proper NewSpeak
lexicon -- and the way it became pejorative in one context and complimentary in another.
Terms like "DuckSpeak?" were intentionally put
into NewSpeak. The ambiguity is by design. The complementary meaning is used when speaking about the Party, and the pejorative one when speaking about the Party's opposition. You literally could not insult an orthodox Party member by calling them a duckspeaker.
In fact, Orwell spent time while in Paris living with Eugene Lanti, president of the Sennacieca Asocio Tutmonda, an Esperanto Socialist Anti-Nationalist organisation. The similarities between Esperanto and Newspeak (e.g.
doubleplusungood -- cf. Esperanto
malbonega -- are hardly coincidental.
This is bad press for Esperanto, considering the culture of EsperantoLanguage
is almost opposite that of Newspeak. One could say that Newspeak co-opted features of Esperanto for marketing purposes. "Our next dictionary will be an inch thick."
It may be bad press, but it emphasises that even the best of ideas may be corrupted, which is also a theme in NineteenEightyFour, and even more so in AnimalFarm.
It should be mentioned that BasicEnglish
had not only
proponents but opponents among famous
English-speakers. It was long assumed that George
Orwell based the mind-controlling language Newspeak in
his novel 1984 on Esperanto -- Orwell, it happens, was
closely acquainted with Esperanto and had what he
considered good reasons -- personal, not linguistic --
to dislike the language (15); but a radio report in
the early 1980's indicated that recently discovered
papers proved that Newspeak had, in fact, been a
satire on Basic English, which Orwell considered far
more of a crime against the English language than
(15) Apparently, Orwell, during his down-and-out phase
in Paris, had to accept a room in the lodgings of a
cousin. The fact that she and her live-in lover spoke
only Esperanto together at home -- a language he could
not understand -- left him less than enthusiastic.
This was taken from
Also a language (or at least a design for one). See "Newspeak: an unexceptional language", I.F. Currie, Software Engineering Journal, July 1986. (2 years too late)
From the abstract:
is a language designed for use in safety-critical programs. It tries to limit the freedom of the programmer to the kind of ideas in programming that are reasonably easy to formalise, without making these restrictions unduly onerous. Its principle characteristic is that it has no exceptional values or states. Incorrect constructions which would lead to exceptional behaviour, such as range violations or numerical overflow, are all dealt with at compile time."
See also WikiNameInRealLifeSyndrome
, for some comments on the "word" "DoublePlusUnGood