Newspeak is a fictional language devised by author George Orwell for his 1949 dystopian novel Nineteen Eighty-Four, also known simply as 1984. The language is basically a form of Standard English that has been reduced, modified and stripped to the point that it is nothing but a form of superficial communication, and cannot be used to express ideas that do not fit into a certain, rigid worldview or that are even slightly complex, nor can it carry emotion or nuance or be used create art such as poetry or songs.
In 1984, Newspeak is devised by the totalitarian governing Party of the dystopian superstate Oceania. The Party seeks to replace English (known as "Oldspeak" in Newspeak) with Newspeak as the sole spoken language in the vast lands of Oceania. The Party's ultimate goal is to completely eliminate from the minds of all citizens all unorthodox thought, or "thoughtcrime"; that is, any thoughts or ideas that deviate from or question the inaccurate, constantly-changing worldview that the Party imposes on those citizens, or that are in any way hostile to the Party or question its authority. To this end, the Party designs Newspeak so that it cannot be used to express unorthodox thought by eliminating all words or meanings which may be used to express such thought. The nature of Newspeak also incorporates two of the Party's secondary goals: To make general communication more difficult, and to prevent the use of language from distracting from citizens' political duties. To serve this purpose, Newspeak is drastically simplified in its vocabulary and grammar, so that complicated ideas cannot be clearly expressed and no one can gain aesthetic pleasure from arranging words into poems, stories, or other forms of art.
Even though Newspeak does not prevent politically unorthodox statements, like "The Party is ungood", from being formed, it is impossible to elaborate on the idea or prove this point with evidence as all words relating to politcal freedom or human rights have been removed, and any person who has spoken Newspeak all their life will find this statement absurd, as the language has conditioned them never to accept a negative statement about the Party.
Grammatical Changes Edit
Many grammatical difference between Newspeak and Oldspeak are shown in the novel; here are some examples.
- All except the most basic adjectives (i.e. good, small, happy) are eliminated. More advanced adjectives are either completely omitted or expressed as whatever surviving adjective that best fits their definitions: "brief" becomes "short", "chilly" becomes "cold", etc. To intensify the meaning, the prefixes "plus-" and "doubleplus-" can be added. For example, "alright" becomes "good", "great" turns into "plusgood", and "wonderful" becomes "doubleplusgood".
- Of pairs of adjectives that form opposites (i.e. good and bad, hot and cold, big and small) one is eliminated and expressed as a negative form of the other, denoted with the prefix "un-": "bad" becomes "ungood", "hot" becomes "uncold", etc. The "plus-" and "doubleplus-" prefixes can also be used: "substandard" equals "ungood", "awful" becomes "plusungood", and "horrible" becomes "doubleplusungood".
- With only two noticeable exceptions ("to be" or "to have"), the past tense of all verbs is formed by the suffix "-ed". Regular verbs, such as "walked" and "opened", stay the same, but irregular verbs, such as "slept" and "ate", become "sleeped" and "eated".
- Extensive use of other prefixes is made. For example, the prefixes "ante-" and "post-" are placed in front of words to mean "before" and "after", respectively, as in "antegoing" (before going) and "posteating" (after eating).
Vocabulary Changes Edit
The vocabulary of Newspeak is also changed to meet the Party's demands in several ways.
- Specialized, abbreviated words are coined to suit the specific needs of the Party. For example, "oldthinker" is the term for a person who has not changed his old-fashioned mental outlook to agree with that of the Party, and "Ingsoc" is the word for "English Socialism", the political philosophy of the Party.
- As with adjectives, only the simplest nouns (i.e. metal, man, boat) are kept, while all others are omitted entirely or expressed by the surviving noun that best suits them. For example, "mansion", "hut", and "cottage" are all expressed by the term "house", perhaps specified by the appropriate adjective.
- Whenever possible, words are omitted and their definitions absorbed into other words. For example, the word "tie", in the sense of "to tie a rope", may be absorbed by "knot", making the different but still comprehensible phrase "to knot a rope".
In the book, it is expected that Newspeak will become the sole spoken language in Oceania by the year 2050. If this were to happen, the final link to the past would be lost and the Party's power would essentially be permanently solidified.