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Newspeak is a fictional language in George Orwell's famous novel Nineteen Eighty-Four. Orwell included an essay about it in the form of an Appendix after the end of the novel, in which the basic principles of the language are explained. Newspeak is closely based on English but has a greatly reduced and simplified vocabulary and grammar; this suited the totalitarian regime of The Party, whose aim was to make subversive thought ("thoughtcrime") and speech impossible.

Table of contents
1 Basic Principles of Newspeak
2 Real-Life Examples of Newspeak
3 See Also
4 Further Reading

Basic Principles of Newspeak

The basic idea behind Newspeak was to remove all shades of meaning from language, leaving simple dichotomies (pleasure and pain, happiness and sadness, good thoughts and thoughtcrimes). A staccato rhythm of short syllables was also a goal, further reducing the need for deep thinking about language. (See: duckspeak)

In addition, words with opposite meanings were removed as redundant, so "bad" became "ungood" and "great" became "doubleplusgood"; and as many words as possible were removed. The ultimate aim of Newspeak was to reduce even the dichotomies to a single word that was a "yes" of some sort: an obedient word with which everyone answered affirmatively to what was asked of them.

The underlying theory of Newspeak is that if something can't be said, then it can't be thought, either. One question raised by this is whether we are defined by our language, or whether we actively define it; can we communicate the need for freedom, can we organize an uprising, if we don't have the words for either?

Examples of Newspeak, from the novel, include: "crimethink"; "doubleplusungood"; and "Ingsoc". They mean, in turn: "thought-crime"; "extremely bad"; and "English Socialism", the political philosophy of The Party. The word "Newspeak" itself also comes from the language.

Real-Life Examples of Newspeak

A comparison to Newspeak can be seen in political rhetoric, where two opposing sides string together phrases so empty of meaning that they may be compared to the taunts young children toss back and forth. The arguments of either side ultimately reduce to "I'm good; he's bad."

Charges of Newspeak are sometimes advanced when a group tries to replace a word/phrase that is politically incorrect (e.g. "civilian casualties") or offensive (e.g. "murder") with a politically correct or inoffensive one (e.g. "collateral damage"). Some maintain that to make certain words or phrases 'unspeakable' (thoughtcrime), restricts what ideas may be held (Newspeak). Others believe that expunging terms that have fallen out of favour or become insulting will make people less likely to hold outdated or offensive views. The differences between these two points of view is primarily a matter of perspective.

Either way, there is a resemblance between political correctness and Newspeak, although some may feel that they differ in their intentions: in Nineteen Eighty-Four, Newspeak is instituted to enhance the power of the state over the individual; politically correct language, on the other hand, is said to "free individuals from preconceptions due to the use of certain terms". It is this attempt to change thought through changing (or eliminating) words that earns political correctness the connection to Newspeak.

See Also

Further Reading