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Newspeak

Newspeak is a fictional language in the novel Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell. He 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. It 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.

Newspeak aims 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 include "thoughtcrime" and "double-plus ungood", as well as "Newspeak" itself.

Real-life examples of Newspeak

This kind of reduction can be seen in such things as political rhetoric, where each side strings together phrases so empty of meaning that they have been compared to the taunts young children toss back and forth. Each side's arguments ultimately reduce to "I'm good; he's bad".

Charges of Newspeak are sometimes advanced when a group tries to replace a word that is politically incorrect (e.g., "negro" or "black") or offensive (e.g., "nigger") with a politically correct or inoffensive one ("e.g., African-American"). Some maintain that to make certain words or phrases 'unspeakable' is tantamount to restricting what ideas may be held (thoughtcrime). 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believe that expunging terms that have fallen out of favour or become insulting will make people less likely to hold outdated or offensive views. In either case, a resemblance between political correctness and Newspeak is evident. A critical way in which they may differ is in the intentions of their institution. In Nineteen Eighty-Four, Newspeak is instituted to enhance the power of the state over the individual, whereas politically correct language is often advanced with the apparent goal of freeing individuals from limitations imposed by preconceptions due to the use of certain terms.

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