1984 By George Orwell Critical Essays The Purpose of Newspeak

Orwell was sure that the decline of a language had political and economic causes. Although he had no solid proof, he presumed that the languages of countries under dictatorships, such as the Soviet Union or Germany, had deteriorated under their respective regimes. "When the general atmosphere is bad, language must suffer," Orwell writes in his essay, "Politics and the English Language." "If thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought," he continues. Here is the very concept behind the invention of Newspeak.

To illustrate this idea that language can corrupt thought and that totalitarian systems use language to restrict, rather than broaden, ideas, Orwell created Newspeak, the official language of Oceania. Without a word for freedom, for example, the concept of freedom cannot exist.

In his Appendix, Orwell explains the syntactical arrangement and the etymology of the Newspeak. A living language, such as English, one that has the capability of diverse expression, has the tendency to gain words and therefore broaden the awareness and knowledge of its speakers. Newspeak, on the other hand, loses words, by removing words that represent opposing concepts. Therefore, for example, because the word "good" presumes the opposite of "bad," the word "bad" is unnecessary. Similarly, all degrees of "goodness" can be expressed simply by adding standard prefixes and suffixes to this one root word: ungood (bad) and plusgood (very good) and doubleplusgood (wonderful). In so doing, Newspeak not only eliminates "unnecessary" words, but it also promotes a narrowing of thought and, therefore, awareness. The idea behind Newspeak is that, as language must become less expressive, the mind is more easily controlled. Through his creation and explanation of Newspeak, Orwell warns the reader that a government that creates the language and mandates how it is used can control the minds of its citizens.

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