The Principles of Newspeak
Newspeak was the official language of Oceania and had been devised to meet
the ideological needs of Ingsoc, or English Socialism. In the year 1984
there was not as yet anyone who used Newspeak as his sole means of
communication, either in speech or writing. The leading articles in
'The Times' were written in it, but this was a TOUR DE FORCE which could
only be carried out by a specialist. It was expected that Newspeak would
have finally superseded Oldspeak (or Standard English, as we should
call it) by about the year 2050. Meanwhile it gained ground steadily, all
Party members tending to use Newspeak words and grammatical constructions
more and more in their everyday speech. The version in use in 1984, and
embodied in the Ninth and Tenth Editions of the Newspeak Dictionary, was
a provisional one, and contained many superfluous words and archaic
formations which were due to be suppressed later. It is with the final,
perfected version, as embodied in the Eleventh Edition of the Dictionary,
that we are concerned here.
The purpose of Newspeak was not only to provide a medium of expression
for the world-view and mental habits proper to the devotees of Ingsoc,
but to make all other modes of thought impossible. It was intended that
when Newspeak had been adopted once and for all and Oldspeak forgotten,
a heretical thought--that is, a thought diverging from the principles of
Ingsoc--should be literally unthinkable, at least so far as thought is
dependent on words. Its vocabulary was so constructed as to give exact and
often very subtle expression to every meaning that a Party member could
properly wish to express, while excluding all other meanings and also the
possibility of arriving at them by indirect methods. This was done partly
by the invention of new words, but chiefly by eliminating undesirable
words and by stripping such words as remained of unorthodox meanings, and
so far as possible of all secondary meanings whatever. To give a single
example. The word FREE still existed in Newspeak, but it could only be
used in such statements as 'This dog is free from lice' or 'This field is
free from weeds'. It could not be used in its old sense of 'politically
free' or 'intellectually free' since political and intellectual freedom no
longer existed even as concepts, and were therefore of necessity nameless.
Quite apart from the suppression of definitely heretical words, reduction
of vocabulary was regarded as an end in itself, and no word that could be
dispensed with was allowed to survive. Newspeak was designed not to extend
but to DIMINISH the range of thought, and this purpose was indirectly
assisted by cutting the choice of words down to a minimum.
Newspeak was founded on the English language as we now know it, though
many Newspeak sentences, even when not containing newly-created words,
would be barely intelligible to an English-speaker of our own day. Newspeak
words were divided into three distinct classes, known as the A vocabulary,
the B vocabulary (also called compound words), and the C vocabulary.
It will be simpler to discuss each class separately, but the grammatical
peculiarities of the language can be dealt with in the section devoted to
the A vocabulary, since the same rules held good for all three categories.
THE A VOCABULARY. The A vocabulary consisted of the words needed for the
business of everyday life--for such things as eating, drinking, working,
putting on one's clothes, going up and down stairs, riding in vehicles,
gardening, cooking, and the like. It was composed almost entirely of words
that we already possess words like HIT, RUN, DOG, TREE, SUGAR, HOUSE,
FIELD--but in comparison with the present-day English vocabulary their
number was extremely small, while their meanings were far more rigidly
defined. All ambiguities and shades of meaning had been purged out of
them. So far as it could be achieved, a Newspeak word of this class was
simply a staccato sound expressing ONE clearly understood concept. It
would have been quite impossible to use the A vocabulary for literary
purposes or for political or philosophical discussion. It was intended
only to express simple, purposive thoughts, usually involving concrete
objects or physical actions.
The grammar of Newspeak had two outstanding peculiarities. The first of
these was an almost complete interchangeability between different parts of
speech. Any word in the language (in principle this applied even to very
abstract words such as IF or WHEN) could be used either as verb, noun,
adjective, or adverb. Between the verb and the noun form, when they were
of the same root, there was never any variation, this rule of itself
involving the destruction of many archaic forms. The word THOUGHT, for
example, did not exist in Newspeak. Its place was taken by THINK, which
did duty for both noun and verb. No etymological principle was followed
here: in some cases it was the original noun that was chosen for retention,
in other cases the verb. Even where a noun and verb of kindred meaning
were not etymologically connected, one or other of them was frequently
suppressed. There was, for example, no such word as CUT, its meaning being
sufficiently covered by the noun-verb KNIFE. Adjectives were formed by
adding the suffix -FUL to the noun-verb, and adverbs by adding -WISE. Thus
for example, SPEEDFUL meant 'rapid' and SPEEDWISE meant 'quickly'. Certain
of our present-day adjectives, such as GOOD, STRONG, BIG, BLACK, SOFT,
were retained, but their total number was very small. There was little
need for them, since almost any adjectival meaning could be arrived at by
adding -FUL to a noun-verb. None of the now-existing adverbs was retained,
except for a very few already ending in -WISE: the -WISE termination was
invariable. The word WELL, for example, was replaced by GOODWISE.
In addition, any word--this again applied in principle to every word in
the language--could be negatived by adding the affix UN-, or could be
strengthened by the affix PLUS-, or, for still greater emphasis,
DOUBLEPLUS-. Thus, for example, UNCOLD meant 'warm', while PLUSCOLD and
DOUBLEPLUSCOLD meant, respectively, 'very cold' and 'superlatively cold'.
It was also possible, as in present-day English, to modify the meaning of
almost any word by prepositional affixes such as ANTE-, POST-, UP-, DOWN-,
etc. By such methods it was found possible to bring about an enormous
diminution of vocabulary. Given, for instance, the word GOOD, there was no
need for such a word as BAD, since the required meaning was equally
well--indeed, better--expressed by UNGOOD. All that was necessary, in any
case where two words formed a natural pair of opposites, was to decide
which of them to suppress. DARK, for example, could be replaced by UNLIGHT,
or LIGHT by UNDARK, according to preference.
The second distinguishing mark of Newspeak grammar was its regularity.
Subject to a few exceptions which are mentioned below all inflexions
followed the same rules. Thus, in all verbs the preterite and the past
participle were the same and ended in -ED. The preterite of STEAL was
STEALED, the preterite of THINK was THINKED, and so on throughout the
language, all such forms as SWAM, GAVE, BROUGHT, SPOKE, TAKEN, etc., being
abolished. All plurals were made by adding -S or -ES as the case might be.
The plurals OF MAN, OX, LIFE, were MANS, OXES, LIFES. Comparison of
adjectives was invariably made by adding -ER, -EST (GOOD, GOODER, GOODEST),
irregular forms and the MORE, MOST formation being suppressed.
The only classes of words that were still allowed to inflect irregularly
were the pronouns, the relatives, the demonstrative adjectives, and the
auxiliary verbs. All of these followed their ancient usage, except that
WHOM had been scrapped as unnecessary, and the SHALL, SHOULD tenses had
been dropped, all their uses being covered by WILL and WOULD. There were
also certain irregularities in word-formation arising out of the need for
rapid and easy speech. A word which was difficult to utter, or was liable
to be incorrectly heard, was held to be ipso facto a bad word; occasionally
therefore, for the sake of euphony, extra letters were inserted into a word
or an archaic formation was retained. But this need made itself felt
chiefly in connexion with the B vocabulary. WHY so great an importance was
attached to ease of pronunciation will be made clear later in this essay.
THE B VOCABULARY. The B vocabulary consisted of words which had been
deliberately constructed for political purposes: words, that is to say,
which not only had in every case a political implication, but were intended
to impose a desirable mental attitude upon the person using them. Without
a full understanding of the principles of Ingsoc it was difficult to use
these words correctly. In some cases they could be translated into
Oldspeak, or even into words taken from the A vocabulary, but this usually
demanded a long paraphrase and always involved the loss of certain
overtones. The B words were a sort of verbal shorthand, often packing
whole ranges of ideas into a few syllables, and at the same time more
accurate and forcible than ordinary language.
The B words were in all cases compound words. [Compound words such as
SPEAKWRITE, were of course to be found in the A vocabulary, but these were
merely convenient abbreviations and had no special ideological colour.]
They consisted of two or more words, or portions of words, welded together
in an easily pronounceable form. The resulting amalgam was always a
noun-verb, and inflected according to the ordinary rules. To take a single
example: the word GOODTHINK, meaning, very roughly, 'orthodoxy', or, if
one chose to regard it as a verb, 'to think in an orthodox manner'. This
inflected as follows: noun-verb, GOODTHINK; past tense and past participle,
GOODTHINKED; present participle, GOOD-THINKING; adjective, GOODTHINKFUL;
adverb, GOODTHINKWISE; verbal noun, GOODTHINKER.
The B words were not constructed on any etymological plan. The words of
which they were made up could be any parts of speech, and could be placed
in any order and mutilated in any way which made them easy to pronounce
while indicating their derivation. In the word CRIMETHINK (thoughtcrime),
for instance, the THINK came second, whereas in THINKPOL (Thought Police)
it came first, and in the latter word POLICE had lost its second syllable.
Because of the great difficulty in securing euphony, irregular formations
were commoner in the B vocabulary than in the A vocabulary. For example,
the adjective forms of MINITRUE, MINIPAX, and MINILUV were, respectively,
-PAXFUL, and -LOVEFUL were slightly awkward to pronounce. In principle,
however, all B words could inflect, and all inflected in exactly the
same way.
Some of the B words had highly subtilized meanings, barely intelligible to
anyone who had not mastered the language as a whole. Consider, for example,
such a typical sentence from a 'Times' leading article as OLDTHINKERS
UNBELLYFEEL INGSOC. The shortest rendering that one could make of this
in Oldspeak would be: 'Those whose ideas were formed before the Revolution
cannot have a full emotional understanding of the principles of English
Socialism.' But this is not an adequate translation. To begin with, in
order to grasp the full meaning of the Newspeak sentence quoted above,
one would have to have a clear idea of what is meant by INGSOC. And in
addition, only a person thoroughly grounded in Ingsoc could appreciate
the full force of the word BELLYFEEL, which implied a blind, enthusiastic
acceptance difficult to imagine today; or of the word OLDTHINK, which was
inextricably mixed up with the idea of wickedness and decadence. But the
special function of certain Newspeak words, of which OLDTHINK was one,
was not so much to express meanings as to destroy them. These words,
necessarily few in number, had had their meanings extended until they
contained within themselves whole batteries of words which, as they were
sufficiently covered by a single comprehensive term, could now be scrapped
and forgotten. The greatest difficulty facing the compilers of the Newspeak
Dictionary was not to invent new words, but, having invented them, to make
sure what they meant: to make sure, that is to say, what ranges of words
they cancelled by their existence.
As we have already seen in the case of the word FREE, words which had
once borne a heretical meaning were sometimes retained for the sake of
convenience, but only with the undesirable meanings purged out of them.
DEMOCRACY, SCIENCE, and RELIGION had simply ceased to exist. A few blanket
words covered them, and, in covering them, abolished them. All words
grouping themselves round the concepts of liberty and equality, for
instance, were contained in the single word CRIMETHINK, while all words
grouping themselves round the concepts of objectivity and rationalism
were contained in the single word OLDTHINK. Greater precision would have
been dangerous. What was required in a Party member was an outlook similar
to that of the ancient Hebrew who knew, without knowing much else, that
all nations other than his own worshipped 'false gods'. He did not need to
know that these gods were called Baal, Osiris, Moloch, Ashtaroth, and the
like: probably the less he knew about them the better for his orthodoxy.
He knew Jehovah and the commandments of Jehovah: he knew, therefore, that
all gods with other names or other attributes were false gods. In somewhat
the same way, the party member knew what constituted right conduct, and in
exceedingly vague, generalized terms he knew what kinds of departure from
it were possible. His sexual life, for example, was entirely regulated by
the two Newspeak words SEXCRIME (sexual immorality) and GOODSEX (chastity).
SEXCRIME covered all sexual misdeeds whatever. It covered fornication,
adultery, homosexuality, and other perversions, and, in addition, normal
intercourse practised for its own sake. There was no need to enumerate
them separately, since they were all equally culpable, and, in principle,
all punishable by death. In the C vocabulary, which consisted of scientific
and technical words, it might be necessary to give specialized names to
certain sexual aberrations, but the ordinary citizen had no need of them.
He knew what was meant by GOODSEX--that is to say, normal intercourse
between man and wife, for the sole purpose of begetting children, and
without physical pleasure on the part of the woman: all else was SEXCRIME.
In Newspeak it was seldom possible to follow a heretical thought further
than the perception that it WAS heretical: beyond that point the necessary
words were nonexistent.

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