[personal profile] wingedbeast
I'm going a bit back-and-forth with this chapter, for reasons of theme. Last time, the theme was survival strategies for Oceana (and, in general for those of us who are just trying to get along). Now, let's talk about Newspeak, one of the rarely referenced elements of 1984. Doublethink gets referenced often... and often... and often... and, in this political climate, not without good reason.

Duckspeak gets mentioned a bit (again, not entirely without good reason). And, we all love to talk about Room 101... or room 102 (That reference will be funny when we get to that part of the book, really.)

Let's talk about the basic concepts and intent of Newspeak, as understood by Syme.

Syme notes that Winston doesn't really appreciate Newspeak. That's understandable. Winston's in his middle ages, so it'd take him some effort to adapt. Put in the High School analogy, he's not one of the cool kids and isn't able to internalize the language of the cool kids. It's also because Winston Smith, the rebel who's only cause is his own mind, resists the intention of Newspeak.

'Don't you see that the whole aim of Newspeak is to narrow the range of thought? In the end we shall make thoughtcrime literally impossible, because there will be no words in which to express it. Every concept that can ever be needed will be expressed by exactly one word, with its meaning rigidly defined and all its subsidiary meanings rubbed out and forgotten.


Allow me a moment of optimism for the people in the world of Oceana. Towards that end, I will employ my scant linguistics knowledge. One of the important things to know about the study of linguistics is that any language can express any concept.

To use English as a source, we have a number of words that were once strange, new ideas that, nevertheless, had quick inclusions into our language.

Once upon a time, we didn't even have machines to do math for us. Then we did, but the word "computer" already existed to reference professional mathematicians. Then those computers had games and we had "computer games" which, since those games were played via rapidly successive still-frames simulating movement, became the standard "video games". And, now the type of person who is enthusiastic about a pass-time of video games is a "gamer".

Then, we started connecting those computers over, at first, phone lines and we had the concept of a network of computers connecting across vast distances to communicate and share information. The interlocking-network of computers had a name. The analogy for how this would look, when shown over an entire globe made another name "The World Wide Web". The ready pace of information, particularly compared to previous, gave us "The Information Superhighway".

Or, you can take the concept that's new to me (as in I just learned it today) of "benevolent sexism". I learned that here https://youtu.be/b5YXaRovnIA (Really, do learn that so that, when I use the phrase, more people can know what I'm talking about.

Let's take another word, one you might know from Avaneu Q. Schadenfreude is the pleasure derived by observing the embarrassment or misfortune of another. The source is German and the point of bringing it up is that I was able to express that concept to you without needing a word specifically for that concept.

None of this is to say that Big Brother can't make the thinking and expressing of criminal concepts more difficult, for reasons just a little bit later.

The whole literature of the past will have been destroyed. Chaucer, shakespear, Milton, Byron-they'll exist only in Newspeak versions, not merely changed into something different, but actually changed into something contradictory of what they used to be. Even the literature of the Party will change. Even the slogans will change. How can you have a slogan like "freedom is slavery" when the concept of freedom has been abolished?


What Syme's talking about here isn't taking away the ability to express a concept, but pruning back the concepts that have been expressed. Let's look at that definition of Schadenfreude. "The pleasure derived by observing the embarrassment or misfortune of another." It's a relatively easy concept to explain, not even needing that dry an expression. "You know how, sometimes, when someone slips and is embarrassed, that's a little funny... that."

But, prune that back a bit and start with embarrassment. Or, start with the concept of falling short of an ideal and that being something for which you feel ungood about yourself.

Syme, despite his faith in Big Brother's idea, can't eliminate the bare capacity to express unapproved ideas. He can make it more difficult. That's another thing.

The whole climate of thought will be different. In fact, there will be no thought, as we understand it now. Orthodoxy means not thinking-not needing to think. Orthodoxy is unconsciousness.


Syme, I love your enthusiasm. I mean, I'd rather it be enthusiasm for something, you know, good rather than eliminating thought from an entire nation. On a purely functional level, that's not a good idea. But, still, I love your enthusiasm.

There's a problem with the entire notion. You're dealing with humans. I won't say that we, as a species, are inherently thoughtful or intelligent. We are, inherently, thinking beings. We ask questions, we want answers. We question those answers. We come up with new ideas for the same reason that the domestic cat kills birds, it's what we do.

Functionally, despite your best efforts, Syme, you aren't eliminating thoughtcrime. You're expanding it.

Here's my head-canon on what happens in the years following the successful replacement of the English language for Newspeak.

This is the 80s and, if dates are to be believed, just over half-a-decade from the 90s. That means that kids, like those two nasty little shits making the lives of the Parsons a living hell, will eventually reach puberty. The obvious sexual awakening will happen, but so will things like coming up with their own words. It's a thing teenagers do.

Since it is the 80s, they'll start saying things like "mildly unwarm" for things they like. They'll develop inflections that they use to indicate that they mean "doubleplus good" when they say "doubleplus ungood". I... wouldn't even be able to start transliterating "on fleek".

That won't necessarily mean anything seditious. I fully expect that Big Brother will wind up putting teenagers into room 101 for thoughtcrime when they were really expressing their loyalty to the Party. The reason will simply be that teenagers talk strange and it's scary to some telescreen operator. The result will be an exposure of the failure of Big Brother and The Party to do what they promise... or even try.

Since this will likely be in the 90s, let me close out this part of the deconstruction by telling you that, televised or no, "The revolution will be phat."

Date: 2017-03-21 03:58 pm (UTC)
redsixwing: Red-winged angel staring at a distant star. (Default)
From: [personal profile] redsixwing
I have an amateur's love of linguistics, so the idea of intentionally altering a language to prune back the range of thought interests and aggravates me.

I'm not a prescriptivist, so watching real world linguists flip a lid about how, say, variant spellings and loanwords are getting cooties on their language is fairly amusing. If it's difficult to keep loanwords from happening, how much more difficult will it be to keep every single speaker of the language from bending things to suit their experience and conceptual needs?

Winston is a rebel in his own mind (with sloppy opsec, but oh well). How many more are there who are keeping a better front on it?

>> Since it is the 80s, they'll start saying things like "mildly unwarm" for things they like.

*rofl* YUP.

Variant spellings (because written communication is still a thing, and I seriously doubt it'll stop being a thing even in that society) are also a good way of pointing out one's response to a word. Add the anonymity of the early internet and ... well.

You get whole subcultural dialects.

(Also, there are modes of thought that don't require words, so even if it weren't a doomed effort, it'd still be doomed.)

Date: 2017-03-26 12:11 am (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
I thought this was tied to the Sapir–Whorf hypothesis, so the language itself shapes how people understand the world. The stripping of words from the language means the concepts themselves would die. You're expanding thoughtcrime if it can happen with, say, impulses- desire for sex etc- but if there's no way to express that, even to yourself, then the feeling stays just that, and is something disquieting that creates guilt and better ensures the thinker's subservience. They don't want to have committed thoughtcrime, so they cannot try to articulate what they've felt.

What is interesting too though is how this would work given the relative freedom of the proles, and the porn that they get to consume. The nature of porn means that it's transgressive, and they're ignored largely by the Party so they could develop even with the scant resources they're allowed. If there is to be a revolution, it will come from the Proles.

Date: 2017-03-28 03:00 pm (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
I'm glad someone already mentioned the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis, which has already been discredited. All I'll add is that Syme is apparently unaware that the language is changed by teenage girls, with the last adopters of the vocabulary they invent being NORMs - Non-mobile, Older, Regional Males. That's a pretty good reason Winston is unable to appreciate Newspeak all on its own, but it also suggests that the attempt to rub out Oldspeak is doomed. They'll delete words, and the current crop of 15-year-olds will simply invent something to replace it, as they do in every generation. So, go an listen to what the daughters of proles are saying, I guess.

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