“It’s a beautiful thing, the destruction of words”

In the world described in the book 1984, we are made aware of the role of language. In the year 1984, they are slowly trying to make everyone speak ‘Newspeak’ instead of regular english. This is of course, to control the mind and give the government more power. This form of power is called logocracy. Words are essential to our daily lives, so naturally the government of 1984 wanted to control this. The book 1984 is from 1948, just after the war, which meant that it was meant as warning of what might happen. In many ways, the Soviet Union was a logocracy. They changed the language to destroy the old way of thinking. They invented empty slogans to prevent people from thinking outside the boundaries.

Newspeak was created to prohibit people from thinking on their own. When the old english would’ve been completely replaced by Newspeak by 2050, thoughtcrime would be impossible, because you would not be able to express yourself outside of the existing language. This is not only because words such as ‘free’ and ‘democracy’ would not exist anymore, (free would only exist in sentences as ‘that house is free of filth’) but also because the destruction of the old words would mean society would dumb down, because there would simply be less words and less grammar, so society wouldn’t be intelligent enough for thoughtcrime. As another effect the new language would have, would be that the ugly crimes that the government committed, could be made acceptable by the use of the right words, you see this the best in the names of the various ministry’s (e.g. the ministry of truth, which created lies).Eradicating the old grammar was an essential part of Newspeak. Words like excellent, splendid, stellar and other words to express positive things, would cease to exist. They would all be forms of the words good, like ‘plusgood’ and ‘doubleplusgood’. Even the word bad wouldn’t exist anymore, it would be ‘ungood’. Not only would this mean that society would become less intelligent because of the lack of difficult words, but also the expression of a lot of thoughts and feelings would be impossible.

Then there is of course doublethink. This is a big part of the book. It means that you would have two utterly conflicting ideas which could both be true at the same time. And it was up to the party which truth was the flavour of the day. Even now, doublethink is an everyday part of our society. We have a party that sees the family as the cornerstone of society. The same party has just decided that it‘s perfectly alright to separate a child from his mother and send the child to a country a few thousand miles south.

And then the ‘unperson’, which meant someone who had been vaporized, and therefore had never existed. Every record of that person would be erased. Naturally, this would involve doublethink. This concept of unpersons existed long before George Orwell’s book (damnatio memoriae), but the S.U. also created unpersons.

The question is, of course, whether Newspeak could really abandon these thoughts, or whether we could communicate ideas without knowing the words. If the latter would be the case, then thoughtcrime would still be possible.

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