The Importance Of Language To Human Thought In Nineteen Eighty-Four By George Orwell

What does unite the world? It is the ability to communicate on one level or another. Communication is the core need of any society. The basic mean of communication is language. A lot of authors wrote about the value of language and its beauty. But George Orwell decides to come up with the idea of the world where language is misused. In the book “Nineteen eighty-four” Orwell shows how the use of language can influence the way people think and act, and how the government can alter history with the help of Newspeak.

In this novel, George Orwell emphasizes the importance of language to human thought. It plays a role of bricks that serves as a base for ideas, which then a person can formulate and express. The author writes that if the structure of language is changed in order to make people obedient and non-violent there would be no demonstrations and rebellions. Because, the words that would describe negative behavior would not exist. This idea Orwell expresses in the language of Newspeak, which the Party introduces to replace normal English. It continuously changes – old words getting deleted and replaced with the new words that the Party approves. Winston’s friend Syme is very excited about the process “We’re destroying words – scores of them, hundreds of them, every day. We’re cutting the language down to the bone”. The main goal of it is the determination of Oldspeak by 2050 and any possible threat to the Party. Newspeak is created to narrow the train of thought and make people forget what they know. As Jason Rubenfire writes “Newspeak intended not only to force the populace to confirm their thoughts and ideologies towards those of The Party, but to make it impossible to even conceive of any other point of view”.

This tactic is ideal for a totalitarian system where the government is interested in a passive public which cannot think independently and has a tolerance for mistakes. Such public lacks imagination and, therefore, represents less of a threat. With deleting the words from vocabulary a person’s memory erodes as well. It is like a puzzle that misses pieces. People simply do not know how to call or describe a memory, and eventually the brain deletes those fragments. In order for people to accept the new language without any protests, the Party uses certain tactics. It is not forced by law, it is little by little getting penetrated into the society. The most powerful source that the Party uses to make people learn is media. The first tool is the newspaper Times. It is written completely in the Newspeak language. If people want to know the news, they have to learn the language first. Another source is telescreens that air propaganda and manipulate people’s moods. It literally gives people instruction of how to feel, that this news is good and this one is bad, this week is a “Hate week” and so on. This way, the Party implies pressure to study the language without raising a violent opposition.

In “Nineteen eighty-four” Orwell also addresses a human perception of the world through the language. With the language, the Party changes a sense of the present for people “different languages impose different conceptions of reality”. Readers can trace it through the titles of Ministries where love is hate, truth is a lie, peace is war and Ministry of Plenty covers the hunger and starvation of their own people whose country is at war. Another source is the news that talks only about the good events “Our forces in South India have won a glorious victory. I am authorized to say that the action we are now reporting may well bring the war within measurable distance of its end”. But they never mention what price the country pays for it. The good news is all that airs from telescreens every single day and people start to believe that everything is great. The scariest thing of all that is connected with the power that the Party has over the language is that it can control the history. Ultimately, without the language, there is no history. Winston’s job in the Ministry of Truth is to alter the history and make sure that all the news in the newspaper only promotes the Party and their actions “This process of continuous alteration was applied not only to newspapers, but to books, periodicals, pamphlets, posters, leaflets, films, sound tracks, cartoons, photographs-to every kind of literature or documentation which might conceivably hold any political or ideological significance”. Citizens do not even know what is really going on in the world. The saying is true “Who owns the information, he owns the world”. Memories are the only weapon that Winston has against the Party and what he was looking for in older generations. If someone can confirm what he remembers is the truth, it would have been his own little victory against the Party. But there is no hope. The Party starts to “translate” the books to the new language and destroy originals. After a few generations there will be no one who can even comprehend the information from the past, and there will be no need in it. Newspeak will minimize the ability to think or even imagine something else. Therefore, experimenting with language and text not only effects the present, but also the past and future. Orwell writes “Who controls the past, controls the future: who controls the present controls the past”.

Orwell’s novel “Nineteen eighty-four” is not only the warning about the future but about the present as well. We can see how easy it is today to access the information. It is as easy for someone to alter it for their own sake. No one can be sure if what is getting posted on the news is the actual truth. The novel shows how language can shape people’s sense of reality, how it can be used to conceal truths, and even how it can be used to manipulate history. Language can be changed, newspapers and screens can air the truthful lie, but it depends on people, citizens if our history will survive.

13 January 2020
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