"Imagination, like certain wild animals, will not breed in captivity."
~ Orwell


"Such plans for the introduction of Basic English offer far better prizes
than taking away other people's provinces or lands,
or grinding them down in exploitation.
The empires of the future are
the Empires of the Mind."
~ Churchill

To Orwell Today,

Dear Ms Jura,

I surfed on your pages as I searched on the Orwellian topics. While George Orwell was a visionary, his thought of the Newspeak were IMO unfounded.

If we skip the euphemisms and doubletalk, the thing what Newspeak linguistically really creates is an agglutinative language. And they do exist in the real life!

My first language is Finnish, which is an example of an agglutinative language. Its basic vocabulary is very limited, but one can neologize just any concept by using prefixes, suffixes and other linguistic means of word derivation. Mere restriction of vocabulary and simplification of grammar will not shackle the expression or restrict thoughts; instead, they give an inventive mind an extremely powerful tool for expressing oneself - J.R.R. Tolkien didn't create Quenya on the basis of Finnish just for nothing.

Most people who have English as their first language are unilingual - they do not master any other languages. English is basically a isolating language with very wide vocabulary (and a separate word for every shade and tone of an expression); they seldom master or even understand different languages, especially those which are not isolating.

Agglutinative languages, such as Finnish, Hungarian, Turkish or Japanese, seem very appalling to the Anglophones, and that is also why George Orwell thought creating the Newspeak will restrict the expression and shackle the language. It won't. Once you internalize the concept of an agglutinating language, it is an extremely powerful tool for neologizing and inventing new expressions.


Greetings Susanna,

That is very interesting about the Finnish language being a real-life version of Newspeak, or as you describe it, an "agglutinative" language. I had to look that word up in the dictionary, as well as the word "neologizing". I've put their defintions at the bottom of the page for the benefit of readers.

Orwell didn't make up the "Newspeak" (new speak) concept in "1984". He took the idea from the real life language called "Basic English" which was created in the 1930s by intellectuals who wanted to thrust it upon the English people but which in reality was used only for teaching English to people with other mother-tongues, particularly in Japan and China.

The vocabulary of Basic English consists of only 850 words, compared to the vocabulary of Oxford English with its 25,000 words. That would have been what Orwell meant by "cutting the language to the bone".

BASIC ENGLISH (simplified language, developed by Charles K. Ogden; released in 1930 with the book: Basic English: A General Introduction with Rules and Grammar. He founded the Orthological Institute to develop the tools for teaching Basic English. His most famous associate, I.A. Richards, led the effort in the Orient, which uses the techniques to this day...)

In September 1942 Winston Churchill - Prime Minister of Britain - made a speech at Harvard University in Boston, Massachusetts extolling the virtures of Basic English and proposing that it be used by all the allies - including Russia, where Stalin had shown an interest in it. Churchill then went on to say, as quoted in Orwell: the Lost Writings by West, page 48:

"Such plans for the introduction of Basic English offer far better prizes than taking away other people's provinces or lands, or grinding them down in exploitation. The empires of the future are the Empires of the Mind."

When he got back to England Churchill set up a War Cabinet Committee to set up the "swiftest and surest" means of getting Basic accepted. The BBC was ordered to give talks and lessons on Basic English and to translate news into Basic English for its overseas listeners.

Orwell was working at the BBC at that time - he was there from August 1941 to November 1943 - and had a couple of Basic English experts on his radio show as guests. He even had friends who were experts in the language.

But after the war ended so did the enthusiasm for Basic English.

Orwell was never against the concept of teaching Basic English to people whose mother-tongue wasn't English but he was alarmed at the thought of it being forced on people as a mandatory language, which is what Churchill and Stalin were tossing around. That's where Orwell would have gotten the motivation to extrapolate the negatives of Basic English to the extreme, the result being the "1984" version named "Newspeak".

For people whose native language isn't English, and especially to people whose native language is agglunitative, it may be hard for them to imagine the benefits of a rich vocabulary.

The easiest way to understand the difference between reading a book written in Basic English to reading a book written in Oxford English would be to compare it to being in prison or being free. Basic needs are being met - food, water and shelter - but it's not really living in the philosophical sense of the word.

You say Finnish is a Newspeak language but it probably still has a large vocabulary that you would miss using if it were "cut to the bone" and made into Basic Finnish.

I read in the news recently that English is winning as the lingua franca* or the "international language" or the "global language". It will be a form of Newspeak called "Globish".

This international English of the future will not be the English that some of the greatest writers and thinkers have used. It will be Shakespeare diluted, and Orwell diluted. That will be a sad day when translated into any language.

All the best,
Jackie Jura

PS - It is true that many English-speaking people don't speak a second language. But that is in large part because up until recently we haven't had to by necessity. But on the other hand, many English-speaking people DO learn a second language. For example, Orwell spoke EIGHT foreign languages comprised of two classical, three oriental and three European including two "dead ones". He spoke Greek, Latin, Burmese, Hindustan, Shaw-Karen, French, Spanish and Catalan.


*lingua franca: is a language adopted as a common language between speakers whose native languages are different. The original lingua franca was a mixture of Arabic and European languages used in the ports of the eastern Mediterranean. Lingua franca is Italian for "Frankish tongue." That's the literal translation, but franca here really means something like "Western European." The Franks were a Germanic people who conquered Gaul and gave their name to France. In the eastern Mediterranean, however, Frank came to mean Western European. For example, the modern Greek noun frangkos means "Western European" or "Roman Catholic."

Globish now the lingua franca of world travellers. Australian, Dec 12, 2006
If you plan to travel the world expecting to get by on English, think again. The language you need is Globish, according to a French author who says the British are failing to seize the use of the mother tongue of international communication. Globish is a simple pragmatic form of English codified by Jean-Paul Nerriere, a retired vice-president of IBM in the US. It involves a vocabulary limited to 1500 words, short sentences, basic syntax, an absence of idiomatic expressions and extensive hand gestures to get the point across. Nerriere, 66, originally sought to help non-English speakers - notably his compatriots - in an era when business meetings are normally held in English. He advised that instead of struggling to master English, they should content themselves with Globish. His two books, Don't Speak English, Parlez Globish and Decouvrez le Globish, became bestsellers in France and were also published in Spain, Italy, South Korea and Canada. They are now being translated into Japanese.

"Globish is a proletarian and popular idiom which does not aim at cultural understanding or at the acquisition of a talent enabling the speaker to shine at Hyde Park Corner," Nerriere has written. "It is designed for trivial efficiency, always, everywhere, with everyone." Nerriere says his globalised version of English is so common that Britons, Americans and other English-speakers should learn it too. "The point is that Anglophones no longer own English," he said. "It is now owned by people in Singapore, Ulan Bator, Montevideo, Beijing and elsewhere." He says that in multi-national meetings, Anglo-Saxons stand out as strange because they cling to their original language instead of using the elementary English adopted by colleagues from other countries. Their florid phraseology and grammatical complexities are often incomprehensible, said Nerriere, who added: "One thing you never do in Globish is tell a joke. "The only jokes that cross frontiers involve sex, race and religion, and you should never mention those in an international meeting." The fast-talking Nerriere has developed software to help English-speakers acquire written Globish. The program checks English words and eliminates those not included in the 1500-strong Globish list.

"English-speakers need to make the effort to speak like everyone else," Nerriere said. "If they do, they will not be seen as arrogant, and they might even become popular." He says business ventures could depend on mastering Globish. "If you lose a contract to a Moroccan rival because you're speaking an English that no one apart from another Anglophone understands, then you've got a problem." Aware that purists may baulk at his ideas, Nerriere insists that Globish should be confined to international meetings. Other languages - French, German, Italian as well as orthodox English - should be preserved as vehicles of culture. In other words, he believes we should learn French for Moliere, Italian for Dante, German for Goethe, Spanish for Cervantes, English for Shakespeare and Globish to discuss the price of steel in China.

definitions from World Book Dictionary:

agglutinate: (verb) - to form (words) by joining words, or words and affixes, together with little or no change in form; (synonym) - compound

(adjective)- 1.stuck or joined together: 'Never-to-be-forgotten' is an agglutinate word 2. agglutinative

agglutinating language: a language characterized by combining into a single word fixed combining forms that never blend with one another. The Finn-Ugric languages are agglutinating languages

agglutination: (noun) - the forming of words by joining together words that retain their individual form and meaning

agglutinative: (adjective) - 1.tending to stick together; adhesive: Glue is an agglutinative substance 2.forming words by agglutination: Turkish is probably the most highly agglutinative tonque now spoken by men

neologize: (verb) 1.to introduce or use neologisms in language

neologism: (noun) 1.the use of new words or old words with new meanings 2.a new word or expression or a new meaning for an old word: Such neologisms are clipped words like 'lube' for lubricating oil, and 'co-ed' for co-educational; back-formations like 'to televise' from television...; blends like 'cablegram' from cable and telegram...; artificial or made-up formations like 'carborundum, cellophane, and pianola'

Jackie Jura
~ an independent researcher monitoring local, national and international events ~

email: orwelltoday@gmail.com
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