SF: New Wor(l)ds

Posted in Book reviews, Computers & Technology, Figuratively Speaking at 8:52 am by Marion



Since we’re looking at Science Fiction, today FD turns to the words of SF.

If you’ve ever picked up a SF novel, you know there are going to be names you can’t pronounce, planets you’ve never heard of and words with more consonants than all the Slavic languages put together. In many cases, these languages are simply allowing the writer to establish an alien world.

In other cases, these languages serve as a commentary on our own world.

One of the best examples is taken from George Orwell’s 1984. In his own marvelous essay (taken from the book The Language Experience, Somer and Hoy, eds.), he examines how corrupt language is linked with corrupt politics … and the further we stray from clear, precise language, the closer we come to degenerate politics and evil rule.

He describes “operators” and “verbal false limbs,” which, he says, “save the trouble of picking out appropriate verbs and nouns and at the same time, pad each sentence with extra syllables which give it the appearance of symmetry.” Such as: render inoperative … instead of kill … make itself felt or play a role in … instead of stop.

He also points out the use of passive voice as another way to rob language of its power … and in doing so, taking away our political power, as well.

We all remember how Orwell used his observations to excruciating effect in 1984 … the language he invented for that work was called “Newspeak” and it drained every experience of truth, leaving Winston and Julia and everyone else suffocating in a lying world.

At this site you’ll find an entire Newspeak dictionary, but here are some highlights:

Blackwhite … the ability to accept ridiculous ideas as true.

Crimethink … to consider any action not sanctioned by the party. Akin to Doublethink, i.e. holding contradictory ideas in mind at the same time.

Ministry of Truth … department of propaganda. Along with Ministry of Love (police) and Ministry of Peace (defense and war).

It’s interesting to note that not all SF languages are as bleak … for instance, there are people who actually speak the Klingon language that was developed for Star Trek, and other SF languages also have their own grammars.


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