Nineteen Eighty-Four, often published as 1984, is a dystopian novel published in 1949 by English author George Orwell. The novel is set in Airstrip One (formerly known as Great Britain), a province of the superstate Oceania in a world of perpetual war, omnipresent government surveillance, and public manipulation. The superstate and its residents are dictated to by a political regime euphemistically named English Socialism, shortened to "Ingsoc" in Newspeak, the government's invented language. The superstate is under the control of the privileged elite of the Inner Party, a party and government that persecutes individualism and independent thinking as "thoughtcrime", which is enforced by the "Thought Police".
The tyranny is ostensibly overseen by Big Brother, the Party leader who enjoys an intense cult of personality, but who may not even exist. The Party "seeks power entirely for its own sake. It is not interested in the good of others; it is interested solely in power." The protagonist of the novel, Winston Smith, is a member of the Outer Party, who works for the Ministry of Truth (or Minitrue in Newspeak), which is responsible for propaganda and historical revisionism. His job is to rewrite past newspaper articles, so that the historical record always supports the party line. The instructions that the workers receive portray the corrections as fixing misquotations and never as what they really are: forgeries and falsifications. A large part of the Ministry also actively destroys all documents that have not been edited and do not contain the revisions; in this way, no proof exists that the government is lying. Smith is a diligent and skillful worker but secretly hates the Party and dreams of rebellion against Big Brother. The heroine of the novel, Julia, is based on Orwell's second wife, Sonia Orwell.
As literary political fiction and dystopian science-fiction, Nineteen Eighty-Four is a classic novel in content, plot, and style. Many of its terms and concepts, such as Big Brother, doublethink, thoughtcrime, Newspeak, Room 101, telescreen, 2 + 2 = 5, and memory hole, have entered into common use since its publication in 1949. Nineteen Eighty-Fourpopularised the adjective Orwellian, which describes official deception, secret surveillance, and manipulation of recorded history by a totalitarianor authoritarian state. In 2005, the novel was chosen by Time magazine as one of the 100 best English-language novels from 1923 to 2005. It was awarded a place on both lists of Modern Library 100 Best Novels, reaching number 13 on the editor's list, and 6 on the readers' list. In 2003, the novel was listed at number 8 on the BBC's survey The Big Read.
Newspeak is the language of Oceania, a fictional totalitarian state ruled by the Party, who created the language to meet the ideological requirements of English Socialism (Ingsoc). In George Orwell's world of Nineteen Eighty-Four, Newspeak is a controlled language, of restricted grammar and limited vocabulary, a linguistic design meant to limit the freedom of thought—personal identity, self-expression, free will—that ideologically threatens the régime of Big Brother and the Party, who thus criminalised such concepts as thoughtcrime, contradictions of Ingsoc orthodoxy.
In "The Principles of Newspeak", the appendix to the 1949 novel, Orwell explains that Newspeak usage follows most of the English grammar, yet is a language characterised by a continually diminishing vocabulary; complete thoughts reduced to simple terms of simplistic meaning.Linguistically, the contractions of Newspeak—Ingsoc (English Socialism), Minitrue (Ministry of Truth), etc.—derive from the syllabic abbreviations of Russian, which identify the government and social institutions of the Soviet Union, such as politburo (Politburo of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union), Comintern (Communist International), kolkhoz (collective farm), and Komsomol (Young Communists' League). The long-term political purpose of the new language is for every member of the Party and society, except the Proles—the working-class of Oceania—to exclusively communicate in Newspeak, by the year A.D. 2050; during that 66-year transition, the usage of Oldspeak (Standard English) shall remain interspersed among Newspeak conversations.
Newspeak is also a constructed language, of planned phonology, grammar, and vocabulary, like Basic English, which Orwell promoted (1942–44) during the Second World War (1939–45), and later rejected in the essay "Politics and the English Language" (1946), wherein he criticises the bad usage of English in his day: Dying metaphors, pretentious diction, and high-flown rhetoric, which produce the meaningless words of doublespeak, the product of unclear reasoning. Orwell's conclusion thematically reiterates linguistic decline: "I said earlier that the decadence of our language is probably curable. Those who deny this may argue that language merely reflects existing social conditions, and that we cannot influence its development, by any direct tinkering with words or constructions."