The Viability of Orwell's Newspeak
: through the theory of Saussurean semiotics

  • Jennifer Lidfors Andersson

Student thesis: Bachelor


Set in the totalitarian society of Oceania, George Orwell’s 1984 illustrates how a government can exert complete control over its citizens through surveillance, manipulation, and more central to this essay, language. By employing a structuralist framework based on Ferdinand de Saussure’s research on semiotics and the system of language, this essay investigates the viability of Newspeak as a language. It does so by using the aspects of arbitrariness, value, difference, the collective, and mutability to discern to what extent Orwell’s Newspeak aligns with Saussure’s theory of how languages function. In addition, it looks at how these language changes can be observed using specific examples of the novel. The essay finds that the implementation of Newspeak is entirely reliant on other areas of the government’s totalitarian oppression in order to be feasibly implemented, as semiotic theory argues language is a product of the collective and, as such, cannot be constructed by a group of individuals. The essay thus concludes that Newspeak as a constructed language is not viable, as over time, the language will inevitably return to the hands of the collective consciousness, and once that happens, the language will begin to change according to the needs of the linguistic community.

Date of Award2020-Jun-18
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorMaria Freij (Supervisor) & Lena Ahlin (Examiner)

Courses and Subjects

  • English

University credits

  • 15 HE credits

Swedish Standard Keywords

  • Specific Literatures (60204)
  • Specific Languages (60202)


  • structuralism
  • semiotics
  • saussure
  • newspeak
  • 1984
  • orwell
  • sign
  • linguistic community

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