Verbalization Of Ideological Signs In The Translations Of The Novel “1984”


A novel of the English writer G. Orwell “ 1984 ” is one of the most famous dystopian genre works. The world that G. Orwell describes is filled with fear, total universal subordination and constant control of citizens by the authorities. The ideology of the governing class is presented as the interests of the entire society through a false consciousness that is formed and fixed through a new language – “Newspeak”. The purpose of this study is to identify and analyze the translation of language means that verbalize the ideology of the dystopian society described in the novel “1984” into Russian and Chinese languages. The hypothesis of the study is based on the assumption that the ways of ideological signs verbalization depend on the lingua-culture of the language into which the translation is performed. The continuous sampling method, lingua-cognitive analysis of Orwell’s “Newspeak” ideological signs, the method of comparative analysis of language means and the translation method were used. The authors of the paper concluded that ideological signs of the dystopian world are verbalized by “Newspeak”, which consists of the author occasional words. More than thirty language units of “Newspeak” in the English-language novel and it’s Russian and Chinese translations have been studied. Some word-formation models of “Newspeak” occasional words were described and also the ways of their translation from English into Russian and Chinese languages were analyzed.

Keywords: Dystopiaideological signoccasional wordtarget languageNewspeaktranslation


A novel of the English writer G. Orwell “1984” ( Orwell, 2016a) is one of the most famous dystopian genre works. The genre features of the novel under study include: orientation to the individual, ritualization of social life, “matryoshka” structure of the text, pseudo-carnival, sensuality and obscenity, limited space.

In the novel, the ideology of the governing class is presented as the interests of the entire society through a false consciousness. This consciousness is formed and fixed by means of the occasional language – “Newspeak”, in which each author's occasional word is acquires ideological meaning. It should be noted that “Newspeak” is not just an artificially created language, but a reflection of society with all its vices and shortcomings. With the help of “Newspeak” G. Orwell creates an imaginary world of dystopia, filled with fear, universal total submission and constant control of citizens by the authorities. Bearing in mind the semantic and functional significance of occasional words in the novel and the fact that they do not have direct equivalents in the target languages it should be noted that the process of their translating is extremely important and difficult.

Preserving the integrity of the new language as a language system in translation is relevant for the adequate perception of the work by readers of another linguistic culture. The translator faces a difficult task to convey not only each occasional word separately, but also to create a kind of “version of the new language”, preserving its expressive features and ideological load.

Problem Statement

Much attention is paid to the theory of occasionality in linguistics. Linguists study the occasional words definitions and identify features that distinguish it from neologisms Poix ( 2018), Nykytchenko ( 2015). Some scientists analyse the models for creating author's occasional words: Renner ( 2015), Belozertceva, and Vorozhkin ( 2017). Some research works are devoted to methods and translation features of occasional words: Shichkina ( 2016), Vas’bieva (2018), Kalashnikova and Vas’bieva (2018).

Occasional words are not usually used in the language and are not fixed in dictionaries; they are used only in the context of literary works. Nykytchenko ( 2015) defines occasional words as “words or meanings of words, invented to meet the needs of a particular occasion in order to catch the reader’s attention, shock or provoke, create hidden meanings (semantic condensation) and express the author’s evaluation” (p. 186). Fiction writers create these expressive words for artistic and aesthetic purposes in certain situations. Poix ( 2018) says that authors play with the lexicon, as they use stylistic devices, to refine the text, taking liberties with norms of word formation. They use word-building models of different productivity degrees existing in the language. Representing the author's image, occasional words are filled with certain meanings that do not always lie on the surface.

To make the translation of the text like the original one for the reader, the translator needs to represent the author's vision of the world, trying to understand and interpret an occasional word, the meaning of which, however, cannot be represented as a simple sum of the meanings of its components. The main task of the translator is to reconstruct and then to convey all those meaning shades which the author, creating a particular occasional word, wanted to tell the reader ( Retsker, 2017).

When translating occasional words, the word-formation model which was used by the author is also necessary to be considered. The understanding of the model makes easier to interpret the meaning of an occasional word and allows the translator to convey the meaning of it in translation adequately ( Komissarov, 2017).

In accordance with the classification developed by Komissarov, Retsker, and Tarkhov ( 1960) occasional words are built on the basis of already existing models:

  • by adding another meaning to an already existing word;

  • by forming a complex word or by shortening an existing word;

  • by conversion (moving a word from one part of speech to another);

  • using productive suffixes and prefixes.

Analysis of “Newspeak” shows that occasional words in the novel “ 1984 ” were created according to these models. In some cases, when creating a single word, the author uses several word-forming models at the same time.

Research Questions

In the study of the nature and characteristic properties of occasional words many questions remain debatable and require further study. It is also obvious that occasional words, due to their structure, semantics, and functioning, are difficult in identification, interpretation, and translation. To approve this statement it is important to point out that Golubeva and Timashova ( 2018) say that the main problem of occasional words is to identify the derivational values paradigm and the types of word-formation, as well as to provide information on the author’s occasional words and their translation ways (p. 50).

Ways of occasional words formation in the novel “1984”

In the novel “ 1984 ” ( Orwell, 2017), the ideology of the governing class is presented as the interests of the entire society through a false consciousness, which is formed by a new language – “Newspeak”. It is based on Standard English, that is called “Oldspeak and it is introduced in all spheres of public life. The peculiarities of “Newspeak” are “simple syntax, absence of complex grammatical forms, and poor vocabulary” ( Burges, 2019). For example, all words in “Newspeak” have the only one meaning so that the usage of phraseological units, as the most colorful and expressive part of the language’s vocabulary, is impossible. The absence of antonyms also proves that the vocabulary of “Newspeak” is limited. For instance, one of the most important Ingsoc principles sounds like “freedom is slavery”. This means that in the Ingsoc society, the idea of “ freedom ” is meaningless and the word “ freedom ” is consequently meaningless too. Since there is no need to express something unimportant or something not having any value, the word “ freedom ”, possessing the contrasting meaning to the word “ slavery ”, is excluded from the new language. The concept of “ peace ” also does not need to be expressed in the language, since the idea of “ peace ” is an endless war and the word “peace” is consequently meaningless for the Ingsoc. In order to convey the opposite meaning of a word the prefix “un” (meaning “not”) is used in “Newspeak”: “ ungood ”, “ uncold ”, “ unlight ”, “ undark ”, “ unperson ”;

Synonyms are also excluded from the vocabulary of the new language. For instance, in order to express such concepts as “ excellent ”, “ splendid ”, conveying a stronger meaning of the word “ good ”, the prefix “ plus ” is used. Thus in the analyzed text the prefix “ plus ” intensifies the meaning of a word “ good ” – “ plusgood ” (very good). The prefix “ double ” is used to denote a greater negative or positive degree: “ doubleplusbad ” / “ doubleplusgood ” (superlatively bad/good).

Most words of “Newspeak” are formed by lexical blending – when a new word is made by joining the initial part the first word and the initial or final part of a second word. The occasional word’s new meaning is often a combination of the original words’ meaning. In “Newspeak” the next words, built by blending have been found: Minitrue (ministry + truth), Minipax (ministry + peace), Miniluv (ministry + love), Miniplenty (ministry + plenty), pornosec (pornography +section), artsem (artificial + insemination), Recdep (records + department), Ficdep (fiction + department), Teledep (tele-programmers + department), thinkpol (think + police), Ingsoc (the English + socialist + party), prole (a member + proletariat).

Lexical blending is a creative technique of word-formation and it gives many variations of making new concept from already existing words. Also it “can be considered as involving some form of wordplay as it is an operation which plays with a variety of potential output forms to name a new conceptual combination” ( Renner, 2015, p. 124). In the novel “ 1984 ” formed by blending occasional words sound like a secret code: only Ingsoc members can understand these words and “Newspeak” at all. In dystopian political system, the advantage of this way of word building is obvious - such words save users space and time, especially in writing. Writing is not forbidden but possible only as a part of bureaucratic paperwork. Finally, the correct use of these special political terms can distinguish the members of Ingsoc from unprivileged class of society – prolls.

Another frequent way of creating words, reflecting the ideology of Ingsoc, is compounding. This word-building process means that new words are made by joining together two (or more) roots. Thus, two separate concepts become a word, which is an indivisible whole, possessing the semantic and structural indivisibility. This way of word-formation expresses ideological dogmas, rules and principles in a shortest way. For example: thoughtcrime (tought + crime) - politically incorrect ideas , thoughtcriminal (thought + criminal) - a person, who has politically unacceptable thoughts; The result and the product of intellection activity is thought; a crime is an action which is socially dangerous, and a doer of crime is a criminal. It’s impossible for Ingsoc government to know what kind of ideas every member of society has and impossible to define what thoughts are ideologically right or wrong because human mind is an invisible system. That is why in the Ingsoc society any intellection activity is socially dangerous and illegal and the word “ thoughtcrime ” reflects this concept. The concept of a person who commits a crime by thinking, analyzing and doubting is verbalized by the word “ thoughtcriminal ”.

The members of Ingsoc society, who use the new language, do not have the ability to formulate and express their emotions, feelings and thoughts because the system of “Newspeak” is simple and the vocabulary is poor. “Newspeak”, the language of the new ideology, narrows and restricts the basic intellection activity of its users: thinking, analyzing, and making conclusions. The concept of “Newspeak” is the embodiment and the reflection of the Ingsoc ideology, which is based on total control and restriction.

Purpose of the Study

The purpose of this study is to identify and analyse language means that verbalize the ideology of the dystopian society described in the novel “ 1984 ”. The authors of the article focus their attention on the translations of the analysed literary work into Russian and Chinese languages. The hypothesis of the study is based on the assumption that the methods of verbalization of ideological signs depend on the lingua-culture of the language into which the translation is performed.

Research Methods

While studying this issue we used the following methods: the continuous sampling method, lingua-cognitive analysis of Orwell’s Newspeak ideological signs, the method of comparative analysis of language means, verbalizing the ideology of dystopian society in the original novel “1984” and the ways of their verbalization in the Russian and Chinese translations.


The analysis has shown that the dystopian world’s ideological signs are verbalized in the novel “ 1984 ” by occasional units. The most frequent way of their rendering into Russian and Chinese languages is loan translation (calque). Loan translation (calque) is the method of translation, when a word or a stable combination copies the original lexical unit structure in the target language. More than thirty language units that verbalize the Ingsoc ideology in Orwell novel “ 1984 ” have been studied. Here we present some results of our research.

The word “Newspeak” is an occasional word which was formed by the model “ adjective + verb ”. It was translated into Russian language ( Orwell, 2016b) as « новояз » ( new  – новый, to speak  – говорить). Morphological analysis shows that the word « новояз » was formed by joining together the root « нов » and the root « яз » with the connecting vowel « о ». The verb “ to speak ” was replaced with the noun « язык » because the model “ adjective + noun ” is more common for Russian speakers than the model “ adjective + verb ”.

Chinese is an isolating language and characterized by definite features. Some features should be mentioned: the absence of inflections, the grammatical significance of the word order within a sentence, the weak opposition of notional words to functional ones. The vocabulary of the Chinese language mainly consists of monosyllabic morphemes; each character represents a phonetic and semantic unity. The main way of word-formation is compounding which means the connection of significant language units into a complex word. The lexical analyses of the novel translated into Chinese language ( Orwell, 2017) has demonstrated that in the result of calque and the conversion process, the occasional word “Newspeak” was translated as 新 话 (新 – new, 话 – speech).

The occasional unit “ Oldspeak ” is widely used in the novel “ 1984 ”. It was formed by the model “ adjective + verb ” and the primary meaning is speaking in an archaic way. The secondary meaning is forbidden, not reflecting the Ingsoc principles language. People who use it are not restricted by the poor lexical and grammatical systems and therefore they can’t be controlled by governing Party. “ Oldspeak ” can be defined as the ideologically filled sign because the definition of its secondary meaning is not obvious, it should be considered through the context of novel.

The word “ Oldspeak ” was translated into Russian as « старояз ». The transference way of this occasional unit is similar to the word “ Newspeak ” and can be considered as dichotomy « новояз » / « старояз ». The contrast between these occasional units is emphasized with the morphemes « стар » and « нов ». The morpheme « яз » united them, reflecting the relationship between the old language and the new language.

The adjective “ old ” was translated into Chinese language as 老 ( old , wise , overripe ). According to the dictionary, the character 老 is a polysemantic word and has both positive 老街坊 (good neighbor, 老行家 (an experienced specialist) and negative connotations 老机器 (an outdated mechanism), 这所房子太老了, 应该折掉 (too old). In order to convey adequately the meaning of the occasional word “ Oldspeak ” the morpheme 老话 (old-fashioned, conservative, outdated) was used. The morpheme 旧话 was unacceptable, because the phrase 以前所说过的话 has the meaning “language spoken in ancient times”. Hence, the representatives of Chinese lingua-culture perceive the word 老话 as means of communication, which came into being under the influence of a new ideology but not as the archaic way of speaking which is presented by the morpheme (旧话).

The occasional word “ Blackwhit e” was formed by the model (adjective + adjective) and the primary meaning is color naming. The secondary meaning is defined as the ability of Ingsoc members to believe doubtlessly in everything what the Party presents as right and good or wrong and bad. Only the Party can decide what is black (bad) now or what was white (good) in the past. Thus, the knowledge and experience of people who live in a dystopian society are devalued. The word “ Blackwhit e” is also considered as an ideologically filled sign because it is impossible to define its meaning without the context of a novel.

Blackwhit e” was translated into Russian as « белочерный » ( black – черный, white – белый ). Morphological analysis shows that the word « белочерный » was formed by joining together the root « бел » and the root « черн » with connecting vowel « о ». For the representatives of Russian lingua-culture the meaning of the adjective «белый» is associated with the concepts “clear, right, good, kind” and the adjective «черный» has such connotation as “wrong, mistaken, wicked”.

The occasional word “ Blackwhite ” was translated into Chinese language as 黑白, created by combining two adjectives. In the lexical structure of the Chinese language this phrase is presented such free word combination as 黑白片 (black-and-white film), 黑白电视 (black-and-white TV). In these examples the meaning of the phrase “ black-and-white ” is a color naming. However, this translation is also related with the fact that in Chinese lingua-culture there is a phraseological unit 颠倒黑白 (to give black for white, to distort the truth). Thus, the sign “黑白” managed to preserve the ideological opposition “true” vs “false” verbalized by the occasional word “ Blackwhite ”.


The following conclusions are drawn: in the novel political ideology is introduced by special language called “Newspeak”. It consists of occasional words that are defined by scholars as a word or meanings of words, invented to meet the needs of a particular occasion in order to catch attention of the reader and express the evaluation of the author. Invented in accordance with the productive word-formation models of the English language, lexical units of “Newspeak” serve as means of political ideology verbalization in the novel “1984”. It is proved by the fact that the meanings of “Newspeak” words are not obvious, it should be considered through the context of novel. The analysis of translations of the novel “1984” into Russian and Chinese languages has shown that loan translation (calque) is the most common way to translate the occasional words. This method reflects the uniqueness of the occasional word and conveys the idea of it in the best way.


The work was done with the support of Russian Foundation For Basic Research (RFBR), the grant № 19-012-00380/19, Pasevich Z. V.


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03 August 2020

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Sociolinguistics, linguistics, semantics, discourse analysis, translation, interpretation

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Ryzhova, V. A., Simonova, E. P., & Pasevich, Z. V. (2020). Verbalization Of Ideological Signs In The Translations Of The Novel “1984”. In N. L. Amiryanovna (Ed.), Word, Utterance, Text: Cognitive, Pragmatic and Cultural Aspects, vol 86. European Proceedings of Social and Behavioural Sciences (pp. 1283-1290). European Publisher.