1984 = 2048?

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Flamenca's picture
1984 = 2048?

Algebe: “War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength.” (George Orwell, "1984")

1984 , published in 1949, has been proven to be more prophetic that most of the holy books or Nostradamus himself... Those who have read 1984 should be familiar with the term "Newspeak". In the horrific totalitarian society described in this novel, the language is strictly controlled, so that people are only allowed to express thoughts with a very restricted grammar and very poor vocabulary, and many of the nouns have been changed on purpose to disorient.

A few days ago, CMAllen was so kind to give me the best compliment as an English student I could have ever received, which is to use your beautiful language's words at the same level as a native speaker or even better... That's nice, but so untrue; and yet he makes an interesting point...

I've discussed with family and friends who are about my age or older, who speak my mother tongue, Castilian-Spanish, about the apparently decrease of lack of interest for reading or writing, for caring one's language, and we all agree this phenomenon is alarming especially among young, and from what I read on the internet, English is beat as well. I'm not talking about rudeness, but serious grammar mistakes and absence of accurate words. And I'm not reducing it to instant communicational platforms,which are probably being mirrored, I'm referring to school assigments, blogs, magazines, tv shows, or any other aspect of life where proper language is required.

I think people are not aware of the consequences of belittlling your own language, the lost of freedom it entails... I'd like to know if you have noticed (or not) the same process, if you share my concern, and whether you can imagine a solution or have any other thought about this issue.

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algebe's picture
@Angiebot: "I'd like to know

@Angiebot: "I'd like to know if you have noticed (or not) the same process"

Indeed I have. At school back in the 50s and 60s, I was thoroughly taught about grammar, spelling, and punctuation. I was encouraged to learn about words, including their meanings and origins. One English teacher told me that there are no perfect synonyms in English. Every word is unique. I value that lesson above all.

I'm afraid teachers, let alone students, are pretty ignorant about these things today. Nobody values grammar and spelling, and their vocabulary is shrinking. I see critical errors everywhere in newspapers, and even on billboards. It's very sad. To give you an example, consider this sentence: "I should have read that book." In speech we shorten that to "I should've". The 've' is pronounced "əv", which sounds exactly like the word "of". Unfortunately many people now write "I should of" instead of " I should've". Little errors like this are like termites eating our language.

When your vocabulary and language skills are limited, your ability to analyze, understand, and articulate is also limited. That's when you start to become a sheep only able to say "baa" and think about grass. That's what Orwell was afraid of. He wrote about it in "Politics and the English Language" (1946).

Your English is excellent. I see occasional signs that you're not a native speaker, but never anything that obscures the meaning. You're certainly one of the best users of English in this forum.

ʝօɦռ 6IX ɮʀɛɛʐʏ's picture
Language is a progressive and

Language is a progressive and fluid thing. It changes with every generation. I personally find it fascinating seeing how words take on new meanings, how spelling changes, even how pronunciation changes. It is wrong to think deviations are termites, instead they are seeds.

algebe's picture
@John 61X Breezy: "It is

@John 61X Breezy: "It is wrong to think deviations are termites, instead they are seeds."

They're not seeds when they make your meaning unintelligible. People need a certain basic knowledge of grammar to express themselves. Of course I know that you can't freeze language. But we need to be a little conservative. Otherwise we'll end up unable to communicate and cut off from the literature of the past.

I agree about the new meanings and the changing pronunciation. That's a fascinating process to watch currently or historically. I once heard a recording of Elizabethan English reconstructed using historical linguistic techniques. It sounded a lot like East Coast American.

ʝօɦռ 6IX ɮʀɛɛʐʏ's picture
There's a difference between

There's a difference between correctness and formality. For example, "ain't" isn't formal, you shouldn't use it in your resumes, professional emails, etc., and I can agree with that. Yet, "ain't" is still a word, and using it doesn't make you unintelligible. People know exactly what you mean when you use it. My generation has essentially made up a grammar for texts, tweets, emails, and so forth. In this electronic world, you are frowned upon for saying "talk to you later" instead of ttyl.

Ttyl and ain't are just as grammatical as saying "should have." The only difference is formality.

algebe's picture
You're quite right. "Ain't"

You're quite right. "Ain't" is a perfectly good word with a long history. I think it started out as a contraction for "am not". It's funny that aren't and "isn't" are ok but there's no proper contraction for "am not".

These days I associate "ain't" with working class blokes, especially Cockneys, and upper class twits. We all need to be aware of the impression we create through our language use. If that doesn't matter to you, all well and good, but someone who uses "ain't" when being interviewed for a job might be at a disadvantage.

ʝօɦռ 6IX ɮʀɛɛʐʏ's picture
No clue what blokes and

No clue what blokes and cockneys or twits are. Those words sound made up to me. But you did hit the nail on the head here. Grammatical means whatever the majority and elites are doing, not what is correct. If African Americans were the majority in the United States, and whites were considered lower class. You might not get the job at that interview, based one the rules you suggest.

Better yet, I'm sure you're aware of the distinction between US and UK in terms of spelling. If you wrote colour and calibre instead of color and caliber, you also might not get the job here.

algebe's picture
@John: "No clue what blokes

@John: "No clue what blokes and cockneys or twits are."

They're real words, I can assure you. A Cockney is Eliza Doolittle in "My Fair Lady" or Dick van Dyke in "Mary Poppins".

"Grammatical means whatever the majority and elites are doing, not what is correct."

That's descriptive grammar. You listen to what people are saying and figure out how it all fits together. There's also prescriptive grammar, which tells you what's correct and incorrect.The former is of interest to linguists, but for everyday purposes most people need the latter. That's because we're all very judgmental about how other people dress or speak.

"If African Americans were the majority..."
Then they'd be more conservative. Rebellion in speech and dress is a minority/underclass behavior.

ʝօɦռ 6IX ɮʀɛɛʐʏ's picture
Right, which is what I said.

Right, which is what I said. You are arguing for formality not correctness in any meaningful way.

The structure that African American's use is similar to the structure of other languages. Calling the vernacular of minorities rebellious or not conservative is as meaningless as saying Italian is conservative and French is rebellious. Its all a matter of perspective.

Flamenca's picture
@Algebe. I love your post, I

@Algebe. I love your post, I'm fond on Linguistics There's also prescriptive grammar, which tells you what's correct and incorrect. In Spain since 1713 we have the RAE (Royal Academy of Language), whose motto is "Clean, fix and give splendour" to Castilian-Spanish language, other varieties of Spanish, and it also been the inspiration to the other current 23 official academies of Spanish language in other coutries and they all are part of a huge association... This helps to preserve the language (very useful to understand academic Spanish all over the world, among other things) and they are supposed to run a deeper study on every word, more than from any other dictionary. At least they claim so, and their dictionary is certainly the first reference in Spain.

But by academies, there's always the orwellian risk of controlling the language...

algebe's picture
@Angiebot: "RAE (Royal

@Angiebot: "RAE (Royal Academy of Language)

I believe the French have something like that. English is much more anarchic. In Britain there's something called "received pronunciation" (RP), which is supposed to be the standrd English spoken by educated people in London, such as BBC newsreaders. We also call it the "Queen's English", though she doesn't really speak it very well. I'm not sure if there's anything like that in America. The Japanese have no qualms about adulterating their language. They love to import foreign words and adapt them.

Flamenca's picture
@Algebe, yes, the French

@Algebe, yes, the French academy was founded in 1635, supressed during the French Revolution and restored by Napoleon in 1803 (I searched for the dates). The Italian (Accademia della Crusca) was the first academy, in 1583, and this is really odd, given that when Italy was unified as a country, in the XIX century, less than 5% could be described as users of standard Italian language, meaning la Accademia wasn't very useful at that time...

P.S. My British friends tell me I speak a mixed of Spain-USA accent in English, I wonder if you may notice this in my style of writting (not just because I prefer American spelling of words...), because I found that very hard to do.The English I learnt in school was British, but my self-learning is been mostly input from US English.

Texan, Australian, New Zealander and Scottish (and Geordie's aroon the roondaboots) are like hell to me.


algebe's picture
African American English is a

African American English is a subset or dialect of standard American English. I think also that many African Americans deliberately emphasize their vernacular as a means of differentiation or identification. In that sense, it's definitely a form of rebellion. I don't think African American English can yet be classified as a separate language, any more than Scottish or Australian English can, even though they are quite distinctive.

Flamenca's picture
@Algebe I'm afraid teachers,

@Algebe I'm afraid teachers, let alone students, are pretty ignorant about these things today.

I agree with your posts, except for the simplification on "teachers": I'm friends with several school teachers and they all claim to be forced to follow to the letter the Ministry of Education and their principal's instructions and blame their employers (public or private) for their unwillingness to help them improve. They are not allowed to be creative in the classroom; if so, they could face the wrath of their principal or that of the parents.

So I'd rather say the first reason is education system as a whole... But most parents seem unaware of this, still too confident on the system. When I read some of my teen nieces texts, I'd like to stab my own eyes.

Thanks for your kind words, very reassuring. Except for some posts on Wordreference, this is my first English (and atheist) forum, so I wasn't sure of making a fool out of me. I read some amazing posts of you, guys, (yours are great btw) and some impossible constructions! I'm also learning a bunch of new vocabulary...

English has been one of my favorite hobbies for most part of my life and I strongly recommend to study hard another language, not just because of the communicational aspect, but you gain access to the very "soul" of everyone who speaks it, an exceptional close insight of the countries and cultures that share that language.

@JohnBreezy, I'm fascinated with diachronical changes too, both in Spanish and English. And I'm really glad to add new meanings to words... but on the contrary, I've noticed a disquieting apathy for expression, for vocabulary... Mailing (which requires to take some time and put some ideas in order), thanks to instant communication on cell phones, when it's not related to work, seems a rara avis . Can you explained how do you perceived that semantics are getting richer? For me, there's a diminishing process instead, especially vertiginous since traditional media surrendered to internet fast food style of news.

Media may be my second reason for my argument.

P.S. Ttyl??? Grammatically correct? AYKDM? Wi-fi (Writing Initials is F** Idle)

algebe's picture
@Angiebot: "I strongly

@Angiebot: "I strongly recommend to study hard another language"

I agree. I learned French, Latin, German, and Japanese at school, but Japanese is the only one I'm fluent in these days. As you say, speaking another language gives you a window into that culture. I think I'd find a monolingual world very flat and dull.

Japanese makes you look at the world in a totally new way. There's no gender, for example. In English I need to know the gender so I can use the right pronoun, and I guess Spanish is the same. But Japanese doesn't care. There's no singular/plural either. These may seem like crazy things, but the Japanese communicate well among themselves. Their trains run, and their buildings stay up. But I'm afraid they are very weak at international communication. They are really struggling to understand Donald Trump's tweets.

ʝօɦռ 6IX ɮʀɛɛʐʏ's picture
Keep in mind my perspective

Keep in mind my perspective on language is different than yours. When I say grammatical, I'm referring to a psychological grammar, not a social grammar imposed by whoever is in charge. I'm talking about the rules that allow the brain to produce language.

Also keep in mind that the goal of written language is to mimic spoken language. I believe Hebrew is written mostly without vowels. The Chinese use logogram, which are symbols that represent entire words or phrases. Ttyl is no different.

algebe's picture
@John: "the goal of written

@John: "the goal of written language is to mimic spoken language."

That's how written languages start, but they can evolve way beyond that. With the ideograms used in Chinese/Japanese, you can visually extract complex meanings without mentally vocalizing the spoken sound. We do that in a limited way with English by recognizing the shapes of entire words without consciously pronouncing the sound. Chinese and Japanese are horribly inefficient to learn, write, and print, but wonderfully efficient to read. Complex concepts are also much more transparent. For example, if you see the word "angiogram" in English, you either know or you look it up. You can't really figure out the meaning from the letters. But in Japanese I see the characters for blood, tube, make, shadow, which gives me a rough idea of the meaning.

ʝօɦռ 6IX ɮʀɛɛʐʏ's picture
That's interesting.

That's interesting. Particularly because I know of research that shows even the best and most experienced readers vocalize the sound. You can attach electrodes to the mouth and see it activate as a person reads. This is also why the best way to prevent bad grammar, is to read what you wrote aloud.

That said. Most research is always done on English speakers. No clue how Japanese would respond.

algebe's picture
I thought the reading aloud

I thought the reading aloud thing for grammar worked through hearing rather than speaking. I sometimes have my computer turn my writing into speech output for that purpose. So what happens if people read and eat or chew gum at the same time? Does the chewing motion reduce their comprehension?

ʝօɦռ 6IX ɮʀɛɛʐʏ's picture
As far as I know it doesn't

As far as I know it doesn't interrupt. There are experiments where they anesthetize these muscles so that the person cannot move them. People still read and think normally. Of course it could be argued that the brain is still sending impulses to these muscles, regardless if they move or not.

Now chewing and eating may just be distracting you overall. It'd be interesting to see if there's something there. That's the bad thing about audiobooks. They require less energy, and so that energy goes to doing other things.

In my comment to Angiebot I told her my generation types a lot faster, and mostly verbatim. The downside to that is that we are not actually comprehending. Something about the effort that goes into using paper a pencil, outweighs the speed of typing. This is true even though with traditional note taking you can only jot down fragments of lecture, as opposed to the whole thing verbatim.

I wouldn't be surprised if there's a similar price to pay for the convenience of audiobooks.

algebe's picture
@John: "Now chewing and

@John: "Now chewing and eating may just be distracting you overall."

Eating/chewing can actually enhance concentration when you're reading. So can music. There's a lot we don't know about how the senses interact with our consciousness.

I've been using keyboards since the early 80s, and my ability to write longhand has almost atrophied. But whether longhand or typed, my experience is that if you write something down in your own words, you own it. If you just hear it, it goes in one ear and out the other. Illiterate people appear to have tremendous aural concentration and retention. So maybe there's a price to pay for writing as well.

ʝօɦռ 6IX ɮʀɛɛʐʏ's picture
That's interesting because in

That's interesting because in the paper I've been referencing, the researchers went back and did a second study, in which they told participants NOT to type verbatim, and instead to write things in their own words. Not only was paper and pencil still better, but participants utterly failed to not write verbatim.

I don't know whether or not chewing and music increases concentration when reading. Music may relax you etc., and chewing may break through the monotony of reading. But by and large the rule is that the more inputs you have, the less you can focus on everything.

Flamenca's picture
I learnt in Arabic class,

I learnt in Arabic class, that in Hebrew, as in any other semitic language, vowels are not usually written (or at most, they use dots and other strokes, and mostly to help students or illiterate people and with foreign words), because the language allows to do it so. But if we began to write English on consonants, that's what it would look like, and here's an exercise for your ability as a young from the 21st century (famous quote by Noam Chomsky about language and culture...):

(edited)@John, I took it too far (without vowels):

" lngg s nt jst wrds. ts cltr, trdtn, nfctn f cmmnt, whl hstr tht crts wht cmmnt s. ts ll mbdd n lngg".

P.S. The solution after I sleep and live a little outside this hell of a forum (I mean that in both nice and evil way).

ʝօɦռ 6IX ɮʀɛɛʐʏ's picture
Language is not just words.

Language is not just words. Its ___, tradition, ___ of comment, while ___ that..... no clue...

Flamenca's picture
Hi, @JohnB, I was afraid you

Hi, @JohnB, I was afraid you could prove my point wrong. I'd be devastated, if I had to read on consonants... I feel relieved and I hope you enjoy the quote:

"A language is not just words. It's a culture, a tradition, a unification of a community, a whole history that creates what a community is. It's all embodied in a language". N. Chomsky.

@JohnB, I'd really like to know from your own personal experience, if, regardless of bad habits adquired by instant communications, and taking into account the supposedly more knowledge obtained by age, current youth has objectively better language skills that older people. (Youth: let's say these are people up to 30, for instance).

P.S. Btw, are you fluent in Spanish?
P.S.II. I've heard you're at risk of a hurracaine again. If so, good luck.

ʝօɦռ 6IX ɮʀɛɛʐʏ's picture
I'm fluent in Spanish.

I'm fluent in Spanish.

It depends what you mean with better language skills. We are better when it comes to speaking through computers and technology overall. We also write a lot more than older generations. Young people today literally spend all day writing, composing, and reading text messages, emails, facebook posts, and internet articles. We are on our phone doing this, more than we are with other people. We also write a lot faster that previous generations. The average student with a laptop can write everything the professor says during class, verbatim. This would be impossible with traditional note taking, unless you use a shorthand method that looks like aliens invaded earth.

We also have the benefit of autocorrect. Meaning we are not allowed to misspell words, or make trivial grammar mistakes. The moment we do so, we get an ugly red underline, that makes us go back and correct it. We are getting instant feedback as we write. Older generations didn't have that. If they misspelled a word, they might never know they misspelled it.

In private conversations we've invented a new form of punctuation: the smiley face. Before, the most you could do is use an exclamation mark! But today I can finish a sentence with this : ) or this : ( and communicate far more than older generations could with an exclamation mark.

algebe's picture
@John: "I can finish a

@John: "I can finish a sentence with this : ) or this : ("

In your vocalization experiments with electrodes on the mouth, is there any vocalization impulse for symbols like :) and :(? These emoticons are ideograms with real meanings, but as far as I know they have no pronunciation. We can vocalize LOL, but what about ROTFL and TTYL?

Autocorrect is fine, but I'm seeing a lot more errors like they're or their for there, and hear for here. And there are a lot of autocorrect artefacts in text messages.

ʝօɦռ 6IX ɮʀɛɛʐʏ's picture
Right, but when you are

Right, but when you are talking to a person, you can see them smiling, you can see them crying. You can see them roll their eyes and scratch their head. That is what is being communicated with emojis.

algebe's picture
@John: "you can see them

@John: "you can see them smiling, you can see them crying."

We miss all that in telephone conversations, too. And when we communicate in writing, we also lose the intonation, which gives us heaps of information about the speaker's meaning, mood, attitude, etc.

Flamenca's picture
Good answer, @JohnB.

Good answer, @JohnB.

We also write a lot more than older generations. + We also write a lot faster that previous generations. + We also have the benefit of autocorrect. I already agreed on 1 and 2, and I should have (or should've lol) figured the last one out myself, but I didn't. Great point. I'd add that now we can look up words in the dictionary with astonishing speed...


The average student with a laptop can write everything the professor says during class, verbatim.

I don't mean to brag, but I can write more than 400 kpm. In Spanish, around 75-80 wpm, and I'm also used to taking notes in a computer. I've typed almost daily for half my life, so I would attribute this merit to practice, not to age (my father has been faster for years) or to a particular capacity, although I granted you that this is more frequent in younger people due to familiarity to technology.

So we're quicker in general, faster and more capable to censor mistakes and we've invented (...) the smiley face , so we can express emotions when writing, which is great. Yet, it has nothing to do with care for quality or accuracy of what it's written... Do you think that these two aspects are also advantageous to youth?

P.S. @Algebe, I don't use those tools, because doubt allows me to search for the word and to reinforce my learning, 'though I use several different dictionaries on line (WR, Cambridge, Urban...), and I'm familiar with the use of corpus, 'though as a trick: results on Google within quotation marks can be used as a swift and an informal corpus if you're in a rush and accuracy is not mandatory.

ʝօɦռ 6IX ɮʀɛɛʐʏ's picture
Well, how are you judging

Well, how are you judging quality or accuracy? Consider the following examples:

1. Are you here?
2. Are you here? : )
3. Are you here? >: (

For all intents and purposes the last two points are more accurate representations of what the person wanted to express. The first point is ambiguous in this regard. It doesn't communicate anything other than the question. So if you're judging quality and accuracy based on whether the written text represents the thoughts of the person, then, the smiley face wins. But if its accurate to the standardized rules of English, then no.


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