Monday, April 30, 2012

Artificial Language

Words shape our thoughts. It is difficult to imagine things that we have no words for; at the same time creating new words for the specific enables our thoughts.

In the novel Nineteen Eighty-Four, an artificial language is used to dampen thoughts of dissent and rebellion, simply by removing the words corresponding to such thoughts. Of course, it is still possible to achieve the same thoughts through negations of the opposite concept, but the very convoluted nature of such thinking hampers dissent. After all, the human mind has a finite working memory, which ultimately places a ceiling on the complexity of thoughts attainable. Creating new words to condense complex concepts into a single, concise form is one way of side-stepping the problem.

Current languages are evolved more than constructed, born out of a series of conveniences rather than deliberate steps. I wonder if it is possible, in a fashion opposite to Nineteen Eighty-Four, to manipulate language in a benign manner. Would the removal of words related to race destroy discrimination? Would naming all implements of war with a single word reduce our taste for war? Would excising  words referencing the supernatural help us clear our minds?

I suspect it may.

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