Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Putin’s Newspeak a Ritualized Language that Keeps Russians from Thinking, Arkhipova Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, May 18 – What political analysts commonly call newspeak is in fact a “formative” language that provides its audience with meaningless phrases so that people will not think about what they are hearing but simply accept what they are hearing, according to Moscow anthropologist Aleksandra Arkhipova.

            She argues that “the task of a ‘formative’ language is that those to whom it is addressed don’t decode anything but remain within the encoding that the originator provides.” The latter gives its audience “meaningless phrases so that those in the audience don’t think about them” ( reposted at

            In this way, Arkhipova continues, “there is no content in newspeak; but ther eis a ritual component.” As an example of this, she gives a recent Russian obituary which specified that “he died heroically at the cost of his life as a result of a missile attack,” a group of words that says little but unites speaker and audience.

            This is very different from Aesopian language, the anthropologist points out. Those who use it assume that their audiences understand everything and will immediately decode what they say while those who use the formative language of newspeak assume that their audiences understand nothing and will simply accept what they are told.

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