Language and political reality: George Orwell reconsidered


  • Suren Zolyan Sholokhov Moscow State University for the Humanities / Russian Institute for Advanced Study in Humanities and Technology (RIAS) Moscow, Russia; Institute of Philosophy, National Academy of Science, Yerevan, Armenia



political reality, language in political function, political discourse, Orwell's linguistic theory, Newspeak, doublethink, multiple reference, possible world semantics


The domain of reference of political discourse is not autonomous from language; this domain is a construct generated by the discourse itself. Such an approach to the relation between language and political reality was expressed in George Orwell’s novel Nineteen Eighty-Four. Concepts of modern semantics and pragmatics allow to explicate how language acts as both a form of constructing reality and a special type of social verbal behaviour. Language has become exclusively modal and intentional; any utterance expresses the relations of obligation, possibility, etc. and may be interpreted in intensional and, hence, in referentially non-opaque contexts. However, the semantics does not lose its referential force. In contrast, this force is multiplied, becoming a transworld relation. In this respect, the semantics of political discourse is akin to poetic semantics; however, the multidimensionality of the signified referents is hidden because referential discourse is a precondition for effectiveness. Political discourse, as a description of “world as it is”, presupposes a hidden reference to other modal contexts “world in the future” (or “in the past”); “how the world should be” (or “should not be”), etc. The domain of the interpretation of political discourse is a set of possible worlds.


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How to Cite

Zolyan, S. (2015). Language and political reality: George Orwell reconsidered. Sign Systems Studies, 43(1), 131–149.