# Social engineering: Design a new language for a totalitarian state obsessed with scientific advancement

In the world I'm currently building, there are many species, each with their own language. Most of these languages evolved naturally over time, much like here on Earth. But there is one race (let's call them the "T") that have a different situation. Long ago, they were an industrious and down-to-earth reptilian people with a language like any other, with technology comparable to mid-20th century America. But then a violent revolution took place and their society changed dramatically.

The new government's goal is to develop the technology necessary to achieve a post-scarcity economy and to make their race practically invulnerable to natural disaster or military attack. They also want to stamp out their more animalistic side and make people rely more on reason. In order to reach these goals, they abolish all personal rights and conscript as much of the population as possible as scientists, engineers, teachers, and soldiers. Their society becomes one giant machine dedicated to science.

Now, the T do not have the same obsession with freedom that those pesky humans living across the ocean do, and most of the population is okay with the new way of doing things, even if it wouldn't be their first choice. But some resist the ideals of the new society, and others struggle to adapt to a society obsessed with science, logic and structure even though they support the government's goals. After thousands of years, however, this resistance is eventually overcome, and the T not only reign supreme as their world's sole undisputed economic and military ultrapower, but the people love their authoritarian society, and scientific, rational thought is now an intuitive and emotionally satisfying part of their culture.

A huge part of the success of the revolution's long term success was the government's ability to manipulate the way that subsequent generations thought. Not by brainwashing, torture, or other uncivilized means: they're totalitarian, but they're also idealist utopians, and they want the people to honestly support their goals. They can't use use force, at least not excessively. But what they can use is language.

# Now, imagine that you are the first Supreme Social Architect of the new T state, and you are tasked with creating a new written and spoken language for your people that will gradually change the way that the T conceive of the world until you achieve your totalitarian scientific utopia. What kind of language do you come up with?

• Promote critical thinking and reliance on reason.
• Promote cooperation and collectivism.
• Promote the importance of precision, organization, and structure.
• Promote a scientific approach to understanding the world.
• Promote the notion of progress.

• Either suppress or heavily promote independent thought.
• Promote blind submission to authority.
• Make the language unnecessarily complicated.

Things you can control:

• The symbols used to convey information (not limited to letters or logographs).
• How text is arranged in writing (left to right, top to bottom, spiraling, graph-like, etc).
• Grammar, syntax.
• Vocabulary (you can create new words).
• The denotations of words.

Things you CANNOT control:

• The phonemes of which speech is composed.
• The connotations of words.
• Vocabulary (you cannot prevent the people from making new words, although you can resist their usage in publications).

I'm not asking for a complete dictionary or an exhaustive list of syntax of rules, just a few general principles and maybe a few examples. Looking to real-life Earth languages for inspiration is fine, but keep in mind that you are starting completely from scratch here and are free to introduce ideas not ever seen in any real language.

Ultimately, it should very easy to write a scientific paper or have a formal debate in this new language, and very, very difficult to write a love sonnet, an impassioned rant, or a typical YouTube comment.

I don't care if this situation seems unrealistic. These are sapient lizards living on the lip of a giant stone mushroom budding off the side of a sentient, jupiter-sized stone gyroscope floating in an infinite void of magical mists. For them, it works, and it happens this way.

• You realize that asking for a totalitarian state that promotes creativity and critical thinking is like asking for water that isn't wet. – Seeds Aug 4 '16 at 21:19
• @Seeds, ... Ice? – Ghanima Aug 4 '16 at 21:21
• Ice is wet because parts of it melt being in contact with something that provides enought energy to do so. And water is the generic word for any of the common states of matter concerning so in a broad sense it does not imply liquid water. Anyways it really does not matter wrt your original point addressing the OP's question ;) – Ghanima Aug 4 '16 at 21:32
• @Seeds Regarding creativity: that was an instruction for the answers, not a description of the language. I understand it was confusing, I'll remove it. Regarding critical thinking: why? The T don't have the same values that we do, and as long as the government is making life better for them in ways they can quantify, the vast majority of them will accept its impositions. That is a indisputable premise of the question that is central to the place this species occupies in my world. – ApproachingDarknessFish Aug 4 '16 at 22:06
• I have no rational answer that satisfies your criteria. I must point out (from a human perspective, the concept of an altruistic totalitarian state is the ultimate contradiction. .. that said, to your question, please look into the underlying concepts of 'NLP' - neuro-linguistic programming. This concept of social engineering is older than Orwellian newspeak , and more science -based than romulan lizards...;) sounds like a fun challenge, investigate translation issues... – Joe Aug 4 '16 at 23:59

I have a few suggestions for the Supreme Social Architect:

1) Some real-life languages have a characteristic called evidentiality in which the grammar of the language obliges speakers when making any statement to specify what evidence they have for the statement; for example whether they know the statement to be true by personal observation, or have inferred it to be true by deduction, or have merely been told that it is true. According to Wikipedia the Eastern Pomo language

has four evidential suffixes that are added to verbs, -ink’e (nonvisual sensory), -ine (inferential), -·le (hearsay), -ya (direct knowledge).

A scientific language could use a form of evidentiality to grammatically distinguish between the scientific meanings of fact, hypothesis, law and theory in ways that oberron's answer has already suggested.

2) Science starts with numbers, so the words for numbers should be strictly regular, with nothing like "eleven" or "quatre-vingt-dix". It has been speculated that one reason for the facility pupils in East Asian countries show in mathematics is that in most of their languages it is simply easier to learn to count than for speakers of Indo-European languages, because the words for numbers are more logical and regular.

3) Scientific terms should not be be coined by taking a word from the general language and narrowing its meaning. This causes confusion. Likewise scientific terms should not be allowed to be used colloquially or metaphorically unless the word is grammatically marked to show that it is not being used literally.

4) To "promote the importance of precision, organization, and structure" you could specify that clauses and sub-clauses be nested as precisely as in a computer language. In fact the whole language could resemble a programming language. Minimize homophones and synonyms. Make the grammar demand that the role of each word in the sentence (subject, object, indirect object, verb and so on) is explicitly marked with no possibility for ambiguity. Latin does this by word-endings but it could also be done by a fixed word order.

5) The writing system should either be purely phonetic or purely ideographic (Some Westerners think the Chinese writing system is ideographic but this belief is untrue.) A phonetic system would be easy to learn, making for an educated populace, but for that very reason what is written will be harder to control. Phonetic writing systems have a tendency to be "left behind" when the spoken language drifts, so they don't remain a perfect representation of speech forever. In contrast a pure ideographic system would be easy to control but very hard to learn. The author quoted in the earlier link thinks it would actually be impossible for humans to learn:

Ideographic writing, however, requires mastery of the tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of symbols that would be needed for ideographic representation of words or concepts without regard to sound. A bit of common sense should suggest that unless we supplement our brains with computer implants, ordinary mortals are incapable of such memory feats.

However it could be that your lizard people have better memories.

6) Another possibility is to develop a language along the lines of the constructed language called Ithkuil, created by John Quijada and

designed to express deeper levels of human cognition briefly yet overtly and clearly, particularly with regard to human categorization. Presented as a cross between an a priori philosophical and a logical language striving to minimize the ambiguities and semantic vagueness found in natural human languages, Ithkuil is notable for its grammatical complexity and extensive phoneme inventory, the latter being simplified in the final version of the language. The name "Ithkuil" is an anglicized form of Iţkuîl, which in the original form roughly means "hypothetical representation of a language".

However, given that

Quijada states he did not create Ithkuil to be auxiliary or used in everyday conversations, but rather to serve as a language for more elaborate and profound fields where more insightful thoughts are expected, such as philosophy, arts, science and politics.

Ithkuil may fall foul of your specification that it not be too complicated.

7) At first sight it might seem that you could promote co-operation and collectivism by forbidding the first person pronoun and related words. That was what was done in Ayn Rand's dystopian novel Anthem. However that society also forbade scientific progress, which would be a credible effect of forbidding the word "I", since curiosity is an individual characteristic. A better idea would be to follow the example of the artificial language that the anarchists in Ursula Le Guin's The Dispossessed created for their society, in which the individual possessive pronoun was discouraged by custom. Children were taught to say "this is the handkerchief I use" rather than "this is my handkerchief".

Egalitarianism is linked to co-operation and could be promoted by not allowing any honorifics or status-linked speech registers to be embedded in the language, e.g. make it in this respect more like English in having only one form of "you" and less like Korean or Javanese which both have different forms depending on relative status. On the other hand the Supreme Social Architect might want to keep some honorifics in the language for use when addressing Supreme Social Architects and similar important people.

After all that, I don't think the scheme would fully work, even granting for fictional purposes the different brains of the lizard men and the operation in your universe of a fairly strong version of the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis. You can't get blood out of a stone and you can't get new concepts by specifying a particular grammar. Of course you can get them through the medium of that grammar, but you might as well not bother, since you could also have got them from any language that can generate infinite new sentences, i.e. any true language that exhibits Hockett's design features. Put another way, if the new language has the capability to generate new ways to express new scientific ideas it also (as a matter of logic rather than idealistic notions about the creativity of free people) has the capability to generate new ways to handle declarations of love or political rants.

• Should there be just one writing system? In Ojibwe (which is another example of a language with evidentiality), there is a linear, phonetic system for representing speech as well as a graph-like, ideographic system. Which one gets used depends on the purpose of the writing. – George Steel Feb 15 '17 at 2:22

Esperanto had very similar goals to your language when it was created, although more for the purposes of world peace as opposed to totalitarian control. It was to be spread from the bottom up, instead of forced from the top down. If you researched the properties and reasoning for the properties of Esperanto, you'd probably learn more than you could on these forums, since Ludwick Zamenhoff (the inventor) made the most successful artificial language ever and I didn't. Even more informative might be to read criticism of the language to see what might have been done even better.

Other moderately successful artificial languages are Volapuk and Interlingua.

So the other hidden part of your question is: what are the effects on a language that is forced onto a population? I can't really answer this that well, but there are many examples of language standardization, here are some examples with links as I could find:

• Mandarin Chinese was pushed on top of all other Chinese langauges (Yue, Wu, Min, Hakka, Gan and more) which were not really dialects, they were as distinct as the Romance or Germanic languages. Those langauges survive until today, but Mandarin is now the dominant lingua franca at least since the Cultural Revolution.

• Russian was pushed on top of other languages both similar (Byelorussian, Ukrainian) and dissimilar (from the Finno-Ugric, Caucasian, Turkic, Mongol, etc families) by the Soviet Union. Here is some info on the language changes.

• French was pushed ontop of the regional dialects of France. Some (like Burgundian) were other langues d'oil and were properly dialects and probably mutually intelligible. Some like the langues d'oc from southern France were probably separate languages more closely related to Catalan than to what has become modern, standard French. Some, like Breton, were from completely different language families. There were changes to the language during the transition from Middle French that was national language of the elite, to Modern French.

The links aren't the best; this topic is something I wish I knew more about. There is so much that goes into creation of a language and a grammar, that I think it is really beyond the scope of a question on this forum.

But if you are trying to learn more, I would suggest the key point is that there are two aspects: how the language is designed, which you can learn about from Esperanto, and how a language is changed when forced on a population, which you could can learn about from 1920s Russia, 1950/60s China, and early 1800s France.

Beyond examples of our vernacular languages can replace others, one point that your Supreme Social Architect of the new T state will need to work on is the actual education system.

Scientific and Engineering studies are full of technical jargon that confuses a lot of students at first. Some even say that it is actually one of the reason why some believe not to be suited for science.

Fostering rational and scientific behaviour will require to find ways to educate citizens into thinking rationally: understanding the difference between an idea, an well formed hypothesis, a verified hypothesis, a demonstrated theory and a law of physics (for more on this: here).

Through education will they have to learn abstract concepts which are not easily observed in day to day life: feedback loops, fractals, chaos, differential equations, ... the same way people learn foreign languages and have to deal with concepts of foreign cultures.

One side benefit though, exclusive focus on scientific studies seems to leave students (unless it is predispose bias in our biology) less dispose to social skills (here) which could help solve the challenge of creativity limited to the field of science (though the line to walk to make it credible in your world might be thin).