The language of A Clockwork Orange: A corpus stylistic approach to Nadsat

Benet Vincent, Jim Clarke

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)
5079 Downloads (Pure)


The 1962 dystopian novella A Clockwork Orange achieved global cultural resonance when it was adapted for the cinema by Stanley Kubrick in 1971. However, its author Anthony Burgess insisted that the novel’s innovative element was the introduction of ‘Nadsat’, an art language he created for his protagonist Alex and his violent gang of droogs. This constructed anti-language has achieved a cultural currency and become the subject of considerable academic attention over a 50-year period, but to date no study has attempted a systematic analysis of its resources and distribution. Rather, a number of studies have attempted to investigate the effects of Nadsat, especially in terms of the author’s claim that learning it functioned as a form of ‘brainwashing’ embedded within the text.

This paper uses corpus methods to help isolate, quantify and categorise the distinctive lexicogrammatical features of this art language and investigate how Burgess introduces a new, mainly Russian-based lexicon to readers. In doing so, it clarifies the existing confusion over what Nadsat is, and also provides a roadmap for future studies into the construction, function and translatability of the created linguistic component of the novel.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)247-264
Number of pages18
JournalLanguage and Literature
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 8 Aug 2017


  • Art languages
  • invented languages
  • conlangs
  • corpus stylistics
  • keyword analysis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Literature and Literary Theory


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