Yoda Grammar

Is Yoda speaking "real" English? In this episode, we dissect the subject-verb-object order.

Mignon Fogarty,
April 3, 2015
Episode #105

Page 3 of 3

The Later Yoda

Carson noted that Yoda's speech patterns became more consistent as more movies came out. In essence, George Lucas became more practiced in Yodish and settled into a consistent set of rules. For example, in the third movie, Return of the Jedi, Yoda asks,"Look I so old to young eyes?" which doesn't comply with standard English or "standard" Yodish. In standard English, we'd say, "Do I look so old to young eyes?" and in standard Yodish we'd say, "Look so old to young eyes, do I?" Presumably, there are fewer of these non-standard sentences in the later movies, although without analyzing the full scripts, I can't confirm or refute this idea.

Standard English for Emphasis

Finally, both Carson and websites [and here] note that when Yoda has something really important to say, he tends to say it in standard English. For example, he uses standard word order and not Yodish when he tells Anakin, "The fear of loss is a path to the dark side" and when he comments that, "A Jedi uses the Force for knowledge and defense, never for attack." One theory is that Yoda is making an extra effort to speak standard English when his point is critical so that his listeners understand his point.

So, although Yodish may not conform to the most common form of standard English, it's hard to say it isn't real English when we have acceptable phrases like "With this ring, I thee wed." It's certainly a fun topic for linguists.

Related Articles

Subject and Object

Read More About Yodish Analysis of Yodish

Unclear of Yoda's Syntax the Principles Are, If Any

Why Backwards Talk Yoda?

* A more detailed quote from Charles Carson on the exceptions to standard Yodish: "However, Yoda is not consistent on [the subject-object-verb structur; when he uses an auxiliary verb or modal, he usually moves only the auxiliary/modal with the subject and [keeps] the main verb in front of the object or adverb, as in "Trained as a Jedi he must be," but sometimes he moves the entire verb phrase, as in "With this Naboo queen you must stay." (Personally, I find the former pattern more Yoda-like and would render the latter example, "Stay with this Naboo queen you must.") Once one sees the pattern, to imitate Yoda easy it is."

Photo Courtesy Orange_Beard's photostream, CC BY 2.0


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