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According to Wikipedia, this is a hyperbaton:

"Whom god wishes to destroy, he first makes mad" — Euripides

Is that right, and if so, why? My native language is Swedish, but I speak English fluently. Anyway, why isn't the following considered hyperbaton too?

It's not that hard, I suppose.

It's very common in Swedish, which may be the reason why it sounds so natural to me, but still, it's rather common in English too.

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    It is hyperbaton, using the classical definition, 'any deliberate and dramatic departure from standard word order'. Most of English syntax would be classed as hyperbatonic (good word,that; I must remember to drop it into a conversation), since deliberate and variously dramatic departures from standard word order are what syntax is all about. This is probably why linguists (except possibly Greek linguists) don't use the term much. – John Lawler Oct 11 '13 at 15:06
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The more traditional phrasing would be:

God first makes mad whom he wishes to destroy.

Flipping the order of "[he/God] first makes mad" and "whom [he/God] wishes to destroy" results in a hyperbaton.

Hyperbaton /haɪˈpɜrbətɒn/ is a figure of speech in which words are transposed.

I personally wouldn't consider "It's not that hard, I suppose." a hyperbaton because it is just conversational English. I don't know the appropriate term for the pattern but it is standard phrasing:

I just don't want to go to the movies, I guess.

If you wanted to turn this into a hyperbaton you would have to muck up the order of the first part:

To the movies, I just don't want to go, I guess.

Which is horribly awkward. You'd actually say:

To the movies, I guess I just don't want to go.

To turn your example into a hyperbaton:

Hard it is not, I suppose.

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    To make it even more of a hyperbaton: "Hard is it not, suppose I" – jocap Oct 11 '13 at 17:17
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    That is Yodaspeak – mplungjan Oct 11 '13 at 18:02
  • I haven't seen any of the Star Wars films, but I'm familiar with Yoda via references, and I don't think he talks exactly that way. Isn't it more "[verb], you will" instead of "you will [verb]?" Update: Well, actually, according to yodaspeak.co.uk, "Hard it is not, I suppose." is Yodaspeak. – jocap Oct 11 '13 at 19:53
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    Yoda speak is OSV: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yoda_speak, so it will be "(O)[(O)[not hard] (S)it (V)is)], (S)I (V)suppose." – MrHen Oct 11 '13 at 19:57
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    Terribly pedestrian thought I, when read I that @jocap had not seen any Star Wars films; but upon reflection pedestrian would I have not regarded myself, who has not seen any Twilight film. – Cyberherbalist Oct 11 '13 at 22:39
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Mark Thorin's answer, above, is good, and with him I agree. (The last part of the previous sentence is an example of hyperbaton, since the "normal" word order would be "Mark Thorin's answer, above, is good, and I agree with him.)

For a humorous take on the rhetorical figure called hyperbaton, you might want to explore Yoda-speak, which is a way of talking that makes frequent use of hyperbaton. Yoda is a lovable guru and mentor to Luke Skywalker's character in the movie Star Wars.

If you are interested in converting "normal" speech into Yoda-speak, see the following web site: http://www.yodaspeak.co.uk/. Here's an interesting example:

"You were wherever, not, you now are!"

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In the first sentence, you can't cut the sentence at the comma : each part has no meaning by itself. It is an inversion bringing out the main idea, and then an hyperbaton.

In the second, you could : it is obvious for the first part ; the second part, although it is not "I suppose so", could stand alone as an answer to a remark.

The dialog : "It is not hard". - "I suppose". is correct, and is not an hyperbaton.

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  • Is it, though, not an example of flipping the subordinate clause with the main clause ("I suppose it isn't hard" -> "It isn't hard, I suppose"), making it a hyperbaton, although a common one? – jocap Oct 11 '13 at 17:15
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    Nope, that's not hyperbaton, which by definition is a deliberate and dramatic type of word reordering. In spontaneous speech there's more variation in word order patterns simply because we utter words as they come to mind. "I suppose" is a downtoner, and one often doesn't anticipate the need to tone down one's statement. As there's no deliberation, there's no drama at play. – Talia Ford Oct 11 '13 at 18:19

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