What is Yoda's speech called? Is there a particular name for it (such as "dangling...")?


4 Answers 4


This is more a linguistics question than an English language question in my opinion.

The quality of Yoda's speech that makes it sound strange to English speakers - and the speakers of the majority of earth's langauges is that it uses a very uncommon linguistic typology or word ordering known as Object-Subject-Verb (OSV) or sometimes Object-Agent-Verb (OAV).

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    Correctly you have answered
    – jsj
    May 18, 2011 at 7:04
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    This covers some of the patterns of Yodish, but I think you have to qualify it more than that. E.g. consider Help you I will. It's a bit of a stretch to analyze that as OSV... you'd have to consider the main verb as the Object, and the auxiliary verb as the verb. That's a plausible analysis, but not the usual one AFAIK, and possibly controversial, so it would need to be mentioned.
    – LarsH
    May 18, 2011 at 14:20
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    @LarsH: Yes we run into these exact problems when trying to analyse the typology of real languages too. I would suggest that word-order types specifically and linguistic typology generally are nothing more than a rough guide at best. But as I said this is more in the realm of a linguistics topic than an English language topic. As far as the English language is concerned, OSV is probably as good a specific term describing Yodish as we have. The other best answer would be "there's no English word that can accurately capture the quality of Yodishness". May 19, 2011 at 3:45
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    @hippietr, I think this question is more about English linguistics than about lg typology (and that's why word-order types like "OSV" are a poor fit). Yoda's speech is designed to be understandable but odd for Engl-sp audiences, in a way that matches certain recognizable patterns of Engl speech, and evokes a certain character thereby. So if there is a term in the field of Engl grammar that describes postposing of S and an aux V, as in "(I expected to finish the race, and) finish I did", I believe that term would best answer this question.
    – LarsH
    May 19, 2011 at 14:41
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    I'm curious about how this form is still entirely comprehensible (and valid?) in English, but what about other languages that have stricter rules? Can it translate? Jun 5, 2011 at 3:55

Here is an article on Yoda-speak at the Language Log.

One way to look at Yoda's syntax is that it shows signs of favoring OSV syntax (Object-Subject-Verb) as the basic order in the simple clause. In fact one could call it XSV syntax, where the X is whatever complement would appropriately go with the verb, whether it's an object or not.

And then:

But there is another way to see Yoda's syntax: you could see him as using SVO (or SVX) but favoring, almost to excess, certain special constructions that English allows only as stylistic variations in special discourse contexts.

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    I think this is the most accurate answer. See my other comment about "Help you I will." This sentence fits more with "favoring, almost to excess" a special stylistic inversion of sentence constituents ("I knew I was going to miss her. And miss her I did."), than it does with a basic XSV order.
    – LarsH
    May 18, 2011 at 14:24
  • That is exactly what the author was getting at.
    – NateMPLS
    May 19, 2011 at 0:00
  • +1 This is a decent linguistic answer but not really the englishSO answer to "What is Yoda's speech called?". May 19, 2011 at 3:48
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    @hippietrail theweek.com/articles/442256/why-strangely-yoda-speaks is also nice.
    – tchrist
    Dec 23, 2017 at 17:18

Just saw a question about the topic not too long ago ;P

"Hyperbaton and Anastrophe"

  1. Hyperbaton: An inversion of normal word order. A generic term for a variety of figures involving transposition (see below), it is sometimes synonymous with anastrophe.

  2. Anastrophe: Usually synonymous and occasionally referred to as a more specific instance of hyperbaton: the changing of the position of only a single word.

This style is found in certain forms of poetry. One example of Yoda's speech, "Sorry, but go you must." instead of "Sorry, but you must go." is seen attached to this small article.

A figure of speech that uses disruption or inversion of customary word order to produce a distinctive effect also, a figure in which language takes a sudden turn--usually an interruption.

Plural: hyperbata. Adjective: hyperbatonic....From the Greek, "passed over, transposed"

Here's a small example calling on the same phrase in a technical analogy from the University of Baltimore

Jay Bolter once showed me an interesting approach to the dialectic of singular and multiple sequences in hypertext (1992). He invoked the rhetorical figure of hyperbaton or scrambled syntax -- the way Yoda speaks in the Star Wars movies...

...in much the same way that we understand what Yoda means when he says, "Sorry I be but go you must." We register the disorder in the text but make sense of it by extrapolating a more conventional pattern.

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    A reference would improve this answer.
    – LarsH
    May 18, 2011 at 14:16
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    Yes, true that is :) May 18, 2011 at 14:50
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    Giggling I am, that answer for this question my joking was.
    – Kit Z. Fox
    May 18, 2011 at 16:28
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    +1 for both providing an alternative answer and providing an English language term that describes it! May 19, 2011 at 3:49

here's a fairly thorough discussion of Yodish

Yodish, the language of Yoda of Star Wars fame is quite similar to that of our standard English. The words he uses are the same as those we use. They are intended to be used for the same purpose or part of speech. His language contains the same phrase structures and if enough applications are made, it is likely that infinite combinations are possible. Yodish is not an arbitrary grammar which simply confuses that of SEV willy-nilly but there is a standard pattern of rules which are applied, though not likely purposefully designed by creator George Lucas. If this were the case, the errors I have mentioned would very likely not exist nor would the fourth class of sentences, that of the SEV structures used for clarity of understanding. There are some exceptions to these rules, but we can apply the rules of Yodish and create an everyday language and therefore, Yodish is a legitimate language, or in the grammar of Yoda, "A legitimate language is Yodish, yes. Hmmm."

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