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To an English speaker, the way he arranges his sentences sounds vaguely enigmatic, which adds to its mystique. An example would be: Yoda grabbed the lightsaber. Yoda, the lightsaber, took hold. Yoda grabbed the lightsaber. Even more unusual is the way in which Yoda speaks famously and arranges his sentences object-subject-verb or OSV: the lightsaber that Yoda has grasped.
Or to use an example from an actual utterance of Yoda, there are other fictional examples of characters speaking like Yoda. I practice. For example: Attack of the Clones. Think for example: And then there are times when Yoda speaks in regular old subject-verb-object constructions. A funny line in terms of time, but, as linguist Mark Liberman pointed out at the time, not really anything that is Yoda-esque. Most confusing, he said, was an example of a fronted element - a kind of clause you could put at the beginning of a sentence for emphasis - found between the subject and the predicate: Yoda-speak is getting even more confusing for me anyway . when you try to translate it from English.
In Estonian versions of the films, Yoda maintains the word order used in English versions, according to an intriguing Reddit thread on linguistics. Really, Yoda was written for an English-speaking audience. And as James Harbeck pointed out in an article for The Week last year, there are many examples from popular literature that sound just as fancy syntactically as Yoda, even if they are not identical in structure.
We understand It's understandable English as it is written by English speakers for English speakers, using things you can do in English. Or not. There is no attempt. We want to hear what you think about this article. Send a letter to the editor or write to letters theatlantic.
Adrienne LaFrance is the editor-in-chief of The Atlantic. Previously, she was Senior Editor and Associate at The Atlantic and Editor of TheAtlantic. Facebook Twitter.
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