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My impression is that in the original trilogy, talk like people caricaturize him, often Yoda does not. Actually, he says many sentences in normal word order.

Yet in The Clone Wars pretty much every sentence in Yoda word order is.

Analyze the variation of use of unusual word order by Yoda over the course of the various series anyone has?


Standard Basic word-order follows, in case you can't follow the above

My impression is that in the original trilogy, often Yoda doesn't talk like people caricaturize him. Actually, he says many sentences in normal word order. Yet in The Clone Wars pretty much every sentence is in Yoda word order.

Has anyone analyzed the variation of use of unusual word order by Yoda over the course of the various series?

  • 4
    as amusing as the word order choice in your question is, difficult to read, it is. Edit to more user friendly, I might consider – NKCampbell Feb 2 '17 at 18:05
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    @NKCampbell: Disappointed I am. But reversed the word order I have. Now reverse your vote you must. – ThePopMachine Feb 2 '17 at 18:26
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    Hurray, out of the red it is. Now the respectable green color it must become. – ThePopMachine Feb 2 '17 at 19:34
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    Yoda's word-order choice a crutch is to make people think not so powerful he is. Much like Yoda not need cane use. – RichS Feb 2 '17 at 23:47
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    Judge him by his word-order do you? Word order matters not. Funny this post is. Earn +2 for humor it will. – RichS Feb 2 '17 at 23:48
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Yes, Yoda was Flanderized.

See the TVTropes article on flanderization

Using the transcripts from IMSDB, I compiled all the lines of dialog uttered by Yoda in the original series. Note that he had a big role in Empire Strikes Back, and a rather minor role in Return of the Jedi. You can see the pastebin of the lines, here: http://pastebin.com/982H7vuU

Each line is essentially one line of dialog. I did break up some really long ones when it seems he changed style mid-line, but in general, he spoke in mostly short sentences. Each line is prefixed by a space (Spoken in Yoda style, the line was), an asterisk (quality English without much going on), and an exclamation point (extremely high quality English, usually with some complex syntax). All these decisions were extremely biased.

In Empire Strikes Back, he has approximately 54 lines.

  • Yoda style, only sixteen were.
  • 38 lines were regular English,
    • 13 were Good English,
    • 25 were EXCELLENT English.

An example of "Excellent English:" "If you end your training now, if you choose the quick and easy path, as Vader did, you will become an agent of evil."

At the beginning, Yoda is obviously trying to measure up Luke, so he puts on an act. He uses very simple sentences and broken word order to get Luke off his guard.

Once he's made his evaluation, however, the goofiness instantly disappears. "I cannot teach him. The boy has no patience." He suddenly starts talking complex English, which is part of the "big reveal" that this is Yoda, the slick educated warrior, not some country bumpkin.

Throughout the training montage, he stays reasonable. Short sentences sometimes reverse, but he's got really complex ideas to put across, and those require clear speaking. When he's focusing on making a point, his English is brilliant; only when he's throwing a statement off the cuff does he slip, very occasionally, into Yoda English.

Everything changes in Return of the Jedi, though! Flanderization is a process whereby you take one defining characteristic of a character and blow it out of proportion. In this case, the lines Yoda spoke that stuck were the unique ones; and most of those were unique because of their Yoda word order. Any non-Yoda word order lines were mentally converted into Yoda word order lines by our squishy meat computers. By the time of Jedi, there was expectation for him to "sound like Yoda."

He gets a grand total of 19 lines before he dies in Jedi. Of those:

  • A total of 13 are blatantly Yoda word order.
  • Only 6 lines are "good English."

Now the style has almost reversed; Yoda says long sentences with Yoda word order, like "No. Unfortunate that you rushed to face him... that incomplete was your training. Not ready for the burden were you."

You might be thinking, OK, but he was dying. But 4 out of the last 6 lines are the straightest English, only interrupted by two short bits of "Yoda Word Order:"

  • Remember, a Jedi's strength flows from the Force. But beware. Anger, fear, aggression.
  • The dark side are they.
  • Once you start down the dark path, forever will it dominate your destiny.
  • Luke...Luke...Do not...Do not underestimate the powers of the Emperor,
  • or suffer your father's fate, you will. Luke, when gone am I the last of the Jedi will you be.
  • Luke, the Force runs strong in your family. Pass on what you have learned, Luke... There is...another...Sky...Sky...walker.

Like "Beam me up, Scotty!" Yoda's signature speaking style stuck in the collective minds of the movie viewing public. So while he was a brilliant teacher with a quirk in the first movie he appears in, by the second one he's already becoming flanderized, with most of his lines being Yoda'd. The next time we see him, in Episode 1, he's going full Yoda. And for the rest of his appearances, the writers twist into pretzels in order to bash Yoda word order onto his dialog, to the point where any time Yoda has to put across a difficult point, somebody else has to repeat it back to make it clear!

  • 3
    Done well have you. I'd love to see some accounting of episodes 1-3. – ThePopMachine Feb 3 '17 at 7:06
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    I think it could be argued that Once you start down the dark path, forever will it dominate your destiny. is not actually Yoda-order. Anyone being "epic" could say that. – ThePopMachine Feb 23 '17 at 19:32
  • True, but poetic, psychological, and philosophical, inversion may be... – Darth Locke Nov 11 '18 at 16:43
12
+25

"Has anyone analyzed the variation of use of unusual word order by Yoda over the course of the various series?" Yes.

The frequency of inverted sentences that Yoda uses throughout the original series and prequels was studied by Michael Kaminski, author of The Secret History of Star Wars.

book cover

"How much talk like Yoda, Yoda actually does?"

[Quote from the same article, in relation to the same book]

Most notably in the originals, many of Yoda’s unusual speech patterns come from The Empire Strikes Back, specifically on Daegobah when Luke first meets Yoda.

However, it is also clear from The Empire Strikes Back that this isn't strictly the case, the first line we hear Yoda using is grammatically correct:

            LUKE
    Still... there's something familiar 
    about this place.  I feel like... 
    I don't know...

            STRANGE VOICE
    Feel like what?

A simple sentence, but grammatically correct nonetheless. However, as Kaminski realised, Yoda begins to emphasise his 'backwards' speech in order to make himself appear more vunerable.

              LUKE
        (pointing a gun at the creature)
    Like we're being watched!

            CREATURE
    Away put your weapon!  I mean 
    you no harm.

This appears to be a pacifist response to the threat presented by Luke's blaster; an attempt to defuse the situation; and the beginning of the charade Yoda plays in order to disguise himself as a harmless old hermit, in order to ascertain whether Luke truly has the makings of a Jedi... Crafty, the Jedi Master is.

This in fact, leads onto your point about:

"Often, Yoda doesn't talk like people caricaturize him"

Yoda is himself playing a role when he [excessively] talks like this, meaning this 'caricature' of him was deliberately crafted by Yoda. While it is certainly a way of speaking he lends himself to naturally, there are noticeable fluctuations in the times at which he uses these patterns, and the times at which he does not.

            CREATURE
    I am wondering, why are you here?

            LUKE
    I'm looking for someone.

            CREATURE
    Looking?  Found someone, you have, 
    I would say, hmmm?

   The little creature laughs.

            LUKE
        (Trying to keep from 
         smiling)
    Right.

            CREATURE
    Help you I can.  Yes, mmmm.

            LUKE
    I don't think so.  I'm looking 
    for a great warrior.

            CREATURE
    Ahhh!  A great warrior.
        (laughs and shakes 
         his head)
    Wars not make one great.

Not only does Yoda use it more here when he's ~imparting wisdom~, but this can also be seen in the Prequel Trilogy, too:

It is in these scenes where Yoda is feigning a crazier personality than he normally exhibits that 57% of the lines are inverted. This compares to only 41% of inverted lines in the rest of the movies.

[This quote was also taken from the same aforementioned blogspot article].

Yoda does, arguably, use more ‘backwards’ speech in the prequels, although he does get more scenes and dialogue in the prequels than in the originals, partially due to his greater screen time. There is one scene in The Phantom Menace in which Yoda’s dialogue is fairly grammatically standard:

         MACE WINDU : Be mindful of your feelings... 
         KI-ADI : Your thoughts dwell on your mother. 
         ANAKIN : I miss her. 
         YODA : Afraid to lose her..I think. 
         ANAKIN : (a little angry) What's that got to do with anything? 
         YODA : Eveything. Fear is the path to the dark side... fear leads to anger... anger leads to hate.. hate leads to suffering. 
         ANAKIN : (angrily) I am not afraid! 
         YODA : A Jedi must have the deepest commitment, the most serious mind. I sense much fear in you. 

There are a surprising amount of both linguistic and Star Wars speculative articles/books written in relation to this subject, some of which have indeed analyzed the variation of use of unusual word order by Yoda over the course of the various series. If you want to read any of them, I can add more links to these in my answer.

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    I would question how much Feel like what? really is grammatically correct. A normal person's response would be What do you feel like?, except of course that it's a direct parallel to I feel like... so it is indeed a normal response. But what would the Yodaspeak response be if not Feel like what? ? Since the subject is elided (Feel like what? not You feel like what?) there isn't really a potential Yodaspeak equivalent. What, feel like? ? That is incomprehensible. (cont) – ThePopMachine May 2 '17 at 14:29
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    ... So I offer you that instead of Yoda using correct grammar here, it is merely that Yodaspeak happens to be the same as grammatical English in this case. – ThePopMachine May 2 '17 at 14:30

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