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I have noticed that a lot of the languages in Star Wars are based on languages in the real world, such as Chalmuk forming the basis of the Ewok language.

Do you know what language Yoda's way of speaking was based on? To me it seems a bit Shakespearean.

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    Related, kinda dupe; Why does Yoda speak the way he does? – Valorum Apr 26 '17 at 20:58
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    I used to have a theory that Yoda was based off of Mr. Miyagi from Karate Kid (wise old slightly crazy guy who doesn't speak proper English teaching a kid how to defend himself). But then I found out that Empire Strikes Back came out before Karate Kid. – DaaaahWhoosh Apr 26 '17 at 21:25
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    Can't resist the urge to edit this question... Based on languages in the real world, a lot of the languages in Star Wars, I have noticed.... – sampathsris Apr 27 '17 at 5:51
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    German uses this word ordering, but only in subordinate clauses. For example: "I drive a car, which red is", or "I leave the party, because I myself alone feel". In main clauses, it sounds crazy for native speakers (just as for Joda-speak for native English). Although these sentences can't ever start with the object. – Gray Sheep Apr 28 '17 at 16:56
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    For extended discussion, comments are not. Moved to chat, this conversation has been. – Rand al'Thor Apr 29 '17 at 12:14
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In an article addressed, this subject was.

“Surprisingly, there are a very few languages—it seems to be in single digits—that use OSV [Object Subject Verb] as their basic or normal order,” Pullum told me. “As far as I know, they occur only in the area of Amazonia in Brazil: they are South American Indian languages. One well-described case is a language called Nadëb.”

Looking at it linguistically, we can see that Yodish is a form of OSV - the word order is Object-Subject-Verb. This differs from typical English grammar, as most English sentences follow the "Subject-Verb-Object" order; for example

"I love cookies".

versus the Yodish/OSV:

"Cookies, I love"

However, see into George Lucas' mind, we can not. Yodish, though to other languages similar is, based off it is not.

“This is a clever device for making him seem very alien,” said Geoff Pullum, a professor of linguistics at the University of Edinburgh. “You have to do some work to realize that his, ‘Much to learn, you still have,’ means ‘You still have much to learn.’”

So, another language based off, it perhaps was not. Instead, only from George Lucas' mind conceived, it was.

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    Upvote this answer, I must. With flavor it drips. – corsiKa Apr 27 '17 at 6:12
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    "You have to do some work" Um, what? Every child I know understands Yoda easily, except that he mumbles worse than Rapunzel. – MissMonicaE Apr 27 '17 at 12:06
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    @MissMonicaE Doing "some work" doesn't rule out the possibility that that work is done easily. – JBentley Apr 27 '17 at 12:35
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    Speak English this way you can. Incorrect grammar it is not. Through French, parts of Romance languages English has. OSV in Latin appears. – Michael Apr 27 '17 at 14:12
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    @Michael Interestingly, it looks like embedded clauses in Yodish are VO, like you've written. – Azor Ahai Apr 28 '17 at 7:05
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There is some evidence to suggest that Yoda's speech is based on, well, English.

In this The Week article (I suggest reading the whole thing, the argument seems pretty convincing to me), Yoda's speech is compared to that which might be found in Shakespeare:

Round about the cauldron go; in the poison entrails throw.

Else the Puck a liar call.

For them the gracious Duncan have I murdered.

I like him not.

The article also offers some examples of what Yoda might sound like if his speech actually was based on other languages:

Is planet lost at Master Obi-Wan. (Gaelic)

I not you will-teach more today. (French)

I will my own counsel on them, who trained become, keep. (German)

As you can see, even using languages similar to English might come out too confusing for the average moviegoing audience. On the other hand, using archaic English associated with Shakespeare and the King James Bible is accessible enough to be understandable, while alien enough to set Yoda apart.

Not only that, but connecting Yoda to things like Shakespeare and the King James Bible goes a long way to make him seem more ancient and wise. In another answer on this site, I used this to explain why Darth Sidious talked the same way in Revenge of the Sith; Yoda's sentence structure reminds audiences (perhaps unconsciously) of school and church, which works to solidify Yoda's role as a religious teacher.

That said, it seems like another source of Yoda's unique speech is overenthusiasm. In the original trilogy, Yoda speaks normally almost as often as he doesn't:

"A Jedi uses the Force for knowledge and defense, never for attack."

"If you end your training now — if you choose the quick and easy path as Vader did — you will become an agent of evil"

"There is another Skywalker"

"That is why you fail"

However, it was the abnormalities of his speech that stood out more than the normality. Talking like Yoda turned into the equivalent of talking like a pirate or talking like Shakespeare: you take the things you know sound strange ('yarr matey', adding 'est' to the ends of verbs, etc), and use them as often as possible so everyone can tell what you're doing. Know, you will, when talking like Yoda I am, and the voice I don't even have to do. It seems like this explains most of the cringe-worthy later examples of Yoda's speech: it's based on Yoda's original speech, which is based on antiquated English that most people don't understand how to use.

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    Oh, I guess I didn't find a place in my argument for this, but I wanted to link to the TVTropes page for Magical Asian and Magical Native American, they seem like parallel tropes to Yoda, but using different versions of English that have also become parodies of themselves. – DaaaahWhoosh Apr 27 '17 at 1:24
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    I think Yoda also uses normal word order throughout the lyrics of his famous "Seagulls! (Stop it now)" song ... – Hagen von Eitzen Apr 27 '17 at 7:31
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    Alas, poor Anakin... I knew him well, Luke – Machavity Apr 27 '17 at 12:13
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    "I will my own counsel on them, who trained become, keep. (German)" As a native German, i have no idea what this sentence should be based off. What is that supposed to even mean? I can not imagine a single word-by-word translated german sentence that fits this? – Polygnome Apr 27 '17 at 13:57
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    @DaaaahWhoosh In German, this would be "Ich werde meinen eigenen Rat, wen zu trainieren, befolgen". Word-by-word this gets you "I will my own counsel, whom to train, keep". Which imho is at least somewhat understandable in english :D – Polygnome Apr 27 '17 at 16:20
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To add to Mikasa Pinata's excellent answer...

Whilst OSV (object-subject-verb) order is not the standard form for most languages, that does not mean it is not an "available option". In English it sounds distinctly alien whilst still being intelligible (hence Lucas's use of the form), but in other languages, it is a perfectly valid construction. A prerequisite for this is generally that the language grammar must allow the subject and object to be distinguished independently of their position in the sentence.

German is the example I know best. In German, position early in the sentence gives emphasis, and subject/object is distinguished by the various forms of the definite or indefinite article (der/die/das, ein/eine/ein, etc.).

So in English, "the dog bites the man" only has one possible interpretation. In German, "der Hund beisst den Mann" is a direct translation. However "den Hund beisst der Mann" means "the man bites the dog", with an emphasis on the dog, simply by changing which is "der" (definite article, male, subject) and which is "den" (definite article, male, object). In English, an equivalent construction requires the passive tense ("the dog was bitten by the man") because that's the only way the language allows the subject/object order to be changed. German can do this as a basic feature of the language - but at the cost of a complex set of rules about definite and indefinite articles.

The same construction is also possible in Latin, where the endings of nouns change depending on whether they are subject or object. Again though, this comes at the cost of complex rules about exactly how those endings work.

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    I remember in German A level, the Austrian teacher mentioned "The Man Bites The Dog" alongside "'The cat survived, but I swerved to hit the dog' I am putting the cat first because everyone likes cats, the cats are more important, see?" She reminded me of Yoda herself. – Mikasa Apr 27 '17 at 15:32
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    Note that in your German examples, the orderings are SVO and OVS, respectively. OSV sounds indeed ungrammatical in German, as well, hence Yoda talks weirdly in the German dubbing, too. – O. R. Mapper Apr 27 '17 at 15:34
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    @O.R.Mapper Interesting, I've never listened to a German Krieg Die Sterne dub; how do they make his speech patterns sound unusual there? There's also the challenge of making it seem like a deliberate error, rather than just incompetent German. – Mikasa Apr 27 '17 at 15:49
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    @MikasaPinata: For the example sentence you provided, Yoda would say in German: "Der Hund den Mann beißt." or "Den Mann der Hund beißt.", both of which are invalid orderings in German grammar. I think it doesn't sound like an incompetent translation because it's exactly one character who consistently speaks that way. Another reason may be that while dubbed lines can end up nonsensical in contents, I have never come across an example where a line dubbed German was downright ungrammatical. Given that German voices in dubbed shows typically speak free of any accents (even when the ... – O. R. Mapper Apr 27 '17 at 16:01
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    @O.R.Mapper When I first seen Starwars, that was also my view. It is evident Yoda is an alien too, so we know his language was deliberate :) – Deutsch Pirate Apr 27 '17 at 16:09
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In all my languages studies, I found that: Yoda talks like nihongo/Japanese, as he puts the "to be" verb at the end of the phrase- for example; "baka Steve des" (romanji representation/japanese) means "stupid, Steve is"

But it is also similar to Arabic: In English, we would say "the table is tall", but in Arabic, you would simply say, "tall" in Arabic, whilst pointing to the subject.

Yoda's language is a mix of all the languages on Earth. I think it was due to looking at different languages' SYNTAX then confusion over pronunciation. For example: Coptic ancient language (Egyptian) in English "stephane", in Coptic "stphn".

Best of all, the primary languages roots first and important words of "acta, water, mama" - Do you see Latin? Greek? These are really old forms of languages which remain common/have survived?

:) have a good day and confusion crisis

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    Can you provide sources for your answer? Papers that suggest this arrangement for these languages, etc. – Edlothiad Apr 29 '17 at 13:34
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Hungarian: https://www.chronicle.com/blogs/linguafranca/2013/08/09/hungarian-i-am-not/ and https://ppmhungary.wordpress.com/2011/09/23/out-of-this-world-hungarian-is/ - "word on the street in Hungary is that Yoda actually uses Hungarian syntax translated into English."

An image describing the theory that Yoda's speech is based on Hungarian word order

  • Actually reading that first article, he shows that this is not a case of English-Hungarian-English translation. The second article only propagates the rumor and doesn't attempt to prove it either way – FreeMan Apr 28 '17 at 14:51
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    I don't really know either way, but many Hungarians are pretty sure this is true. Sure, there are some places where Lucas may have decided to break with the language's rules, but I don't think that invalidates the entire theory. – Glen Pierce Apr 28 '17 at 14:54
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    Unless there is evidence that Lucas knew anything about Hungarian grammar, I would dismiss this as a pure coincidence. – Wildcard Apr 29 '17 at 2:14
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    What's the image supposed to show? That Yoda does not use Hungarian word order? After all, the first sentence would rather read "Much to learn you still have." Likewise, the third sentence would sound more Yoda-like if it said "A stone the envoy is following." Yoda's word order and Hungarian word order both being unlike English word order is not sufficient for Yoda's word order and Hungarian word order to be equal. – O. R. Mapper Apr 30 '17 at 11:46

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