Yoda Speak: Orig Trig vs. Prequels

Something always bothered me about how Yoda speaks in the prequels and I couldn’t put my finger on it until now.

Yoda Speak, for those unawares, is a term to describe the Jedi master’s speech patterns in Star Wars. Like this, it sounds. It’s where instead of using the standard Subject, Verb, Object pattern typical of English (i.e. “I like turtles”), it uses the Object, Subject, Verb pattern (i.e. “Turtles, I like”). But is this really how Yoda spoke? I’ve taken the time to do an analysis, and the results will shock you!

I re-watched all of Yoda’s scenes in The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi from the original trilogy and all the Yoda scenes from The Phantom Menace of the prequels. I did not watch Yoda scenes from the other two prequels as YouTube was not as accommodating and there’s no way I’m expending extra effort to be tortured by those disasters. I counted how many times Yoda uses the normal Subject, Verb, Object (SVO) pattern, the “Yoda Speak” Object, Subject, Verb (OSV) pattern, and the irregular Object, Verb, Subject (OVS) which sounds odd (i.e. “Luminous beings are we”) but not as clearly differentiable from regular English as Yoda Speak.

It should also be noted that these three types don’t account for the entirety of Yoda’s dialogue. Sometimes he says things that are grammatically incorrect (“Yoda not far.”), one-word interrogatives or exclamations (“Looking?” “Patience”), or only uses a subject-pair and leaves out any object (“I know”). Yoda also prefers to use “not” in replace of “doesn’t” as in “size matters not,” or “wars not make one great.” I’m not counting those here, even if they might fall into one of the categories, simply because I’m more focused on SVO representing normal speech and OSV representing Yoda Speak. When referring to percentages, these refer to the three-category total, not the entire dialogue.

After counting the three types of sentence structure, I then calculated their percentages to see how representative Yoda Speak really is. Turns out, it depends entirely on which movie and trilogy you’re watching.

Yoda - Empire

This is the first time the audience is introduced to Yoda. At first, we don’t realize that this crazy swamp hermit is a Jedi master, but he eventually reveals himself to Luke. He then trains him for a brief period before Luke leaves to give a hand in Cloud City.

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