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Speaks Yoda Olde English?

Says Yoda things like: “Powerful have you become; the dark side I sense in you.” Sounds it like speaks he English from the olden days — Shakespeare’s English, maybe. Yet uses not Yoda “thou hast” or “erstwhile” or “thee” — or any other term found no longer in English. Old English does not speak Yoda, nor even Middle English. Speaks Yoda Modern English, except that one rule breaks he. That same rule breaks this post too.

Yoda, Jedi master and linguistic rule-breakerA firm rule has modern English: comes first the subject noun, then the verb, then the object noun. (“SVO” linguists call this pattern, for “subject-verb-object.”) So say we: “Edgar walked to town.” If said we, “Walked Edgar to town” or, “To town walked Edgar,” grammatically wrong would we be. But understand us would most English speakers.

Require many languages a particular noun-verb order, though not necessarily the same as English. More flexible are some languages, however, like German and Dutch — as well as their long-dead aunt, Old English. In Old English could speakers choose their noun-verb order. Lost we that choice, in most cases, in the 11th Century starting. Why that is sounds Yoda so old fashioned. Sounds he like a speaker of Old English, though never uses he old vocabulary.

Actually, a little of our old flexibility keep we English-speakers, even today. Choose can we still between, “Get up!, Mom yelled,” and, “Get up!, yelled Mom.” Also, say we still, “What do you think?” though could we instead say, “You think what?” Not far then from Yoda are we.



Photo from Flickr.

© 2018 David W. Tollen by

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