The SkywalkerSwartz Blog

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Another Reason Why Old Star Wars Better Than New Is

Geoff Pullum analyzes Yoda's syntax in a fun Language Log post, noting how Yoda tends to do two separate things: First, pull various phrases to the front of their clauses (in "XSV ordering"), as in "When nine hundred years you reach, look as good you will not." Second, "Yoda also extracts verb phrases that are catenative complements of auxiliary verbs, so those auxiliary verbs are left stranded at the end of the sentence" as in "Begun, the Clone Wars has." The second kind of Yoda-speak seems artificially backward to me, almost a caricature of the first, more natural "backwardness."

The interesting thing is that almost all of the examples of more normal/natural (in the sense of being like human natural languages) patterns come from episodes IV through VI, while the second kind of backwards-ness almost all comes from I through III. In other words, George Lucas seems to have made Yoda's speech even more unusual in the "prequels," thus making his once-sage pronouncements seem comical.

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