Yes, Yoda’s Grammar is Technically Correct
When Luke decides to abandon his Jedi training on Dagobah and attempt to save his friends, Yoda offers this last warning.
Of course, pretty much everything that Yoda says sounds both cryptic and not-quite-grammatically-correct to traditional English speakers. But his seemingly bizarre sentence structure is actually totally legitimate.
Let me explain.
Every complete English sentence contains a subject and a predicate, with the subject being what the sentence is about (“every English sentence”) and the predicate telling you something about the subject (“contains a subject and a predicate”).
- Leia’s ship (subject) is attacked by Vader (predicate).
- R2-D2 and C3PO (compound subject) escape to Tatooine (predicate).
- Han (subject) shot first (predicate).
Ready for a crash course on English syntax? The subject of a sentence will always be a noun or a pronoun, and you cannot form a statement without one. A predicate contains at least one verb that expresses an action or state of being about that subject (more on verbs here).
Predicates may also include direct objects — nouns/pronouns that receive the action of a verb — or indirect objects (also nouns/pronouns), which identify to whom or for whom a verb’s action is performed. Verbs are essential to form a complete sentence; objects are not.
- Vader (noun) pursues (verb) the rebels (direct object) to planet Hoth.
- Boba Fett (noun) freezes (verb) Han (direct object) in carbonite for Jabba (indirect object).
- Boba (noun) takes (verb) Luke, Lando, Chewy and Han (direct objects) to the Sarlacc pit.
Note that these sentences also contain prepositional phrases (“to planet Hoth,” “in carbonite,” and “to the Sarlacc pit”), which you can learn more about here. Moving on.
All of the examples mentioned above use the subject-verb-object (SVO) order of words. But it’s absolutely possible to accurately use those parts of speech in a different order. Consider the following:
- The Millennial Falcon (O) is piloted (V) by Han (S).
- Abandoning his training (V), Luke (S) left (V) Yoda (O) on Dagobah.
- Is (V) Luke (S) ready to fight (V) Vader (O)?
There are actually six different possible variations of this order (SVO, SOV, VSO, VOS, OVS and OSV) and all of them are used in languages across the globe. The SVO order that English speakers are accustomed to isn’t even the most prevalent!
Here’s a breakdown of the dominant sentence structure in the 1,377 languages spoken on planet Earth (according to The World Atlas of Language Structures Online):
Yoda typically speaks in the OSV order, which is only found in 0.3% of languages.
- “Powerful (object) you (subject) have become (verb). The dark side (O) I (S) sense (V) in you.”
- “Patience (O) you (S) must have (V), my young Padawan.”
- “Through the force, things (O) you (S) will see (V).”
- “Good relations with the Wookies (O), I (S) have (V).”
So, while Yoda’s speech patterns seem to merely resemble the nonsensical ramblings of a senile Jedi, they’re actually completely logical and grammatically correct — which just basically proves something that we’ve anecdotally understood all along: Yoda knows his shit.
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