Where did Yoda language come from?


Was the inversion technique used in old literature for artistic emphasis intentionally or was this a part of archaic language prevalent during that time?

Yoda is a fictional character from the science fiction film series Star Wars that follows the characters on various missions “a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away”.
Yoda is a Jedi Master, he is perceived as an all knowing and wise character. If you have ever watched any of the films, you will have noticed that Yoda has a special way if talking. Yes, he is speaking English but Yoda seems to play with the word order in certain sentences. The audience can understand what he is saying but they know that this is not the English we use in everyday situations. 
The type of English Yoda speaks, uses a different word order compared to the word order we are used to seeing in English. In English, most sentences use the SVO word order, this is the subject-verb-object word order, many other languages follow this word order such as Chinese, Italian, Russian, Arabic, etc.
Whereas, the type of English Yoda speaks follows a SOV word order, this is the subject-object-verb pattern. This word order pattern can be seen in Old English, you can see a lot of similarities between some of Yoda’s lines and some famous lines by Shakespeare.
For example:

  • “I like him not” written by Shakespeare.
  • “Size matters not” spoken by Yoda.

Yoda does borrow some other aspects from Old English, such as “fronting” where he moves the last part of the sentence to the beginning. This is thought to done to add emphasis on what Yoda is saying.
Sometimes Yoda uses a OSV word order pattern, this is the object-subject-verb pattern. It is believed the Yoda uses the OSV pattern to highlight a certain topic and to make his character seem wise and profound.
Here are some examples of the OSV word order spoken by Yoda:

  • “Your father he is, but defeat him you must”
  • “Much to learn, you still have”

It is hard to tell why the screenwriters made Yoda speak this way, maybe they did it to make him seem more alien compared to the other characters in the film. Old English definitely played a part in creating this special language as you can also see traits of Yiddish in his speech which was used a lot in plays and poetry at the time of Shakespeare.

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