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In the Star Wars film franchise, Master Yoda has a very peculiar english syntax. For example, instead of saying:

  • The mind of a child is truly wonderful.
  • You will not look as good when you reach nine hundred years old.

He would say:

  • Truly wonderful, the mind of a child is.
  • When nine hundred years old you reach, look as good you will not.

I have always wondered if this is valid english syntax.

So is this valid english?

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  • 1
    Or possibly, Wondering I am, if valid English syntax this is? Only George Lucas could say for certain.
    – Andrew
    Jul 20 '18 at 0:29
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    If anyone's interested, a linguistics professor comments on Yoda Speak in this article (short and easy to understand). What Yoda exhibits in your specific examples is XSV ordering (where X stands for any kind of complement to the verb), instead of the usual one (SVX).
    – user3395
    Jul 20 '18 at 1:52
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There is a rhetorical technique called hyperbaton in which some sentence elements are rearranged for a poetic effect. It was very common in Latin (which allows for fairly free ordering of parts of the sentence) but less so in English (which is fairly strict about word order).

One possible hyperbaton is to take the "bit that comes after the verb" of the main clause and bring it to the front:

It is a dog -> A dog, it is.

Obi-wan has lost a planet -> Lost a planet, Obi-wan has.

We can accept this because the phrase that comes after the verb often makes sense on its own as an answer to a question:

What is it?
A dog.

What has he done?
Lost a planet.

The subject and verb can be filled in from the context. When Yoda speaks he first gives the "answer" and then fills in the context.

This isn't "correct standard English" and it is not even a regular dialect. It is a rhetorical style that Yoda seems to use almost exclusively.

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  • English poetry and song used to use hyperbation much more heavily, which lends an archaic-sounding quality to Yoda's speech as well as a foreign-sounding one. Oct 8 '20 at 23:05
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No, the phrasing is as though a non-native English speaker is using his own language ordering.

In computer languages Yoda conditions have become a by-word for unusal ordering.

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    Correct English, it is not.
    – Andrew
    Jul 20 '18 at 0:24

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