The structural oddity of the speech pattern of the Star Wars character Master Yoda is probably one of the most instantly recognisable of all TV and film characters, even to those unfamiliar with the Star Wars series of films themselves. But how well does this speech ‘oddity’ translate into the accompanying foreign language sub-titles, and can we learn about how the structure of language can add weight to the perception of a character?
Linguist Elaine Espindola, a researcher from the Department of Translation and Interpretation Pontificia Universidad Catolica de Valparaiso, Chile has compared the script and sub-titles and believes they offer insights into the structure of languages.
Yoda’s speech idiosyncrasy is commonly reversing the grammatical rule that the subject of the sentence will comes before the verb, and the object comes after. One example would be “To fight this Lord Sidious, strong enough you are not.”, rather than ‘You are not strong enough to fight Lord Sidious’.
In the original scripted versions of the films and in the sub-titles, various techniques are used to present this analogous structure and that although these are not always the same thematic technique, they both serve to present the world view of the character. One example of this is how Yoda will place the element he wants to emphasize and the initial place in a sentence – “Learn, you will.”
And, from a galaxy far, far away: