Column: Correct grammar, Yoda’s speech is


Commentary by Curtis Honeycutt

I’ll have to admit, I don’t know much about “Star Wars.” Somehow, I missed the window to watch the movies during my formative years. Although I have glasses, write about grammar and prefer staying inside, my lack of “Star Wars” appreciation makes others seriously second-guess my nerd street cred. 

Here’s what I do know about “Star Wars”: Luke and Leia were brother and sister, which made things awkward, especially after they kissed. Darth Vader was Luke’s dad. We pretend Episode I never happened (especially Jar Jar). Han shot first. What shot second. And I don’t know is on third. Also, Yoda is an awesome green Muppet (voiced by Frank Oz, who also who voiced Miss Piggy, Fozzie Bear, Cookie Monster, Bert and Animal, to name a few) who could go toe-to-toe with Chuck Norris in a head-to-head matchup. 

But is Yoda’s grammar correct? His sentence structure is certainly odd. He says things like, “When nine hundred years old you reach, look as good you will not.”

Odd, that sounds. Talking like this, I don’t know why I am.

For the most part, English syntax (how we arrange our words) follows the same pattern. In order for a sentence to be complete, it needs a subject and a predicate. The predicate always includes a verb and often includes an object.

Most English sentences follow the subject-verb-object order. In one of these popular laser sword space movies, according to Google, Darth Vader says, “I find your lack of faith disturbing.” In this sentence, “I” is the subject, “find” is the verb and “lack of faith” is the object. Many other “Star Wars” quotes follow this subject-verb-object pattern. “I am your father.” “I think I just blasted it.” “Women always figure out the truth. Always.”

Yoda’s syntax follows a distinctly different pattern. For the most part, his sentences follow the object-subject-verb pattern. This pattern is only found in 0.3% of the world’s languages. Let’s take this quote from Yoda: “Truly wonderful the mind of a child is.” In this sentence, “wonderful” appears first, serving as the object. This is followed by “mind,” the sentence’s subject. Finally, we get the verb, “is.” Object-subject-verb. Here’s a double: “Powerful (object) you (subject) have (verb) become; the dark side (object) I (subject) sense (verb) in you.” All of these sentences contain a subject and a predicate.

Therefore, the answer to the question is: Yes, Yoda’s speech pattern is grammatically correct; strange to our ears, it just sounds.