This is part of my upcoming podcast where I demonstrate how similar Yoda’s speech is to some Shakespearean dialogue. Actor and puppeteer Frank Oz, who puppeteered the character and supplied the voice explained that the idea behind the character’s iconic speech pattern was a discovery he made reading through the script:
“It’s funny you ask about [Yoda] because I was just looking at the original script of The Empire Strikes Back the other day and there was a bit of that odd syntax in it, but also it had Yoda speaking very colloquially. So I said to George [Lucas]: ‘Can I do the whole thing like this?’ And he said: ‘Sure!’ It just felt so right.”https://screenrant.com/star-wars-yoda-speak-speech-pattern-frank-oz-response/
There are a lot of in-universe theories as to why Yoda speaks like this. David Adger, from Queen Mary University of London has a theory that, much like many Latin languages have a different syntax than English, perhaps Yoda is speaking in the syntax of his language while speaking English:
He’s speaking English but changed the structure of it to be like his native language,” Adger points out. “We can find out something about Yoda’s native language by looking at how he speaks English, in the same way as I can find out about a French person’s native language by looking at how that French person speaks English. Yoda says things like ‘the greatest teacher failure is’… If you were to say that in a language like Hawaiian … it would be almost exactly the same … putting the predicate before the subject,” the professor used as an example.David Adger, qtd in Comic Book.com, https://comicbook.com/starwars/news/star-wars-yoda-frank-oz-empire-strikes-back-dialogue-lines/
Why Do Shakespeare and Yoda speak like this?
From a Shakespearean perspective, what Yoda is doing is called anastrophe, a rhetorical technique that is used for emphasis. Instead of the familiar- Subject-Verb-Object syntax of English, the order is flipped to grab the reader/ listener’s attention:
According to Silvae Rhetorica (The Forest of Rhetoric), the word Anastrophe is Greek for “backward turning,” where the writer twist the word order around. As I said before, this creates a surprising effect, much like this painting by Picasso:
“People take the eye for granted. If I paint an eye in an eye socket, they take it for granted. If I take it out of the eye socket and stick it somewhere else, it comes as a shock, and they see the eye anew.”
— Pablo Picasso
In the following slides, (which I found from Slideplayer.com), you can see examples of how Shakespeare and Yoda use anastrophe.
So I hope this post has helped you understand the force of Yoda’s unique style of speaking that was first used by The Bard!
If you liked this post, please listen to my new podcast about Ian Doescher’s Shakespearean parody of Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back, which I’ll publish on May 4rth (hopefully)