Unless you’ve been living under a rock, or in a swamp in a galaxy far, far away, you’ll know who Yoda is. What you might not know is the language he speaks.But that’s about to change, thanks to a British based linguist.
David Adger set out to solve the little green puzzle that is Jedi master, Yoda, from the ‘Star Wars’ franchise. Little is known about our diminutive friend, except that he’s a badass, spaceship-levitating alien that lives in a swamp and talks a bit funny. Talk funny he does.
It’s this last part that fascinated Adger, a professor of linguistics. “We never get to know what species Yoda is, or what planet he came from. But we can, with the help of linguistics, work out a little bit about what language he grew up speaking,” Adger said.
When someone learns a new language, they use their mother tongue to help with the new one, this is what linguists call ‘Transfer,’ – people transfer the rules of their native language to the one they are learning.
But it’s not just ‘people,’ Yoda does it too. “Let’s assume that Yoda’s mind works like ours,” Adger said. “So he’s ‘transferred’ his own native language over to English. When Yoda speaks English, we can use that as a clue to figure out what Yodish must be like.”
And figure out he has.
“When I say ‘Luke is strong with the Force’, Luke is what linguists call the subject of the sentence and strong is part of the predicate. When Yoda says the same thing, he puts that part of the predicate first, so he says ‘Strong Luke is with the Force!’ It’s a bit of fun obviously, but by using these linguistic rules, we can make a pretty decent guess about the language Yoda grew up speaking – 900 years before the events in the films,” the linguist wrote.
So are there any human languages that work that way you ask?
“Actually, yes,” Adger said. “That’s how Hawaiian works. So now we know, if Yoda ever came to Earth, he’d probably spend Christmas in Honolulu!”