Wednesday, April 13, 2005


So I was watching one of last week's episodes of The Daily Show on TiVo and there was a segment on some of the dorkerrific activities that are going on in anticipation of the next installment of the Star Wars universe. Forget Anakin, Luke, or C3PO. I'm here to talk about Yoda.

One of the toys that's being released as part of the movie PR extravaganza is a talking Yoda doll, famous fronting constructions and all. Yoda says stuff like:

Strong in you the force is.*
A cheap publicity stunt I am.**
His creativity George Lucas has lost.***

It seems like someone on a blog somewhere should explain how Yoda-speak differs from so-called topicalization constructions that happen all the time in spoken English. Stuff like:

His creativity he's lost, but George Lucas's bank accounts are doing just fine.****
Leia he likes, but Luke he can't stand.*****
A cheap date I'm not, but a cheap publicity stunt? Sure thing.******

You know, for all the surfers of the blogosphere whose dorky tendencies are composed in just the right overlapping ways. Which I have to think includes many readers of this very blog.

So Yoda-speak isn't the same as English topicalization, whether we're talking about discourse conditions or even about straight up syntax. But I have to think that whoever came up with Yoda-speak was thinking in some small way about topicalization constructions. Maybe s/he had a Jewish grandmother; Yiddish English allows topicalizations more freely than Standard English.

Either way, what we got out of it is a wrinkled green guy who talks funny. But not as funny as Jon Stewart thinks.

*,**,*** May or may not be actual quotes from talking doll.
****,*****,****** May or may not be actual quotes from spoken English.


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