Wednesday 26 June 2019

Linguistics professor unearths Yoda’s ‘native language’

The Star Wars character has been speaking English as a second language.

Yoda goes on display at STAR WARS Identities: The Exhibition at The O2 in London (Craig Gunn/PA)
Yoda goes on display at STAR WARS Identities: The Exhibition at The O2 in London (Craig Gunn/PA)

By Sherna Noah

A professor of linguistics believes he has worked out Yoda’s native language – Hawaiian.

David Adger, of Queen Mary University of London, has investigated what language the famous green character would have been speaking after he was born, around 900 years before events in Star Wars.

He used “linguistic detective work” and a process called “transfer” to reach his conclusions.

He told the Press Association: “All the other creatures in Star Wars speak their own languages. With the Ewoks, Wookiees and Jabba The Hutt they subtitle a chunk of it, so they’re all speaking their own language.

“Yoda comes from a mysterious planet and (Star Wars creator) George Lucas never tells us anything about Yoda … he’s meant to be this mysterious Jedi Master.

“But he’s obviously speaking English as a second language … His real language, which I’ve called Yodish, we don’t know anything about.”

Professor Adger, who has previously asked his students to investigate how Yoda speaks, said: “He’s speaking English but changed the structure of it to be like his native language.

“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.

“You use English words but retain some of the structures from that native language.”

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The professor has concluded that Yoda’s original language, which he “grew up speaking”, was Hawaiian.

It comes as the latest Star Wars film – The Last Jedi – was released to rave reviews from critics but a less enthusiastic response from fans.

“The scriptwriters are doing something to make Yoda sound weird. Whatever they’re doing is not too far off the mark from what Hawaiian is like,” he said.

“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.”

He said there were some “important teaching lessons” behind his conclusions, getting people to understand something of linguistics, the idea of “transfer” and knowing that “even when a scriptwriter is making up a way of speaking … you can get behind that.”

Press Association

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