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Full disclosure up front: I've never watched Star Wars in Russian. Nor do I plan to. (Edit in response to comments: that is not meant as a stab at Russian, of course. It is a stab at the movies themselves. I'm just not too much of a fan. Yeah, I know, sioux me!)

That being said, Yoda Speak has been part of popular culture all over the world forever, and on more than one occasion I've been very much interested in recreating Master Yoda's speech patterns in Russian. How do I go about it?

In English, Yoda Speak is all but trivial, as over the course of millenia, the language has been continuously sacrificing flexible word order in favor of having next to no cases at all. Russian, on the other hand, being a highly inflected language, gives me incredible freedom with word order. I can go absolutely crazy and still sound grammatical.

So, how do I work around that? Are there any easy rules I can follow to turn a random Russian sentence into something only Grand Jedi Master Yoda would say?

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    Your first sentence seems almost dismissive about the idea of watching Star Wars in Russian, which doesn't align with the goal of the question. You say Yoda Speak is all but trivial, but give no guidelines about how it is formed. Can you do that, so as to give a reference point for anyone to answer the question? Also, it might be helpful if you provided a few specific examples to see how those would be translated. For what it's worth, one comment about Yoda Speak is in the answers to russian.stackexchange.com/questions/54/…
    – KCd
    Dec 25 '13 at 22:22
  • @KCd: I did watch Буря в стакане! Many times over, in fact. And I laughed heartily, too. Are we cool again? (I just don't like the actual movies as such, sorry. In any language. I am weird like that. Though you're right in pointing out that I should have been more clear about that.) As to your request for examples, I am specifically trying to avoid these here so as to not invite one-liners that only address those but don't help me see the big picture. I am really on the lookout for generic rules. Cheers! (And thank you for the link, too.)
    – RegDwight
    Dec 25 '13 at 22:38
  • I never heard about "yoda speech" before.
    – Anixx
    Dec 30 '13 at 4:25
  • fishki.net/picsw/102007/25/jaba/tn.jpg Картошку эту хочешь ты Йоде отдать... Feb 28 '20 at 6:35
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The main pattern is to place the subject to the end of the question, after the predicate. If the predicate is complex, it is most likely to be reversed.

Examples. Let's checkout examples provided in the article above:

  • She dances - Танцует она.
  • Ben reads the book - Книгу читает Бен.
  • Ben's mother, Felicity, gave me a present - Фелисити, Бена Мать, дала подарок мне.
  • She listened to the radio - Радио слушала она.
  • She met him in the park - В парке встретила его она.

Actually, grammar is grammar, it's not that anarchical to full extent. Though word order in sentence is something less strict in Russian compared to English, actually, there are some patterns and there are some cases when sentence will sound unnatural to native speaker.

Here are some illustrations:

enter image description here enter image description here

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Maybe I disappoint you, you mentioned that Russian allows very flexible word order. That is true, but at the same time some word orderings are more usual than others, so basically when Russians try to mimic Yoda speech they will try to get sentence in any unusual word ordering. This still will sound grammatically correct. I have seen some "instructions" - how to "speak Yoda" in Russian on the websites, they will give some rules, but in fact this is just the preference of a person who create the given rule set. The only rule that seems relevant to me is to make the sentence less usual ordered, but not too much, so that it still very easily understood.

Since the real purpose of Yoda speech is to make everybody happy and laughing, the rule is to break any rules every time.

I can share my own algorithm:

1) analyze your original sentence and remove the words that make it hard to reshuffle

2) pronounce any word and then analyze which word is logically would go after it

3) do not put that word after it, puzzle the audience, put any other word from the sentence, less expected in this position of a line

4) repeat puzzling as many times as possible, more times the flow is not going where the audience expected - more fun

5) in the end you must get the perfectly clear and understandable passage

The tricky part is to make as many "shifts" from normal wordflow but arrive in the end to a perfectly correct phrase, this is where people will start laughing - when they realize their ears struggled but they are happy in the end with a clear sentence.

My guess is that those "Shifts" that occur when you already hear some word and your mind expects the next word and suddenly you hear something unexpected, a verb instead of a noun, subject instead of an object etc - your mind goes nuts for a second, fantasies arose inside you and that's what makes you happy. And when the sentence come to an end, all is suddenly settled in a correct phrase it makes you laugh.

But the mind adapts quickly, that's why multiple Yoda phrases in a row are not funny. They are better served unexpected and one in a time.

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In Russian by changing the word order you may arrive at unexpected results.

  • The sentence may become looking poetic, pompous or high-style.

  • The sentence may become looking archaic.

  • The sentence may change its meaning either slightly or totally

  • The sentence may become ambiguous and depending on the phrase stress.

  • The sentence may become looking unfinished, suggesting a continuation.

Russian language has undergone some heavy changes in the default word order not so long ago.

Eventually you would get something sounding like reading Homer in translation, or a decree by Peter the Great from 18th century or a quote from the Bible.

I would say that the idea of changing word order to empathize the epicness, archaism, deepness of the thought is quite standard tool in Russian. It can be used in aphorisms, in poems, in tales and parables, to underline the wisdom and authority of the speaker etc.

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    +1! would be nice to see an example on each permutation
    – Geo
    Feb 28 '14 at 22:50
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    @Geo For example "Век длится дольше жизни" "The century spans longer than life" - neutral. "(И) дольше жизни длится век" "(And) longer than life the century spans" - high style, poetic. I think you can see the same effect in English as well.
    – Anixx
    Mar 2 '14 at 18:01
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Subject Verb Object - is most typical word order in Russian sentences, but Object Verb Subject - is very rare and sound like "Yoda speech".

So in general case you can revert words in sentence (as Sirius Black suggested), but with one important exception: preposition in groups with preposition (preposition+noun, preposition+adjective+noun, etc) should be kept in first position within the group. Other words in the group could be reverted - for example: preposition+noun+adjective.

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The Yoda speech is based on moving to the beginning of every sentence he topicalized item, the part which is considered most meaningful. "Begun, the Clone Wars have".

Also, in Russian Yoda speech adjectives are (mostly) put after their nouns and genitives before their nouns (contrary to usual practice, somewhat Latin style). Prepositions, however, as Alexander Razorenov mentioned above, do not become postpositions.

Moreover, whereas the English scheme is "Topic, Subject Predicate" (if neither Subject nor Predicate is Topic itself), Russian can employ both that one and "Topic, Predicate Subject", the second one is even more common.

And yes, the Russian Yoda speech effect is probably less than the English one.

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if you revert the sentence - you can get Yoda's speech =) but not always =)
e.g.
Я гулял по парку - По парку гулял я
Мы с девченками пошли в клуб танцевать - Танцевать в клуб пошли с девченками мы

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    The answer would be better if you try to explain why some words are kept in their original order.
    – Artemix
    Dec 31 '13 at 8:01
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Identically to English, "subject object verb". However, in Russian this seems like poetic or archaic, rather just strange syntax.

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