Archive for the ‘Word order’ Category

Yoda on active and passive clauses

October 13, 2015

A meme-slogan card passed on by Bert Vaux on Facebook:


The person who composed this (more on the composition process below) was seriously confused about what active and passive clauses are: the text on the card is an active clause, and all the Yoda sentences I’ve seen are in fact active (though a fair number had no passive counterpart, because the verbs in them were intransitive, like the verb in #1).

I’m guessing that the creator of #1 thought that

(A) Talk in active voice I do not.

was a passive sentence because it had non-default syntax (from the point of view of standard English). But the syntax is non-default because of the fronting in it, not because of the status of the clause as active or passive.


Fathers Day Five

June 15, 2014

An unusually big crop of cartoons this morning, including one (a Rhymes With Orange) on stereotypes about men’s tastes (for Fathers Day). Plus another Zits with the stereotype of chatty teenage girls; another strip (a Mother Goose and Grimm) on Yoda’s syntax; a Zippy on synonyms for disapproving; and a Bizarro on the extension of metaphors to simulacra.


More Yoda

September 28, 2013

A Savage Chickens with Yoda:



Harsh sentences

August 16, 2013

Today’s Zippy, on Dingburger hair styles, with an outrageous pun in the middle of it:

Requires topknots Dingburg. Rejects other hair styles the law.

VOS word order — attested, but rare. Certainly harsh for speakers of English.

Yoda again

July 25, 2013

Today’s Mother Goose and Grimm:

A Rhymes With Orange on Yoda’s syntax, complete with links to Language Log postings on the subject, was posted here. Another Rhymes, on the young Yoda, is here.

Word order death

December 4, 2012

A cartoon on George Takei’s website, passed on by Susan Fischer and Asya Pereltsvaig:

The cartoon is from German cartoonist and illustrator Miguel Fernandez (German Wikipedia entry here). This one works because the initials on the tombstone can be taken to represent Latin words from a familiar Latin expression; it’s I P R in English as well, but would be I F R in German.


The perils of fronting

July 4, 2012

A recent Scott Hilburn cartoon, from George Takei on Facebook (via Betsy Herrington):

For Yoda, with his penchant for fronting material in sentences, that was in the form of a question — just not a question in standard English.


The young Yoda

June 25, 2012

Today’s Rhymes With Orange:

An earlier Rhymes on Yoda’s syntax, complete with links to Language Log postings on the subject, is here. Here we see the early days.


December 27, 2009

Louis W. Thompson had an op-ed piece in the NYT on Christmas Eve (“The Finest Gifts It Brings”) on “The Little Drummer Boy” (“Yes, torture can be set to music”, Thompson wrote). It’s a little masterpiece of annoying Christmas music.

There’s the relentless drumbeat of “rum pum pum pum”, 21 repetitions per play. There’s the overall tone — in Thompson’s words, “exalted …, pompous, candied, reverential.” And then there’s the syntax. Thompson quoted:

Come they told me, pa rum pum pum pum
A newborn king to see, pa rum pum pum pum
Our finest gifts we bring, pa rum pum pum pum

and added:

Backwards run sentences until reels the mind.

More on this sentence later. First, some comments on the syntax of the sentences from the song.



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