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Last Updated: Friday, 4 June, 2004, 16:31 GMT 17:31 UK
Yoda 'speaks like Anglo-Saxon'
By Finlo Rohrer
BBC News Online staff

'A speaker of non-standard English I am'
Star Wars character Yoda's sentence structure is similar to old Anglo-Saxon, a linguistics expert has said.

Author David Crystal also says a number of characters in the Lord of the Rings are excellent examples of non-standard English for children to study.

In his book The Stories of English, the academic even discusses the effect on pronunciation of the BBC and on vocabulary by the Sun.

He said he wanted to attack purists who would not tolerate non-standard English

'Devil speaks Queen's English'

Mr Crystal, a professor of linguistics at Reading University for 20 years, said Yoda - a Jedi master in the Star Wars films - was a good way to get children interested in how preferences in English word order changed from the Anglo-Saxon era to that of Middle English.

He told BBC News Online: "It is a nice example if you want to persuade kids and get them interested - if you say Yoda did it they are all ears.

"It is a clever little trick on George Lucas's part to get an effect. He reverses the order: 'full of the force I am'. The end of the sentence comes at the beginning."

The author also contrasted the standard English spoken by some of the characters in Lord of the Rings, such as Bilbo and Frodo Baggins, with the non-standard English, containing slang and dialect, spoken by others.

"Normally in fantasy and science fiction you don't get variety of English.

"The devil speaks standard English, the fairies do, everybody does. In sci-fi, you go out to a different planet and you meet aliens, but they speak standard English.

"Sam Gamgee speaks non-standard English, Gollum speaks a weird non-standard English. Tolkien is special."

Mr Crystal said his mission was for non-standard English to be recognised.

"The history of English is a history of the non-standard language.

"The people I'm attacking are the purists who say language should never change and be 'like it was when I was a lad'. The message should be that we welcome diversity."

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04 Mar 04 |  Education
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29 Jan 04 |  Entertainment
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06 May 04 |  Entertainment

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