The structural oddity of the speech pattern of the Star Wars character Master Yoda is probably one of the most instantly recognisable of all TV and film characters, even to those unfamiliar with the Star Wars series of films themselves. But how well does this speech 'oddity' translate into the accompanying sub-titles, and can we learn about how the structure of language can add weight to the perception of a character? Elaine Espindola, a researcher from the Department of Translation and Interpretation Pontificia Universidad Catolica de Valparaiso, Chile, explains why she thinks we can in her article published in the journal WORD.
Espindola compared the original 'spoken texts' of Yoda to the written Portuguese subtitles by breaking each quote down and analysing where the 'theme' of the quote (for example fear or death) appeared in relation to the subject of the sentence -- the noun, noun phrase or pronoun that performs the action in the sentence.
Yoda's speech idiosyncrasy is commonly reversing the grammatical rule that the subject of the sentence will comes before the verb, and the object comes after. One example would be "To fight this Lord Sidious, strong enough you are not.," rather than 'You are not strong enough to fight Lord Sidious'.
Espindola says "I hope this study has contributed relevant insights to the discussion of linguistic aspects of translation, more specifically subtitles, opening up room for studies that may enrich the field of theory and practice of (AudioVisual) Translation Studies."
Espindola finds that in the original scripted versions of the films and in the sub-titles, various techniques are used to present this analogous structure and that although these are not always the same thematic technique, they both serve to present the world view of the character. One example of this is how Yoda will place the element he wants to emphasize and the initial place in a sentence -- "Learn, you will.." She concludes that these elements in both the spoken text and sub-titles are central to the construal of the identity of the character by the viewer. Yoda's status as a wise, powerful and illustrious Jedi may be thanks, in part, to his unusual use of language.
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