Talked Like Yoda, Cavemen Did

Seems to be the natural order for human 'proto' language: scientists

By Mary Papenfuss,  Newser Staff

Posted Oct 14, 2011 1:59 AM CDT | Updated Oct 14, 2011 3:44 AM CDT
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(Newser) – Human beings' very first "proto" language may have sounded more like Yoda-speak than the English we use today. Researchers believe all language derived from one spoken some 50,000 years ago in east Africa. Now scientists are making a case that the first language followed a "subject-object-verb" order, as in "I you like," favored by the little Jedi warrior. The researchers—co-directors of the Santa Fe Program for the Evolution of the Human Language—reached their conclusion after creating and studying a family tree linking all languages, reports MSNBC. Clear patterns of word orders became apparent, and all were traced back to the subject-object-verb, or SOV, order, rather than the subject-verb-object of English and several other languages.

"Yoda-speak" makes sense for early humans because it's the word order that children tend to learn first and it's logical early humans approached words in a similarly rudimentary way, experts say. The subject-object-verb order seems to come most naturally to humans. As for why some groups stuck with the ancient word order, and others switched, scientists haven't a clue. "The fact remains that half of the world's languages still have SOV word order because they have not changed word order at all," said a researcher. "Word order changes, but it's unpredictable if word order will change, and I really don't know why."

Yoda gets a ride on Luke Skywalker in this scene from Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back.
Yoda gets a ride on Luke Skywalker in this scene from "Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back."   (AP Photo/Lucasfilm Ltd)
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