Strange Syntax Mine It Is

I hope I’m not breaching any confidence by reproducing – anonymously – this heartbreaking plea for empathy:

hello everyone. not normally post as courage takes. worried muchly i am. not able place post upon wall mine as not wanting for to worry children mine bless. stroke suffered 2008 please forgive words mine as not alwasy come right. ileostomy formed to save life mine. problems many since too gallbladder now removed. health mine deteriorating too.  have go for hysteroscopy as new problems have arisen. tummy so very swollen too painful. painkillers given thanksfully helping. tearful very at moment yet smiles i do for family. wanted for to share here as see daily i do posts so very loving too caring when members suffering. want for to comment yet alwasy worry not able understand words mine. so here say i will hugs too love sending for those need them as i do muchly at moment. Xx

This message brought tears to my eyes and I believe I responded appropriately; it was perfectly clear, everyone understood and sent their love and best wishes. Yet it also brought a smile to my lips, evoking as it did the mental image of the much-loved Yoda and his twisted syntax.

That sent me off to google Yodish, which has been much analysed, and even to one interesting site (here) which examined how Yoda’s English syntax was rendered in other languages. Was Yodish based on the speech of a stroke victim? I haven’t been able to find the answer to that, as George Lucas, its originator, has refused to explain why Yoda speaks backwards. We occasionally hear strange stories of how brain damage due to strokes can impact linguistic ability, and a person might suddenly start speaking Welsh, for instance,  which he may have heard in early childhood but then forgotten.

I skipped over to my cyberpal Taxi Dog, who has many answers – some to questions nobody else has thought to ask – and links to fascinating sites. Taxi Dog suffered a stroke, with subsequent aphasia, and I thought he might have addressed this matter of altered syntax after brain damage.

Location of two brain areas that play a critic...

Location of two brain areas that play a critical role in language, Broca’s area and Wernicke’s area (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I know that Broca’s and Wernicke’s areas are mainly responsible for speech, and I seem to recall that syntax is located in a different area of the brain from lexis, which partially accounts for the different effects that strokes have on speech. However, although he suffered from aphasia, Taxi Dog now writes very fluently with perfectly normal syntax, and I couldn’t find anything about this on his site, although I spent over an hour thoroughly enjoying reading all his older posts that I had previously missed. Thank you, TD!

Finally, I stumbled upon this page (PLEASE click – it’s worth it!). Good old Huffington Post!

I’m sure that some neurolinguist somewhere has devoted time to investigating this phenomenon, and made a connection between the syntax of proto-human language and that of stroke victims, whether by way of Yoda or not. If not, why not?

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3 thoughts on “Strange Syntax Mine It Is

  1. This is a very interesting subject, Cat. I wished I’d understand more about it. It’s very good that you do some research on it. There is really a lot that we do not understand properly, isn’t there?

    • Language is fascinating – ever since I was a child I’ve wondered why different languages have different word order (basically syntax). There was a character on a children’s radio programme when I was small called Dennis the Dachshund, who spoke using German word order, very comical effect. That piqued my curiosity, then I learnt French and Latin and Ancient greek – every language has its own internal logic, but where does it come from? Stroke victims offer an interesting field of research.

  2. This is a very interesting topic. I studied two languages at school but they have drifted off now.
    However, I occasionally have a throw back and come out with the German way of phrasing things; for example ‘I am to the shop going’ and I do not know why it pops out like that. 🙂

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