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Yoda Language Study: New Research Shows Human Ancestors Spoke Like Star Wars Character (VIDEO)

First Posted: 10/14/11 12:44 PM ET Updated: 12/14/11 05:12 AM ET

Speak like Yoda, did you?

Two linguists say your ancestors did.

New research published in the the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences suggests that the "proto-human languages" of 50,000 years ago resembled the speaking patterns of a certain wise, green Star Wars character.

The study focusses on how parts of speech have evolved over time. Most modern languages use a subject-verb-object (SVO) structure. For example, "I like 'Star Wars.'" Many dead languages, however, use a subject-object-verb (SOV) structure, meaning the sentence comes out as "I 'Star Wars' like."

Stanford University's Merritt Ruhlen and Murray Gell-Mann of Santa Fe Institute in New Mexico used these structures and a few others to analyze approximately 2,200 languages, dead and alive, and organize them into a family tree. Their research showed that SOV structures and various other sentence patterns always preceded SVO structures, without exception.

"This language would have been spoken by a small East African population who seemingly invented fully modern language and then spread around the world, replacing everyone else," Ruhlen explained in an interview with the site Life's Little Mysteries.

While the study provides insight regarding linguistic evolution, it does not channel the force to predict what's next. Or as Yoda might say, "Impossible to see the future is."

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Filed by Steven Hoffer  |