What is the proper way to describe Yoda's (From Star wars) speech problem?

Something along the lines of: He always puts the _____ before the _____.

/Makes sense, I hope this thread does.

Not for nothing, ISTR reading somewhere that German tends to use verbs in a way that makes English speakers uncomfortable.

Whereas I might say “We bought a new car!” a German would say “A new car we bought!”

So, he puts the object before the verb?

It depends on which trilogy you’re talking about. Episodes 1-3 don’t follow any real rules is my understanding and 4-5 actually rarely deviate from standard english syntax. But generally, his mode of speech is described in terms of word order. Standard english is an SVO languave. Sentences are usually formed with the subject first, then the verb and finally the object. A new car we bought is an example of an OSV format which tends to be rare. Languages are usually either SVO or SOV. Yoda speaks in SVO mostly with a few deviations into OSV and OVS.

English used to play more with word order than it does know. It used to be that you could turn a sentence into a question by swapping the verb and the subject.
You love me.=declarative statement
Love you me?=question

Bosstone analyzes some famous Yoda phrases for word order.

When an English speaker places the verb last, I usually respond with “Talking like Yoda, you are!”

Me, you love. = Yodaese

He always puts the cart before the horse.

Or the Madlibs version:

He always puts the large hadron collider before the presidency.

Or, always puts the large hadron collider before the presidency, he does.

That’s Luke to a T, BTW.

The Scots and the Irish do this too sometimes.

Although I’m having a hard time coming up with a reasonable example.

#include <UsualWikipediaDisclaimer>

According the the relevant wikipedia page, Object-Subject-Verb languages (“You, I love”) are approximately 0% of all human languages. The specific article on OSV languages lists specific examples such as Xavante, Jamamadi, Apurinã: apparently all native Amazonian languages.

The rest of the citations there are along the lines of “one possible word order of <language>” or “used for emphasis in <language>”.

Yiddish is an example of the latter, which is probably why Mel Brooks’ Yogurt character works so well (to me, anyway)

I want to say that Latin does this, but it has been so long since I’ve studied Latin.

Latin is highly inflected and because of its noun and verb case systems, the role each word plays in the sentence is not determined by its position. In english, “The dog bites the man” and “The man bites the dog” mean different things but in latin one must inflect man and dog to show which is the actor and which is the acted upon regardless of where each word is within the sentence.

Inversion, it’s called.

That’s all about the nouns. I’m recalling that the verb usually comes at the end.

Problem speaking, Yoda has not.

Problem listening have you.

Traditionally, yes, but there’s no reason one couldn’t put it elsewhere and still have a clearly understood sentence.

Approximately half of all languages are SOV, 40% (including English) are SVO and 10% are VSO. I was unaware that there were any OSV but gnoital has discovered that there are a few. The fact that German allows OVS certainly doesn’t make it an OVS language since its normal word order has verb second in main clauses and last in subordinate clauses. On account of the latter and also because when there is an auxiliary, the main verb comes last even in main clauses, German is considered to be an SOV language.

In an older form of English, there was a sentence “Me likes it” essentially identical to “It pleases me”, but it eventually got reanalyzed so that “likes” acquired its current meaning and the “Me” was replaced by “I”. But it shows that once upon a time, English could also use OSV order. But the loss of inflection doomed the construction, except in that frozen form where there was still inflection for case.

As for Latin (and I warn you I am on shaky ground here, maybe someone knowledgeable could correct me), because of the heavy inflection you could more or less use any word order, varying it for emphasis. But I still have the impression that it had a standard (unmarked) word order and it was SVO. I have read that there is at least one native American language that really lacks word order, that when a native speaker is asked to repeat a sentence he will do so but use a different order of the words and claim he repeated the sentence exactly. I can’t vouch for this nor, sorry, give a cite.

True for Yoda too, yes?

While German can have alternate orderings than English, this particular construction does not exist. The general rule is that the verb comes second. You can have SVO - Wir kauften ein neues Auto.,
or VSO with something else in front: Letzte Woche kauften wir ein neues Auto. (last week bought we a new car),
OVS is passable but unusual : Ein neues Auto kaufen wir.

With auxiliary verbs or modals, the main verb comes at the end, but the auxiliary or modal goes in the ‘normal’ position of the verb. e.g. “We have a new car bought.”

In subordinate clauses, the verb does get pushed to the end, but I’m pretty sure OSV does not occur there. It seems to always be SOV.

A linguist’s look at Yoda: Unclear of Yoda’s syntax the principles are, if any

We can see this shift being noticed in Shakespeare’s Two Gentlemen of Verona Act IV scene ii:
Host: How now! are you sadder than you were before? How
do you, man? the music likes you not. (The music displeases you.)

JULIA: You mistake; the musician likes me not. (The musician doesn’t like me.)

It depends on the sentence.

Maybe Yoda and the Horta are distantly related?
"No Kill I"

That’s exactly the way German phrases questions (“Du liebst mich.” vs. “Liebst du mich?”), and, I believe, one of the ways in which French does (“Tu m’aime.” - “M’aime tu?”).