Skip to main content

What is a Wug?

A wug is an imaginary cartoon creature created and first used by psycholinguist Jean Berko Gleason to test people’s ability to use the English plural morpheme*. The test usually involves two cartoon panels—one depicting one wug with the caption “This is a wug,” and the other depicting two wugs with the caption “Now there is another one. There are two of them. There are two ____.”

If the test subject has the plural morpheme in his or her English, the test subject will fill in the blank with “wugs.” If not, then the blank usually gets filled with “wug.”

Here are the two panels, which show you what wugs look like.


Note that the wugs only elicit one of the allomorphs** of the plural morpheme, namely the [z] allomorph that is suffixed to a noun that ends with a voiced consonant (like /g/). Other creatures may be needed to elicit the [əz] in “dresses” and the [-s] in “socks.”

*A “morpheme” is a sequence of sounds [or combination of movements in sign language] that carries a meaning, and whose constituent sounds carry no meaning by themselves. “Sing” has one morpheme. “Sing-ing” has two. “Sing-ing along” comprises two words, but three morphemes.

**An “allomorph” occurs when one morpheme, such as the English plural morpheme, has more than one pronunciation across contexts. So, though the regular English plural comprises one morpheme, it can be pronounced [z], [s], or [əz] depending on which final consonant the associated noun has.


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

What linguists know that other people don't.

Studying languages is a privilege. When you analyze language and everyday speech you realize that there is an astonishing amount of wonder in this system that we take for granted. Linguists questioned the obvious, which is language, and got answers that forever changed mankind’s understanding of Language and human nature. In this article, you will see what linguists know that is not so evident to other people. So let's see what we've got. We all speak one language. One of the main discoveries of modern linguistics is that it made us aware that all the languages we speak are similar in astonishing respects; they manifest the same pattern, follow the same rules, they are learnt in exactly the same way, and that all the differences are only superficial. So, in a sense we all speak the same language. This was captured by Chomsky in an excellent metaphor in an excellent book of his titled Language and Mind in which he says that if a Martian scientist, somebody with a different kind…

What can you do with a degree in linguistics?

People so often assume that a linguist's job is to learn as many languages as possible, when in actuality it is not anything near that. So, let us put an end to this erroneous assumption once and for all. 
Linguists do not engage in learning languages, linguists engage in studying how language works. And when I say language, I mean human language, an umbrella term that subsumes all languages spoken by humans, including pidgins, creoles, and sign languages. Thanks to linguists the world is a better place now, many daunting problems that existed for centuries have been solved because now we have a better understanding of language and language-related issues. in this article, you will see, in full-length, the contributions of linguists to the modern world. And you are going to see that it's a disgrace to confine a linguist's job to just learning languages. 
Let me just give you some examples before we break things down in more detail. A linguist's job could involve explo…

8 books everyone into linguistics should read.

When you want to decide on what to read in language and linguistics, it is never easy to pick a reading list; there is just so many books out there under the label of linguistics, especially that publications in linguistics have been growing like wild fire in the last couple of decades. So with your limited time and the unlimited number of books, it is always wise to make some research beforehand on what exactly you want to read. There is a lot to choose from, and the best book will depend on what you are specifically interested in. This is why we, at The Language Nerds, compiled a list of linguistics books that will entertain the novice and the expert alike. Here are some places to start: 

1.The Language Instinct by Steven Pinker

This is a book for the general science readers, it is very accessible whether you have a background in linguistics or not. It is considered by many as a landmark in linguistics. It is a great introduction and primer to some of the more basic problems and que…