The Wug Test
Hi again! So today I’d like to talk about something called the “Wug Test.” The experiment was invented in the 1950s to test when and how children acquire standard pluralization in English. The child is presented with a drawing of a “wug,” the fictional creature shown.
The name is fictional to ensure the child has never heard the word, or its plural form, before. The person conducting the experiment will then tell the child that the creature is called a wug. The child will then be shown a picture of two wugs; the researcher will say something along the lines of “Now there are two. There are two…?”
A child with an understanding of normal pluralization rules will quickly complete the sentence with “wugs.”
Interestingly enough, this experiment has also been applied to patients with specific language impairment (SLI). Even adult patients suffering from certain kinds of SLI can experience great difficulty trying to pluralize a word they have never seen before. The mechanics of pluralization provide fascinating insights into how language develops in the brain and how people acquire and master language rules.
Because of the distinctive appearance of the wug and its unusual name, it has since gained a lot more cultural significance in the linguistic community than the original creator probably expected. Many linguists see it as almost a symbol of the field and a testament to a particular brew of quirky humor. Personally, I would be proud to have it represent me.
You can find more information about the Wug test here.