The study of wugs. From wug, a small bird-like animal first described by Berko (1958), and -ology, an academic discipline or field of knowledge.

But what is a wug?!

Wugs are somewhat of a mascot among linguists. They’re adorable, and they are a unique identifier of those “in the know” about linguistics. Wugs grace the top of the linguistics subreddit there are stuffed wugs, wug mugs, and even people with wug tattoos! Linguists often claim to live the “wug life” (especially cool linguists live the “wug lyfe”, and hip linguists live the #wuglife or #wuglyfe).

Where did wugs come from?

In 1958, Jean Berko Gleason published “The Child’s Learning of English Morphology“. In the article, she explains an experiment preformed on young children (as young as 2 years and as old 5 years) who were in the process of learning English. At the time, there was much debate over how children learn language. One hypothesis is that they memorize everything, including things like the plural of “chair” is “chairs”, or the present progressive tense of “go” is “going”, or someone who “bakes” is a “baker.” Another hypothesis was that these word-endings (which linguists call morphemes) aren’t memorized but rather are applied as a “rule” (like “plural = noun + s”).

In order to test this, Gleason made up a bunch of non-sense words and drew pictures illustrating them. She would say things like “This is a man who zibs. What would you call a man who zigs every day?” Adults and older children would call him a “zibber” but younger children, who had not yet acquired the -er morpheme, would call him a “zibman.” One of the made-up words was the wug. The wug test (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wug_test) tested children’s plurals like this: “This is a wug. Now there are two of them. There are two ___.” Nearly all the children replied “wugs”! This proved that children did not memorize these endings, since they could not have ever heard of a “wug” before to know its plural.

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