16: Learning parts of words - Morphemes and the wug test

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Jan 18 2018 33 mins   1.2k
Here’s a strange little blue animal you’ve never seen before. It’s called a wug. Now here’s another one. There are two of them. There are two ___? You probably thought “wugs” – and even kids as young as 3 years old would agree with you. But how did you know this, if you’ve never heard the word “wug” before? What is it that you know, exactly, when you know how to add that -s? Now try saying two cat__ 🐈🐈, two dog__ 🐕🐕 and two horse__ 🐎🐎. Why did you end up with catssss but dogzzzz, and have to add a whole extra syllable to horse? In this episode, your hosts Gretchen McCulloch and Lauren Gawne bring you into the realm of language between words and sounds, the realm of morphemes like “wug” and “cat” and “-s” and “pre-” and “episode”. What do you know subconsciously about how morphemes fit together? How do kids learn them from such an early age? How do linguists test what kids know about words? Wugs, in fact, are no longer often used for the wug test, because their cute, birdlike shape has become so famous as an unofficial mascot of linguistics that we can’t assume people haven’t seen the word anymore! People have made wug cookies, crochet wugs, wug memes, and more fun wug items, and you can check out some of our favourite wuggish links below. This month’s Patreon bonus episode is an interview with Daniel Midgley of Talk the Talk about communicating linguistics, and how we are all linguistic geniuses. We also have a new Patreon goal: at $1,200 we’re going to commission a linguist-artist to illustrate a memorable bit from the show! Everyone will get to see the art, which we'll also make available on merch, and patrons will also get a high-resolution download and behind-the-scenes concept sketches. To listen to bonus episodes and support the show, visit patreon.com/lingthusiasm. To see this episode's shownotes, including how to run your own wug test and lots of fun wug creations, visit http://lingthusiasm.com/post/169866479416/lingthusiasm-episode-16-learning-parts-of-words