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The Wug Test

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Annette Swift

on 8 July 2014

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Transcript of The Wug Test

For my Final Project, I will be revisiting Jean Berko Gleason’s 1958 Wug Test
The Wug Test is used to study the linguistic morphological development of children with the use of nonsense, novel words.
Children are asked to complete sentences based off of their knowledge of the morphological rules of their language.
A typical question would go as follows:
This is a wug. Now there are two of them. There are two ______. The responses are then noted for accuracy.
The test uses made-up words, like “wug,” in order to prevent against possible memorization of suffixes.
Previous Research
My research question: Can a child as young as 3.5 years old pair the proper suffixes to novel words, as the children did in Jean Berko Gleason’s Wug Test?
Subjects: I will be using two different subjects, one 3.5 years old and the other 4.5 years old and compare the results. Both are male.
Methods: I will be presenting the two children with a series of questions to test their knowledge on a few of the morphological rules of English, including:
Plural (+s)
Possessive (+s)
Present Progressive (+ing)
Past Regular (+ed)
The Test
Jean Berko Gleason, 1958
Tested children from 4 to 7 years of age
Found that even very young children have success on the Wug Test, but those in first grade had the most success.
Did not find a difference based on gender of the children
As a whole, children showed the most success with the English plural and the past tense (Berko, 1958)

Susan Selby, 1972
Tested children from 4 to 14 years old
Did not find a difference based on gender, but did find a difference based on socioeconomic status.
Found that success rates of children increased with age, but there was a "ceiling effect" at age 12.
Found that even the youngest children in her sample had knowledge of the morphological rules of the English plural as well the noun and the progressive of the verb, (Selby, 1972)

Annette Swift
Psychology 341
Final Project

The Results
The work of Jean Berko Gleason, and all others who follow suit, gives insight on the morphological development of children, a topic which is certainly important in a linguistics course
My study, specifically, gives insight on the morphological development of very young children and it proves that children at this age can even have success on The Wug Test and others like it.
Relevance to the Class
Berko, J. (1958). The child's learning of English morphology. Cambridge: Radcliffe College.

Selby, S. (1972). The Development Of Morphological Rules In Children. British Journal of Educational Psychology, 42(3), 293-­299.

The Secret Life of Scientists and Engineers: Jean Berko Gleason and Wugs. YouTube. Retrieved July 5, 2014, from https://www.youtube.com/watch? v=ElabA5YICsA
The Wug Test:
A Study of the Morphological Knowledge of Young Children

Wug Test Video
As predicted, the older child was more successful at the task, thus, more knowledgeable of the rules of English morphology.
Both children were successful at the English plural as well as the possessive, but only the older child was able to complete the sentences involving the present progressive and the past regular.
The most interesting finding is that my 3.5-year-old subject was younger than any of the subjects used in either Jean Berko Gleason's or Susan Selby's studies, and he still managed to produce successful results
The Questions, Explained
Plural: This is a wug. Now there are two of them.
There are two ____. (wugs)

Possessive: Now the wug is wearing a hat.
Whose hat is it? The ____ hat. (wug's)

Past Progressive: This is a man who likes to zib.
What is the man doing? _______ (Zibbing.)

Past Regular: This man is not zibbing today, but he did yesterday.
What did he do yesterday? ______ (Zibbed.)
actual photos shown to children, drawn by Annette Swift
Full transcript