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A pseudoword is a unit of speech or text that appears to be an actual word in a certain language, while in fact it has no meaning in the lexicon. It is a kind of non-lexical
vocable In the broadest sense of the word, a vocable is any meaningful sound uttered by people, such as a word or term, that is fixed by their language and culture. Use of the words in the broad sense is archaic and the term is instead used for utterances ...
. A pseudoword is a specific type of non-word composed of a combination of phonemes which conform to the language's phonotactic rules. Such words without a meaning in a certain language or no occurrence in any
text corpus In linguistics, a corpus (plural ''corpora'') or text corpus is a language resource consisting of a large and structured set of texts (nowadays usually electronically stored and processed). In corpus linguistics, they are used to do statistical ...
or dictionary can be the result of (the interpretation of) a truly random signal, but there will often be an underlying deterministic source, as is the case for: *
nonsense word A nonsense word, unlike a sememe, may have no definition. Nonsense words can be classified depending on their orthographic and phonetic similarity with (meaningful) words. If it can be pronounced according to a language's phonotactics, it is a ps ...
s (e.g. ''
jabberwocky "Jabberwocky" is a nonsense poem written by Lewis Carroll about the killing of a creature named "the Jabberwock". It was included in his 1871 novel ''Through the Looking-Glass'', the sequel to '' Alice's Adventures in Wonderland'' (1865). The ...
'') * nonce words (e.g. '' galumph'') *
ghost word A ghost word is a word published in a dictionary or similarly authoritative reference work even though it had not previously had any meaning or been used intentionally. A ghost word generally originates from a typographical or linguistic error, t ...
s (e.g. ''
dord The word ''dord'' is a dictionary error in lexicography. It was accidentally created, as a ghost word, by the staff of G. and C. Merriam Company (now part of Merriam-Webster) in the '' New International Dictionary'', second edition (1934). That ...
'') *
cyphers Cyphers may refer to: * ''Cyphers'' (magazine), Irish literary publication "Cyphers" is a surname. Notable people with the surname include: *Charles Cyphers Charles Cyphers (born July 28, 1939) is an American actor who is known in the horror ...
*
typo A typographical error (often shortened to typo), also called a misprint, is a mistake (such as a spelling mistake) made in the typing of printed (or electronic) material. Historically, this referred to mistakes in manual type-setting (typography) ...
s A string of nonsensical words may be described as gibberish. Word salad, in contrast, may contain legible and intelligible words but without semantic or syntactic correlation or coherence.


Characteristics

Within
linguistics Linguistics is the science, scientific study of human language. It is called a scientific study because it entails a comprehensive, systematic, objective, and precise analysis of all aspects of language, particularly its nature and structure ...
, a pseudoword is defined specifically as respecting the
phonotactic Phonotactics (from Ancient Greek "voice, sound" and "having to do with arranging") is a branch of phonology that deals with restrictions in a language on the permissible combinations of phonemes. Phonotactics defines permissible syllable struc ...
restrictions of a language. That is, it does not include sounds or series of sounds that do not exist in that language: it is easily pronounceable for speakers of the language. When reading pseudowords, some cite the need to reflect on the real words that are "friendly" and "unfriendly". For instance, "bave" can be read easily due to the number of its friendly words such as cave, pave, and wave. Also, when written down, a pseudoword does not include strings of characters that are not permissible in the spelling of the target language. "Vonk" is a pseudoword in English, while "dfhnxd" is not. The latter is an example of a nonword. Nonwords are contrasted with pseudowords in that they are not pronounceable and by that their spelling could not be the spelling of a real word. Pseudowords are created in one of two ways. The first method involves changing at least one letter in a word. The second method uses various
bigrams A bigram or digram is a sequence of two adjacent elements from a string of tokens, which are typically letters, syllables, or words. A bigram is an ''n''-gram for ''n''=2. The frequency distribution of every bigram in a string is commonly used f ...
and trigrams and combines them. Both methods evaluate certain criteria to compare the pseudoword to another real word. The more that a given pseudoword matches a word in terms of criteria, the stronger the word is. Pseudowords are also sometimes called wug words in the context of
psycholinguistic Psycholinguistics or psychology of language is the study of the interrelation between linguistic factors and psychological aspects. The discipline is mainly concerned with the mechanisms by which language is processed and represented in the mind ...
experiments. This is because ''wug'' ʌgwas one such pseudoword used by
Jean Berko Gleason Jean Berko Gleason (born 1931) is a psycholinguist and professor emerita in the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences at Boston University who has made fundamental contributions to the understanding of language acquisition in children, ...
in her
wug test Jean Berko Gleason (born 1931) is a psycholinguist and professor emerita in the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences at Boston University who has made fundamental contributions to the understanding of language acquisition in children, ...
1958 experiments. Words like ''wug'', which could have been a perfectly acceptable word in English but is not due to an accidental gap, were presented to children. The experimenter would then prompt the children to create a plural for ''wug'', which was almost invariably ''wugs'' ʌgz The experiments were designed to see if English morphophonemics would be applied by children to novel words. They revealed that even at a very young age, children have already internalized many of the complex features of their language. A logatome is a short pseudoword or just a syllable which is used in acoustic experiments to examine speech recognition.


Linguistic studies

Experiments involving pseudonyms have led to the discovery of the pseudoword effect, a phenomenon where non-words that are similar orthographically to real words give rise to more confusion, or "hits and false alarms," than other real words which are also similar in orthography. The reasoning behind this is focused on semantic meaning. Semantics help us more quickly differentiate between words that look similar, leading to the conclusion that the pseudoword effect is caused by a familiarity-based process. Pseudowords are also often used in studies involving aphasia and other cognitive deficits. Particularly Broca’s aphasia has been associated with difficulties in processing pseudowords. In aphasia studies, they are often used to measure syllable frequency by having patients attempt to pronounce them. Also, patients with left hemisphere damage (LHD) tend to have significantly greater difficulty writing pseudowords than those with right hemisphere damage. This specific deficit is known as the lexicality effect. It occurs in the presence of perisylvian, rather than extrasylvian, damage in the left hemisphere.


Pseudowords and reading ability

In testing the ability of beginner readers, pseudowords are used due to their characteristics as pronounceable non-words. Those with reading disabilities have a more difficult time pronouncing pseudowords. Because pseudowords are made using common syllables, it might be obvious that trouble in pronouncing them would be connected to trouble pronouncing real words. From these findings, nonsense word fluency is now considered to be a basic early literacy indicator. A standardized test for beginning readers, Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills (DIBELS), shows high scores in pseudoword pronunciation being correlated with high scores in the reading of authentic words. Due to these findings, often pseudowords are used to train early readers to strengthen their morphological knowledge. There is evidence that suggests that higher scores on these tests, such as the Word-Pseudoword Reading Competence Test are highly correlated with other more general standardized tests, such as the Test for School Achievement and its subtests. Pseudoword pronunciation and spelling are associated with general reading comprehension and, more importantly, general, education-based achievement.


Nonsense syllables

A logatome or nonsense syllable is a short pseudoword consisting most of the time of just one syllable which has no meaning of its own. Examples of English logatomes are the nonsense words or . Like other pseudowords, logatomes obey all the phonotactic rules of a specific language. Logatomes are used in particular in acoustic experiments. They are also used in experiments in the
psychology of learning The psychology of learning is a theoretical science that covers the various psychological theories that relate with learning. Throughout history, there has been many various psychological learning theories. Some take on a more behaviorist approac ...
as a way to examine speech recognition. and in experimental psychology, especially the psychology of learning and memory. Nonsense syllables were first introduced by Hermann EbbinghausEbbinghaus, H. (1964). ''Memory''. New York: Dover. (Originally published 1885.) in his experiments on the learning of lists. His intention was that they would form a standard stimulus so that experiments would be reproducible. However, with increasing use it became apparent that different nonsense syllables were learned at very different rates, even when they had the same superficial structure. GlazeGlaze, J. A. (1928). The association value of non-sense syllables. ''Pedagogical Seminary and Journal of Genetic Psychology, 35'', 255-269. introduced the concept of association value to describe these differences, which turned out to be reliable between people and situations. Since Glaze's time, experiments using nonsense syllables typically control association value in order to reduce variability in results between stimuli. Nonsense syllables can vary in structure. The most used are the so-called CVC syllables, composed of a consonant, a vowel, and a consonant. These have the advantage that nearly all are pronounceable, that is, they fit the phonotactics of any language that uses closed syllables, such as English and German. They are often described as "CVC trigrams", reflecting their three-letter structure. Obviously many other structures are possible, and can be described on the same principles, e.g. VC, VCV, CVCV. But the CVC trigrams have been studied most intensively; for example, Glaze determined association values for 2019 of them. The term nonsense syllable is widely used to describe non-lexical vocables used in music, most notably in
scat singing In vocal jazz, scat singing is vocal improvisation with wordless vocables, nonsense syllables or without words at all. In scat singing, the singer improvises melodies and rhythms using the voice as an instrument rather than a speaking medium. ...
but also in many other forms of vocal music. Although such usages do not invoke the technical issues about structure and associability that are of concern in psychology, the essential meaning of the term is the same.


See also

*
Covfefe Covfefe ( ) is a misspelling, widely presumed to be a typo, that Donald Trump used in a viral tweet when he was U.S. President. It instantly became an Internet meme. Six minutes after midnight ( EDT) on May 31, 2017, Trump tweeted, "Despit ...
*'' Glokaya kuzdra'' * Gostak *''
Hapax legomenon In corpus linguistics, a ''hapax legomenon'' ( also or ; ''hapax legomena''; sometimes abbreviated to ''hapax'', plural ''hapaxes'') is a word or an expression that occurs only once within a context: either in the written record of an entire ...
'' * Language acquisition *
Lorem ipsum In publishing and graphic design, ''Lorem ipsum'' is a placeholder text commonly used to demonstrate the visual form of a document or a typeface without relying on meaningful content. ''Lorem ipsum'' may be used as a placeholder before final ...
* Neologism * Placeholder name


References

{{reflist Linguistics Phonology Phonotactics Psychology experiments Cognitive psychology Psychology of learning Experimental psychology Lexicology