Nonce word  

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A nonce word is a word used only "for the nonce"—to meet a need that is not expected to recur. Quark, for example, was formerly a nonce word in English, appearing only in James Joyce's Finnegans Wake. Murray Gell-Mann then adopted it to name a new class of subatomic particle. The use of the term nonce word in this way was apparently the work of James Murray, the influential editor of the Oxford English Dictionary.

Nonce words frequently arise through the combination of an existing word with a familiar prefix or suffix, in order to meet a particular need (or as a joke). The result is a special kind of pseudoword: although it would not be found in any dictionary, it is instantly comprehensible (e.g., Bananaphone). If the need recurs (or the joke is widely enjoyed), nonce words easily enter regular use just because their meaning is obvious.

Alternatively, nonce words can be logatomes. These are nonsense words that nevertheless obey the phonotactics of a language, that "sound like" native words. Many examples are found in nonsense verse, such as “Jabberwocky”. Nonce words may also disobey the phonotactics, such as fnord (fn- does not occur in modern English), or be barely pronounceable or unpronounceable nonsense, such as kwyjibo.

Nonce words are often created as part of pop culture and advertising campaigns. A poem by Seamus Heaney entitled "Nonce Words" is included in his collection "District and Circle".

Nonce words are often used to study the development of language in children because they allow researchers to test how children treat words for which they have no prior knowledge. This permits inferences about the default assumptions children make about new word meanings, syntactic structure, etc. Frequently used nonce words include "wug", "blicket", and "dax". Wug is among the earliest known nonce words used in language learning studies, and is best known for its use in Jean Berko's "Wug test", in which children were presented with a novel object, called a wug, and then shown multiple instances of the object and asked to complete a sentence that elicits a plural form—e.g., "This is a wug. Now there are two of them. There are two...?" The use of the plural form "wugs" by the child suggests that they have applied a plural rule to the form, and that this knowledge is not specific to prior experience with the word, but applies to all nouns, whether familiar or novel.

Examples of nonce words previously used in child developmental studies include:

Nonce words

Other examples of nonce words include:

See also

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Nonce word" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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