Consider the following dialogue:

"How are you, Juliet?"
"Ohnot too bad"

The child has evidently heard people saying responding to "How are you?" with "Oh, not too bad" and has come to learn "Ohnot" as though it is a single word. Is there a term for this sort of error, whereby two (or more) words are mistakenly learned as though they are one?

The first word needn't have been "Oh". I've seen this error occur with more meaningful initial words.

It's rather like a mondegreen or malapropism or eggcorn, but different in that the end result isn't a word at all.

  • 4
    Everyday I login to the Internet and see this happens alot. Sep 19 '13 at 8:42
  • 1
    The opposite kind of error also occurs, e.g. He's adopted being learned as He's a dopted.
    – TKR
    Sep 19 '13 at 15:57
  • @TomRecht Good point, that hadn't occurred to me when writing this question. Is there a term for the error you mentioned? Sep 19 '13 at 23:37
  • 2
    @user1205901 See below, it's another class of segmentation error.
    – TKR
    Sep 20 '13 at 0:56

This is known in language acquisition as segmentation error.1

1: Blom and Wijnen (2006). Development need not be embarrassing: the demise of the root infinitive and related changes in Dutch child language.

  • 4
    jogloran, would you mind including some more explanation about a segmentation error? Something to give at least a first understanding? I for one never heard of this term. :D
    – Alenanno
    Sep 19 '13 at 9:13
  • I just wanted to supply the key phrase for the asker -- I'll elaborate when I get back to a computer.
    – jogloran
    Sep 19 '13 at 15:16
  • 2
    It means a perception error in where the segment boundaries are. This is common in learning a language aurally. How're people sposta hear where the word boundaries are? Speshly if other people gotta talk fast alla time? Seriously, morpheme boundaries are not obvious and have to be learned separately in fixed phrases, leading to eggcorns like "Gladly, the cross-eyed bear".
    – jlawler
    Sep 19 '13 at 17:36
  • Would rebracketing (eg, an apron/a napron and an ickname/a nickname) fall in this category too?
    – mishac
    Oct 4 '13 at 4:04

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