Core/Content and Fringe Vocabulary

There are two types of vocabulary, core/content and fringe. Core/content vocabulary is composed of high-frequency words that are very versatile. In contrast, fringe vocabulary is composed of words that occur infrequently and lack versatility. Let’s compare and contrast core/content and fringe vocabulary:

Characteristic Core/Content Vocabulary Fringe Vocabulary
Applicability across topics Small number of words Very large number of words
Frequency of use High frequency Low frequency
Applicability across environments Applicable to all environments Applicable to limited environments
Applicability across topics Applicable to all environments Applicable to limited topics
Types of words Includes a variety of parts of speech Includes mostly proper names and other nouns
Usefulness in a single message Approximately 80% of words in a sample of 100 total words will be core, but many of the core words will be used repeatedly, so the number of different words is small. Approximately 20% of the words in a sample of 100 total words will be fringe.  The number of different words will be large, as fringe words are repeated with much lower frequency than core words.

What is the priority in an AAC vocabulary? A small set of consistent and highly predictable core/content words that occur frequently, and compose 80% of our messages? Or a very large, unpredictable, and inconsistent set of fringe words that compose only 20% of our messages? Core/content words provide the basic architecture of our messages, and fringe words provide the customized detail. You can say many things using only core/content vocabulary. If you limit yourself to fringe vocabulary, you most likely will supply one word responses. Try to create a meaningful sentence containing only nouns!

Everyone uses fringe vocabulary, primarily nouns, such as the names of family members, friends, pets, cities, and states. The names that are important to me are unique to me, and probably only of a few of my fringe words would be important to you. Additionally, you would have difficulty predicting the names that are important to another person. Fringe words are very custom vocabulary.

Watch this informative video about core/content and fringe vocabulary:

Watch these videos demonstrating the importance of core/content vocabulary: