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Core and Fringe Vocabulary

Core and Fringe Vocabulary

What they are

Core vocabulary includes words that are used frequently and are useful in a variety of situations. They are often small, commonly used words (e.g., I, the, have, and, on, want, etc.).

Fringe vocabulary is more situation specific. Their importance changes from context to context and from person to person (e.g., evaporation, museum, funny, etc.).

What they’re not

The same! Nor are they mutually exclusive. There are different vocabulary needs and combinations for each individual and their particular communication skills and environments.

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How they work

It is important to give individuals access to a variety of vocabulary so that they may have the opportunity to use a variety of communication functions.

Again…It’s the Goal! Not the Tool!

Consider the individual's needs and abilities, and then consider what vocabulary is needed.

Vocabulary needs are always changing. But a communication system cannot always be changing or it will become frustrating or impossible to access! Therefore, it is imperative to plan ahead when choosing vocabulary and designing a communication tool.

Consider what vocabulary needs to be available for a particular situation. This may even help you determine which tool will be most effective!

  • If answering a multiple choice test, a low-tech board with unit vocabulary might be suitable
  • If gossiping with a friend, a combination of core and personal fringe vocabulary may best allow the generation of novel messages
  • If an individual has early receptive language skills, using the most salient core and fringe vocabulary may be required (i.e., using verbs, nouns and adjectives that are clear to the individual rather than I, it, the)

There are a number of resources that have catalogued core vocabulary. The First 100 Most Commonly Used English Words

Fringe vocabulary can be ascertained via interviews and environmental and ecological inventories. Strategies for CUSTOMIZING Vocabulary for Context-Dependent Communication

At a training for Camp Harmon staff, a group plays Go Fish with very simple communication using only fringe vocabulary. The group then discusses the cons and then the pros of using this particular board.

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