Core vocabulary: an overview

Toddle core words from Banajee list

When I first started working with children with complex communication needs I had never heard that term "Complex Communication Needs". I am pretty sure it was already starting to be used in Australia by then, but it certainly hadn't arrived to my small town in Oregon at the time.

Nor did I know anything about core vocabulary, which is amazing because it is a pretty simple and powerful idea.

Basically a relatively small number of words (less than 300-500 depending on the researcher) accounts for over 70% (or more depending on the data collected) of what we say.   Bruce Baker used this basic linguist principle as the basis of his Minspeak language system that is used on Prentke Romich Company's devices (PRC).  He has written up nice summary of core vocabulary with some frequency lists from different researchers here.

For the linguistically geeky, there are many linguists with no interest in AAC who also have collected extensive sets of spoken and written language and counted the relative frequency.  Leech, Leyson, and Wilson did one such effort in 2001 and have shared their word frequency lists here.   They, and others, have shown that we use different words more frequently for spoken versus written language.  Further, when we are speaking conversationally different words are used more frequently than during task based communication.

Here are some of the most frequently core words in spoken English from one of Leech et al's 2001 lists of adult British English:

good, other, right, little, new, nice, big, old, different, sure, sorry, alright, long, great, able, better, local, bad, important, wrong, whole, bloody, only

eah, oh, no, yes, mm, mhm, ah, ooh, aye, aha, hello, ha, eh, dear, bye, yep, hey

of, in, to, for, on, with, at, about, from, like, by, into, as, through, over, after, off, between, against, within, round, under, without, before, across, down, past, during, up, around, regarding

I, you, it, we, they, he, she, them, one, me, who, him, something, us, her, anything, somebody, nothing, everything, everybody, anybody, yourself, someone, mine, myself, nobody, lots, themselves, everyone, anyone, ya, itself, yours, himself, none, ourselves, ours, 'em, plenty, nil, nought, herself, his,  whoever, whom, hers, yourselves, theirs

's, is, do, was, have, be, know, got, 've, are, 're, think, get, did, go, had, were, said, 'm, see, mean, going, say, been, want, come, put, has, does,  take, look, like, make, doing, done, went, give, thought, need, says, tell, being, thank, saying, 'd, getting, made, find, coming, remember, goes, came, use, having, keep, talking, looking, gone, work, let's, ask, try, let, seen, start, feel, told, comes, wanted, trying, pay, called, call, leave, took, working, left, suppose, talk, am, buy, started, read

Modal verbs:
can, would, 'll, could, will, can't, 'd, should, might, used, must, won't, may, shall, ought, need, dare

Core vocabulary in my early days:

And so it begins... welcome to "Looking Up, Tuning In: A Blog about AAC"

For many years I have wanted a place to share my thinking about AAC, child language development, autism, and what it is like to work in this field.  Long before it became a career, helping people communicate better (including myself) was my passion.  I love watching people truly connect and am amazed at how children become more and more adept at language and communication over time.

For me, I want this blog to have a simple overarching theme:

that everything we hope to do as parents, therapists, teachers, and human beings comes down to taking a breath and looking up from our goals, worries, check lists, technology, and to do lists and really truly tune in to each other. The best therapy and teaching I have ever seen always happens when people are attuned to each other.

It is in these moments that I have experienced another magical thing:  That moment when a person looks up and wordlessly expresses, “Yes, YES!!! you are getting me.”