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How Minspeak® Allows for Independent Communication by Giving Anyone Access to Core Vocabulary

by Bruce Baker

In order to understand how Minspeak allows for independent communication, it is important to understand what is meant by core vocabulary and how everyone uses it, no matter their age or activity.

What is Core Vocabulary?

Core vocabulary is a small set of simple words, in any language, that are used frequently and across contexts (Cross, Baker, Klotz & Badman, 1997). Core vocabulary contains all parts of speech - nouns, pronouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, prepositions, conjunctions, and interjections and serves as a great medium for teaching language.

Core words are familiar and most of them are short - six letters or less. Only a few core words have more than six letters (for example, "sometimes" has nine letters).

From toddlers to seniors, core's simple words make up 80 percent or more of everyday communication and are the heart of language development. Action words like "want," "put," "get," nouns like "thing," "stuff," and "people," pronouns like "I, me, my, mine," and "he, she, it, them," form easy sentences with demonstratives like "this" and "that." Early adverbs like "here" and "there" enable all children to express themselves. "Put it here," "Get me this," and "I want that" are what little kids say when they are building their mean length of utterance (MLU). Data suggests that children with disabilities build early language three-word phrases with core vocabulary (Baker, Hill & Devylder, 2000).

How Everyone Uses Core Vocabulary

Core words dominate everyday speech for toddlers (Banajee, 2003), preschoolers (Marvin, Beukelman & Bilyeu, 1994), adults (Balandin & Iacono, 1999), and seniors (Stuart & Beukelman, 1997). Stuart found that 174 words made up 72 percent of what seniors said across all environments and topics, and 250 words made up 78 percent of what they said, even including shopping trips and telephone conversations.

When parents and families search endlessly for what their augmented communicator family wants and needs in his or her communication device, all they have to do is provide about 250 high-frequency words from known lists and the augmented communicators can tell you for him/herself!

Word Lists

Bruce Baker has edited some vocabulary lists from important articles to make them easier to read and understand. Others are included with the permission of the authors. Use these edited vocabulary lists to make your own vocabulary list.

Making these lists available can help you construct your own core word list because there is a huge overlap. A high percentage of the words on one list can often be found on other lists.


Baker, B., Hill, K., Devylder, R. (2000). Core Vocabulary is the Same Across Environments, California State University at Northridge (CSUN) Conference, Los Angeles, California.

Balandin, S., Iacono, T. (1999). Adult Vocabulary Usage, English, Sydney, Australia, AAC, Vol. 14.

Banajee, M., Dicarlo, C., & Stricklin, S. B. (2003). Core Vocabulary Determination for toddlers. Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC), 19, 67-73.

Cross, R.T., Baker, B.R., Klotz, L.S. and Badman, A.L. (1997). Static and Dynamic Keyboards: Semantic Compaction in Both Worlds. Proceedings of the 18th Annual Southeast Augmentative Communication Conference, 9-17. Birmingham: SEAC Publications

Hill, K. (2001). The Development of a Model for Automated Performance Measurements, Doctoral Dissertation, Speech-Language Pathology, University of Pittsburgh.

Marvin, C., Beukelman, D., Bilyeu, D. (1994). "Vocabulary-Use Patterns in Preschool Children: Effects of Context and Time Sampling." AAC, Vol. 10, No. 4.

Stuart, S. and Beukelman, D. (1997). Most Frequently Occurring Words of Older Adults. AAC, Vol. 13.

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