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Fringe words

What are fringe words?

Fringe words are more situation-specific. Their importance changes from context to context and from person to person. (e.g.evaporation, museum, funny). Fringe words are nouns, verbs, and more special adjectives.



Fringe words are very specific words. They have a more narrow meaning than core words and they describe particular things. 


Fringe words are often easier to teach because you can picture them and explain them through images. However, core words are more flexible to use with communication partners. We can't just speak using fringe vocabulary so we must focus on teaching the core words first.


Differences between core vocabulary and fringe vocabulary

Some people may not be informed about the differences between these two. They correlate very well because we need them together to be able to form full sentences. 


Let's imagine a common conversation between a person and an AAC user:


"What do you want to eat?"

Child: "I don't know."

"Do you want cheese or yogurt?"

Child: "I want cheese."


13 of those words are core words (want, do, don't, I, you etc.). The other 5 are fringe words (eat, know, or, cheese, yogurt).





Core vocabulary is represented by those words used with high frequency. Core vocabulary is usually the main part of all AAC devices because it is the most important in every situation we encounter.


80% of the words we use every day, can be used regularly for interactions in many different situations. Most of the core words are pronouns, verbs, adjectives, and prepositions. As you may already know, core words are often more difficult to be pictured. The difficulties come from the fact that there isn't a picture or object that represents words like "want", or "put."


Even if we have to put more accent on core words, we also use fringe vocabulary 20% of our time. Fringe vocabulary is used in fewer situations and at a particular time (e.g. ‘mountain’, 'road ', ‘hole’). 


Fringe words are more specific to a subject, or individual. They represent approximately 20% of our vocabulary. Fringe vocabulary isn't made of general words and can not be used beyond many different situations. In the conversation example above, the fringe word "cheese" can not be used in a variety of situations and topics. 


Comparison between core vocabulary and fringe vocabulary

Core vocabulary

  • Common, familiar, and general words that can be used in a diversity of situations and with several communication partners

  • Holds a percentage of 75-80% of the words we use every day

  • You CAN'T form a sentence without using core words

  • You CAN create a sentence using only core words

  • More difficult to visualize. Core words are less picturable so this is why are harder to be explained.

  • Involves pronouns, verbs, prepositions, and articles.

  • Examples: I, he, she, like, play, have, on, open, help, more, can, do, it

  • Sentences formed using only core words – “I want to play”, “I need help”, “I can't do it”

Fringe vocabulary

  • Fringe words are more specific to a situation, to a topic ( they are mostly nouns)

  • CAN'T be used over a variety of circumstances

  • CAN'T form a sentence with only fringe words

  • The fringe vocabulary words are easy to visualize because they can be described and explained in many pictures

  • Examples: “car”, “school”, “dinosaurs”, “person”, "house”, “television”


How to correlate Core Vocabulary with Fringe Vocabulary?

You can form a single page communication board with core vocabulary on one side and fringe vocabulary on the other. If you structure your communication board, a consistent set of core words would always be on the left side and a set of fringe words would be on the right side. The core vocabulary

always stays steady, but the fringe vocabulary can change based on the context. 


Forming a single page communication board with core words and a flip page with a set of fringe vocabulary attached. Inside this frame, core words are static on a communication board. There are a variety of appointed pages that are flip based on the fringe words needed. The core words are always accessible. The patient can see them and have unlimited access to them. 


Core words, with easy access to fringe words, make up a well-balanced AAC system. This makes AAC users feel independent and powerful when communicating. 

If you have any questions, you can always ask us using the contact form in the app.

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