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. 

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