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Everybody Uses Personal Core! Where is Personal Core in CVES™?

What Is Core Vocabulary?

Core Vocabulary is a concept relating to typical language development in both children and adults. Research has indicated that about 80% of what we say in our everyday language comes from a relatively small set of 400-500 words (Marvin, C. A., Beukelman, D. R., & Bilyeu, D. (1994), Banajee, M., Dicarlo, C., & Stricklin, S. B. (2003)).  These core words are used in messages across all environments and situations.

What Is Fringe Vocabulary?

If 80% of what we say comes from a bank of core words, then the remaining 20% of our spoken language consists of fringe vocabulary.  This is a huge number of words and includes mainly nouns.  Overall, fringe vocabulary accounts for about 20% of what we say.  Words like telescope, lava, tornado, violin, Jupiter, extension cord, humidifier, and lungs are all fringe vocabulary words.

So 20% of our vocabulary is fringe vocabulary?

Not quite.  Take a look at this diagram of our language system.

80% of the circle is Core Vocabulary, which is consistent across age, gender, background, and cognitive ability. The remaining 20% actually consists of fringe vocabulary AND personal core.

What’s personal core?!

Did you know that some of your fringe vocabulary words are actually “personal core?” Personal Core includes words that a person uses all of the time which aren’t included in the top 500 core words.   Personal core includes words that someone says daily or several times per week,  and these words are unique to each person.  For example, my personal core words are “gluten-free, shellfish, and anchovies,” because due to my food allergies I need to tell people that I can’t eat these foods.  I also use the words “Megan” and “speech-language pathologist” daily and weekly to describe my profession and tell my name.  My cats’ names are “Luna” and “Lohan” and I use these names everyday.  Personal core words are often favorite foods, activities, places, and people in our lives.  For many of the students that we work with, personal core words may be reinforcers or favorite toys.  So, if we look at the ratio 80% core vocabulary to 20% fringe vocabulary again, we actually find that personal core words overlap with what we think of as fringe vocabulary.

One person’s personal core word may be somebody else’s fringe word.

What does that mean exactly?  Think of going to music class.  When you’re in music class you may use the word “tambourine” or “xylophone,” words that are used infrequently compared to the other words we say all of the time.  “Xylophone” for most children is a fringe vocabulary word.  It is activity specific and used infrequently throughout the school day.   On the other hand, a woman in an orchestra may be the xylophone player and play the xylophone every day.  For this woman, “xylophone” is a personal core word because it’s a noun word which she uses all of the time.   It is meaningful to her and if she were to have an AAC system, this word should be added and be accessible for her to use each day.

Where is Personal Core located in CVES™?

Personal core words should be customized in each individual’s AAC system, regardless of whether high tech or low tech.  In CVES™, personal core words are stored in the binder inserts.  A clinician has two options for storage:

  1. Use the completed binder inserts. These inserts consist of 8 high frequency category pages.  Each page is a different color, and comes with pre-made removable icons for frequently occurring personal core words in each category.  There are also blank spaces to add additional words.  The 8 categories in this set are: Miscellaneous, Food/Drink, Social (social phrases), Sensorimotor, Feelings, Art, Play (“My Favorite Things”), and People.   Each page allows the clinician to add more vocabulary or add pictures to the back of each page.  For example, the ‘People’ page contains words like nurse, aunt, uncle, doctor, but also has blank spaces to add classmates, teachers, and specific family members’ names. cves binder inserts
  2. Customize all 8 pages using Blank Binder Inserts (coming soon!).  A set of 8 blank inserts is also available.  These inserts consist of 8 pages that come in the colors red, blue, light blue, green, white, yellow, and orange.  A clinician can add all of the personal core words by creating their own icons and adding them to each page.








How Do I Know My Student’s Personal Core?

To get started with brainstorming your student’s personal core words, please check out the downloadable personal core interview on our media page.   This will walk you through frequent categories that personal core words come from, such as sensory tools, music and television, etc. Remember that every individual has unique likes and dislikes, and each of these words should be added to the binder inserts in CVES™ to customize the user area for each person.


Be sure to check back regularly as we discuss more tips and tricks, including reinforcement and how it relates to personal core!

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