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Examining core vocabulary with language development for early symbolic communicators

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journal contribution
posted on 2023-03-17, 13:40 authored by Bethany J. Frick Semmler, Allison Bean, Laura Wagner

Core vocabulary lists are frequently used to select vocabulary for early symbolic communicators who require augmentative and alternative communication (AAC). The current study extended existing work by investigating how core vocabulary lists overlap and diverge from typical language development.

We investigated when the words on seven core vocabulary lists emerge in typical language development, the composition of the lists based on their parts of speech, and how the composition of the words on the lists compare to the MacArthur Bates Communication Development Inventories (CDI).

On average, the words on the seven core vocabulary lists appear after the second year of life in children with typical spoken language development (25, 27, 37, 45, 47, 50, and 66 months). Verbs were the most prevalent part of speech in all but one of the core vocabulary lists. Core vocabulary words made up only a small percentage of words on the CDI.

The words on the core vocabulary lists do not emerge until later points in typical lexical development. Focussing on core words when working with early symbolic communicators who require AAC may lead to limited and variable lexicons with wide gaps.


The authors acknowledge that this project was completed thanks to funding provided by The Ohio State University’s Center for Cognitive and Brain Sciences, which was awarded to the first author.