Speech Therapists will often talk about using and teaching core words when addressing how to help young children with speech and language delay. So, what do they mean?

Core vocabulary is the words we use most frequently in our day-to-day conversations.  In fact, 80% of what we say consists of only 250-300 words. These words are used in many different ways across multiple situations.

Core vocabulary is mostly made up of verbs, pronouns, prepositions and describing words. These words are the most versatile when we are communicating.

We cannot create a meaningful sentence without using core words and only using nouns, but we can make sentences using ONLY core words and with no nouns. Think of sentences such as, “I like to play”, “Help me open” and “I want more”.

So, what about nouns?

Nouns are described as ‘Fringe’ vocabulary. Of course, we need them in our phrases and sentences but they convey less meaning than the core words. Nouns are more specific to a place, event or person.  Most of these fringe words can be visualised so they are easy to teach, e.g., cup, dog, school, dinosaur. However, if children are only taught nouns, then they are unable to make sentences.

Core vocabulary can be used to express a variety of communicative functions. It can be used to request, ask for more, comment, ask questions, answer questions, describe, label and protest, amongst others.

Learning core vocabulary is essential to helping your child to learn to communicate. So when you are playing and talking with your child, take the focus off the nouns and remember exactly how important those core words are!