Core Vocabulary

In working with system frameworks and database systems I have often wondered about optimizing language in various domains which led to some serendipity.

The Dark Side

When most people talk about “core vocabulary” the first thing that pops into their heads is visions of George Orwell’s 1984 and Newspeak.  The objective of Newspeak was to reduce the range of thought of a population.  Fortunately, according to Steven Pinker, we are just not wired to make that possible.  However, I recently came across a very benevolent application of a core vocabulary that acts not as a constraint on speech, but as an access point to the entire English language for the severely disabled.

The Bright Side

Augmentative and Alternative Commmunication (AAC) has been the work of Prentke Romich Company since 1966.  They have developed “Unity”, a vocabulary access foundation, based on their research determining over 50% of English communication uses roughly 100 words.  This is not necessarily word frequency, but word utility.

Thousands of severely disabled people have had their inner worlds opened up to those around them through PRC’s products.  And there is now an AAC Institute that does a fine job of expressing the three primary requirements of Augmentative and Alternative Communicators:

  1. Saying exactly what they want to say
  2. Saying it as fast as they can
  3. Measurable results

Another non-profit ACCP Canada addresses further issues in the quality of life of AAC users.  Children’s Hospital in Boston also has a good site and program.

PRC is a leader among the companies addressing this challenge.  All these AAC Device Companies deserve applause for making vocabulary’s core and more available to the people who need it.

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