How is the Proloquo vocabulary organized?

  • 4 minute read

For an AAC system to be easy to learn and use it is essential to have a good vocabulary organization. In this blogpost we explain how the vocabulary in Proloquo® has been organized really efficiently. As part of the “Proloquo explained” blog series, it is written for anyone who wants an in-depth explanation of the design of the new Proloquo AAC app.

A balanced vocabulary

Proloquo’s Crescendo Evolution™ vocabulary provides an optimum balance of several features. The design is highly efficient and supports motor planning and vocabulary development. In addition, it is easy for communication partners to learn and use. Navigation is simple, through a shallow hierarchy with easy-to-understand categories. It provides buttons with symbols for:

  • words that come early in language development
  • words our consent-based anonymous data shows are used by a large number of users
  • words that researchers have identified as conceptually important to explain important ideas

Less commonly used words are available as text-only Related Words.

Motor planning

To limit the number of motor plans to a word, words occur only once as a button with a symbol, except if there are multiple distinct meanings. For example, there are two show buttons. One represents the verb and one represents the noun. Each will have a distinct symbol and a distinct set of Related Words.

The Home Screen

The Home Screen provides quick access to some of the highest frequency core words. It covers a wide range of communication functions. The top two rows are static and remain accessible at any time.

How is vocabulary organized
The Home Screen of AssistiveWare Proloquo

Core words

The first 7 tabs are organized by word kinds. They contain one or two pages of core words representing general concepts. Some words, such as open or dry can be more than one word kind (e.g., both a verb and an adjective). These words will only appear in one tab, depending on their most common usage. This is to support the development of a single motor plan to access these word.

Describing words (in blue) and the chat words (in purple) each contain one level of sub-folders.

TabKinds of words
OrangePronouns and words that can be used as a subject
Light pinkHelper verbs, sensing verbs and more abstract conceptual verbs
Dark pinkAction verbs
GreenLocation words such as prepositions
BlueDescribing words such as adjectives and adverbs
GreyQuestion words
PurpleInterjections and other chat words
YellowFringe words
OrangeConnecting words such as conjunctions and articles

Fringe words

Fringe words are organized in a single page of folders in the yellow tab. Fringe folders contain, at most, one level of sub-folders. Most fringe words are nouns. However, less frequent but specific verbs and adjectives can also be found in the relevant fringe folders. For example, the very frequent word go is in the verbs (dark pink) tab, but the lower frequency travel and ride are in the Vehicles folder.

Related Words

Many buttons with symbols offer quick access to conceptually related words shown as text-only Related Words. These allow the user to be more specific or add nuance. For example, the word go on the home page is the most general way to refer to going somewhere. Its Related Words offer a quick way to be more specific, such as drive, explore, fly, ride, and walk. Some words were too low in frequency to give them a button of their own. Many of those words can be found as a Related Word of a more common word.

Folder organization

Folders have a button representing the label of the folder in the top left. For example, the People folder has the button people in the top left. This makes it easy to identify which folder you are in. There are only a few, self-evident folders where this is not the case. For example, the months folder just contains the months of the year.

Sub-folders always appear on the right side. Folders are recognizable with a colored bar at the top.


In Crescendo Evolution™ buttons are either clustered conceptually or are listed alphabetically. Alphabetic organization is most helpful when scanning a list. Lists, therefore, such as states and countries, are alphabetic. However, in most folders, words are clustered by related meanings (semantic associations). Alphabetic organization can help literate adults to find words initially as they learn a new AAC system. But it does not help young AAC users still developing language and literacy. It also does not aide in developing motor-memory for the location of words. In the end we gave priority to: (1) long-term efficiency, with the most frequently used words on the first page of each tab and (2) making sure the words from the home page would be in the exact same spot on the first page of the opened tab. Both of these things are not possible with an alphabetic organization.

The clustering of words in the people folder of AssistiveWare Proloquo - buttons with words of color are clustered in relation to each other
An example of clustering of words in the People folder of AssistiveWare Proloquo

The primary direction of clustering is typically horizontally, but sometimes there is also a secondary vertical clustering. A good example is shown in the screenshot of the people folder, where mum, dad and baby are left to right and mum, girl and woman are top to bottom.


Beck, I., McKeown, M., and Kucan, L. (2002). Bringing words to life. New York, NY: The Guilford Press

Biemiller, A. (2009). Words worth teaching: closing the vocabulary gap. Columbus, OH: McGraw-Hill SRA.

Marzano, R., (2020). Teaching basic, advanced, and academic vocabulary: a comprehensive framework for elementary instruction. Bloomington, IN: Marzano Resources.


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