2004 Conference Proceedings

Go to previous article 
Go to next article 
Return to 2004 Table of Contents 



Annalee Anderson
Prentke Romich Company
2616 Beartooth Drive
Billings, Montana 59102
Phone: 406-655-3441
Fax: 406-670-2627
Email: aaprc@wtp.net

Bruce R. Baker
Semantic Compaction Systems
1000 Killarney Drive
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 15234
Phone: 412-885-8541
Fax: 412-885-8548
Email: aminspeak@sgi.net

In the past decade, an emphasis has developed in augmentative and alternative communication on pre-stored utterances. The reasons for this are several. First, much AAC practice goes on in schools. Mainstreamed students need to answer classroom questions in a timely manner. The participation model for mainstreaming demands that students using AAC systems keep up in class discussions with their schoolmates.

Over the years, it has been noticed by many that the time delays involved in communication interactions with people using AAC are a difficult barrier. Collections of useful sentences paired with various environments (fast food restaurants, transportation, home, dressing, doctors' offices, etc.) became the goal for device implementation.

Pragmatics categories such as "requesting," "refusing," "protesting," "information giving," "greetings/partings," "commenting," "judging," etc. were paired with various environments and topics. The clinical rationale for programming various pragmatic functions into different environments and topics is clear. If a person travels back and forth to work every day on a disability access vehicle, he or she can have pre-programmed on the "transport page" a range of utterances stating likely requests, refusals, politenesses, possible comments and value judgments. Clinically, then, professionals would say that the AAC user was now empowered in a range of pragmatic functions in a particular environment.

This kind of thinking about language is wide spread today. Teachers and therapists can be heard to say that that child or person can now "communicate" here and there or about a broad range of topics. It all seems so effective.

The first body of work in the AAC field centered on this kind of vocabulary development was that of Baker (1982, 1983, 1985, & Stuart, 1986). Since that time, many others have developed utterance-based vocabulary sets for AAC systems including the famous Goossens', Elder, Crain environmental engineering series. In the past few years, a great interest in developing pre-stored utterances has been reflected in the work of John Todman, Jeffrey Higginbotham, Howard Shane, Janice Light, just to name a few.

The authors of the current presentation, which, by the way, include Baker, feel that an overemphasis has developed on pre-stored whole utterances. The current authors want to challenge the trend toward utterance-based systems and to suggest that spontaneous novel utterance generation (SNUG) is the only natural communication mode. They feel that pre-stored utterances should be confined in speech generating devices (SGDs) largely to demographic information, conversational channel checking, politnesses, and socials formulas. They base their conclusions on years of direct observation in augmentative communication and the close following of a broad range of actual AAC user. The feel their conclusions are not only sound linguistically, but can be defended through the pragmatics and language theories of Bloom & Leahy, H.H. Clark, and others. Below is an outline of the authors prepared comments for the presentation.

Pre-Stored Utterances vs. Spontaneous Utterance Composition
* Intentionality
- Pre-stored sentences rarely reflect speaker intentionality
- Language acquisition takes place best in an environment reflective of speakers true intentionality
* Joint Attention can not be sustained through communication mediated by pre-stored messages
* Language acquisition takes place when individuals assemble their own multi-word utterances
- Evidence from second language acquisition shows that individuals develop communicative capabilities when they assemble their own multi-word utterances
- The dialog method in second language teaching showed only very limited success
Intentionality and the Communication Circle
* Climbing the developmental ladder
* Auditory discrimination
* Word segmentation
* Functional emotional processes
* Pre-stored utterance as a form echolalia
* Words are internally assembled outside full awareness
* Intentionality and the coordination of attention and affect
* Difficulties in language acquisition is associated with problems of affect associated with the capacity to engage in sequences of reciprocal interaction
The Driver of Discourse
* Speech acts express intentionality in order to accomplish a given purpose
* Communicators must make judgments about:
what their listeners already know
what information their listeners need to be given to understand the intentions of the speaker
* Speakers must apply the rules of discourse to make conversational exchanges
- Quantity
- Quality
- Relevance
- Clarity
The Symmetry of a Conversational Circle
* Interactions between a person with universal access to language and a person with a hierarchical access to language are necessarily un-symmetrical
* The use of pre-stored sentences whether self designed or not has a high degree of directiveness, associated with unconventional verbal behavior in children with disabilities
* Pre-stored sentences serve a turn taking function with reduced comprehension and are related to echolalia
Autonomy and Communication
* Meaning is the power that fuels expression
* Comprehension drives language acquisition
* Recognizing ones own thoughts expressed in language enhances autonomy
* A communicator needs to feel capable of repairing his own language to experience confidence in communication
* The primary purpose of communication is to express and have validated ones own inner states
Self Experience
* The term "self experience" is used in various clinical disciplines (Windeck)
* Self experience refers to a sensory, psychological experience of the self as a center of intention, awareness and action
* Self experience occurs when a person expresses an authentic intentionality to another person forming a communicative circle
* Language development takes place during communicative self experiences


Baker, Byte Magazine, September, 1982.
Baker, Chopsticks and Beethoven, Communication Outlook, Fall, 1983.
Baker & Stuart, Proceedings, RESNA, June, 1985,
Baker, Byte Magazine, June, 1986.

Go to previous article 
Go to next article 
Return to 2004 Table of Contents 
Return to Table of Proceedings

Reprinted with author(s) permission. Author(s) retain copyright.