Small Talk in Adult Conversations: Implications for AAC Vocabulary Selection

Julia King, Tracie Spoeneman, Sheela Stuart, David R. Beukelman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Anecdotally, expert adult augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) users have stated the importance of small talk in successful interactions. Small talk includes those utterances used in any environment that serve a social function but do not contain specific cognitive or communicative content. AAC systems are increasingly being designed to efficiently manage (store and retrieve) small talk messages to allow users of AAC technology to participate in social conversations more effectively. This study sought to determine the frequency and form of small talk used by adults in three age cohorts (20 to 30, 65 to 74, and 75 to 84 years). Approximately one-third of all communicative utterances for each age group was classified as small talk, with 50% to 60% of those utterances being unique, that is not used more than once. The average small talk utterance was between two and three words in length for all age groups. Similarities and differences between the three age groups, as well as examples of small talk, are provided. Implications for AAC vocabulary selection and storage are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)260-264
Number of pages5
JournalAugmentative and Alternative Communication
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jan 1995


  • adult
  • augmentative and alternative communication (AAC)
  • communication
  • discourse
  • interaction
  • small talk

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Rehabilitation
  • Speech and Hearing

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