Data Conversion into FLEx

Dictionary & Lexicography Services' goal is to display a dictionary on Webonary for the world to see and to give the linguist a Flex (Fieldworks Language Explorer) version of the dictionary.

Why Flex? Flex is a sophisticated software tool for analyzing linguistic data and is integrated with Webonary so that you will be able to make changes and (re)publish your dictionary to Webonary as often and as many times as you like. It has replaced Toolbox which is no longer fully supported by SIL.

The process to achieving the goal is: Conversion, Import and Publish on Webonary.

1. Conversion and Import: The linguist’s dictionary may have been compiled using Toolbox, Shoebox or some other software. DLS will convert the database files in a way which allows us to import them into Flex.

For example, both Toolbox and Flex construct records by using tags defined by the linguist. The tags and the record structures used in Toolbox may not be the same tags and record structures as Flex understands. So part of the conversion process is to figure out which tags have identical, or similar meanings in both Toolbox and Flex.

\lx (Lexeme) is a good example of tags that have a one-to-one mapping. If there is no clear one-to-one mapping, a conversion specialist must understand how best to represent a Toolbox tag, or a structure, in Flex.

It may be necessary to combine several Toolbox tags into one Flex tag to achieve the same meaning. That is to transform or process a Toolbox database fields using Perl scripts to create a single field for Flex. Here's an example from Migrating PLB SFM data to Flex or LIFT by Jonathan Coombs:

Combine Crucially ordered fields such as \ad \rf \ad
Replace all sequence of \rf \ad (root-form derviational-affix) with a single field. For example replace...

\rf arkhaw
\ad -an


\deriv arkhaw + -an


Otherwise importing them as separate fields will not preserve the information implied by their order....

The conversion specialist and the linguist must be in conversation about the dictionary. DLS does not want to lose any information during the conversion, so the conversion specialist will ask questions about the database files. The linguist’s answers guide the conversion specialist in understanding what changes are needed to the database files in order for Flex to give a proper rendering of the dictionary.

Dictionary & Lexicography Services provides a service for converting and importing dictionary data into FLEx. If you would like help converting your dictionary please fill out this Request form.

2. Publish on Webonary: Once the data is ready it is a simple process, done from within FLEx, to upload the dictionary.

Once the dictionary is uploaded to Webonary, the conversion specialist and the linguist again need to be in conversation. Are there any changes that should be made? The conversion specialist may need to go back and make changes in FLEx based on the conversation. After changes are complete, the dictionary can be uploaded again. This may happen several times until the linguist is satisfied with the results. This is an iterative process.

When the linguist is satisfied with the results, there will be a final review, and the dictionary will be made public. Prior to this, the dictionary is in draft mode.

After the FLEx conversion is complete and we've published the dictionary, the conversion specialist will deliver the FLEx version of the dictionary to the linguist.

*Webonary is not interactive in the sense that you will be able to navigate to the Webonary site and affect any of the information displayed. However FLEx gives the linguist the ability to make changes and with a single command republish the dictionary. This automation allows a linguist to make changes to the public dictionary on the fly.

3. More information:

There are more Helps and Tutorials on the DLS Website Importing SFM into FLEx.