5.6 Using FLEx II

We review four ways to use FLEx to create a wordlist or dictionary. 

  1. Add words by creating a lexical entry
  2. Add words from a connected text
  3. Add words with the "Collect Words" function
  4. Add words using Sheet Swipe

 We also provide links to sample online dictionaries.  We introduce you to Webonary.com where you can upload FLEx generate lexicon in an online format.

5.6.1 Add words by creating a lexical entry


Figure 1: Screenshot of the "Lexicon" tab where the dictionary is located


Create a new lexical entry under the "Lexicon" tab by clicking on the red box with the green plus sign. This will open up a blank "New Entry" window.  Here, enter the new lexeme form, morpheme type, a gloss, and grammatical information. If there are any entries similar to the one already in your lexicon, these will display so you can avoid duplicates. Click "Create" to add the new entry to the lexicon. 


Figure 2: Adding a new lexical entry


Figure 3: The "New Entry" window

In addition to the basic function of adding new lexemes, FLEx allows you to add various senses of a lexeme, allomorphs, notes on pronunciation, and additional notes.  You also have the option to add a picture to your lexical entry.  This is done in the "Lexicon Edit" fields.

Try this: create a lexical entry for a word of your choice.  The lexical entry will include the following:

  1. Lexeme Form - Provide a word or frozen phrase without additional morphology.
  2. Morph Type - Identify if this is, for example, a root or stem, bound or free, or enclitic.
  3. Citation Form - List how you want the word to be displayed in a dictionary (the headword).
  4. Note - Write ethnological, pedagogical, grammatical, or other notes not seen in the definition.
  5. Sense 1 - The primary meaning or use for the words/frozen phrase.
  6. Sense 2- A second usage or meaning for the word/phrase.  (for example, "we went to see the play" versus "the children went out to play").  
  7. Gloss - Provide a one word equivalent in English.
  8. Definition - Provide a detailed explanation of the meaning.
  9. Grammatical Info - Identify the part of speech.
  10. Example - Provide a sentence or phrase showing the word in use.
  11. Components - Identify the stems or roots in the lexeme or phrase.  For instance, a compound word will have two or more stems or roots.
  12. Semantic Domains - Identify the domain category (e.g., does it have to do with astronomy, cooking, education, etc.).
  13. Lexical Relations - List possible synonyms and/or antonyms.
  14. Picture - Provide a .jpg or similar illustrating the entry. 
  15. Media File - Provide a sound file to assist with pronunciation.
  16. Publication Settings - Indicate if the item and entry can be publicly shared or are too sensitive to share.


Figure 4: View of a single dictionary entry with a photo in FLEx

5.6.2 Add words from connected text


The "Texts & Words" tab provides a way to use connected texts (stories, speeches, conversations, for example) for identifying new words.  Once glossed here, those words can be added to the lexicon.  In Figure 5, for example, we see that the word zaiga has been glossed ‘place’.  This gloss can be added to the FLEx lexicon by clicking on the green check mark with the plus sign. You can view the entry in the lexicon at your convenience and add additional information.

Figure 5: View of the Gloss tab in FLEx


5.6.3 Add words with the ‘Collect Words’ function

Add words to the lexicon using the "Collect Words" function. This can be accessed in the "Lexicon" tab by clicking on Collect Words.

Figure 6: How to find the ‘Collect Words’ function in FLEx

The semantic domains provided here can be used to prompt rapid collection and recall of lexemes. This function is limited in that you can only enter the word and the definition. However, you can always revisit your entry in the "Lexicon Edit" function to add more information.


Figure 7: Using the Collect Words function in FLEx

5.6.4  Add words using Sheet Swipe


How to use SheetsSwiper (thanks to Ben Hull for this write up)

  1. Make sure your data is in an excel spreadsheet. One column should have all your words, and another column should have the glosses for those words. You can put additional information in other columns. Each row is the same as a single lexical entry.
  2. Add tags for different fields to the first row of the spreadsheet. The tags are listed in a pdf available in FLEX. To access it, open FLEX and go to Help > Resources > Technical notes on SFM database import. Page 19 has a list of all the different tags. For instance, the beginning of my wordlist looks like this:










Longmailai 2018





Evans & Langthasa 2020





Brahma 2013





Jacquesson 2006





Brahma 2013



bad smell


Longmailai 2018



awake somebody


Longmailai 2018





Singha 2010





Singha 2010



The most important tags are \lx for the word, and \ge for the gloss. You can add whatever other tags if you need them.

Notice that one of my words has a dash before it. Using dashes will tell FLEX that your morpheme is a suffix or prefix.

  1. Once your data is ready, save the excel sheet. When you are saving, make sure the file type is set to “Excel 97-2003 Workbook (*.xls).”
  2. Download Sheetswiper from this address:  https://software.sil.org/sheetswiper/
  3. Open Sheetswiper.
  4. Click “Choose an excel spreadsheet file to convert,” and select your excel sheet.
  5. Select “Save SFM.” The final file has a .db extension.
  6. In FLEX, go to File > Import > Standard Lexicon Format.
  7. Click the “backup” button and back your file up, in case there are some problems with the import.
  8. Click next. Beside the “database file” space, click the three dots and select your .db file you saved in Step 7.
  9. Click next (Language mapping). Make sure the languages are correct.
  10. Click next (Content mapping). If you used the tags from the pdf in Step 2, you should not have to change anything here.
  11. Click next (Key markers). Make sure everything is selected.
  12. Click next (Character mapping). You probably don’t need to change anything here.
  13. Click next (Readiness check). You have to select “Generate report.” This is a way to make sure your data is not corrupt.

Click next. Then click Finish. Your data should import into your FLEX project. If there are a few small problems, you can fix those yourself. But if there are some major problems because the excel spreadsheet was not set up correctly, you can restore your backed up project (File Management > Restore

5.6.5 Online Dictionaries and Webonary.com

Here are the links to a number of online dictionaries.

A FLEx lexicon can be formatted to create an online dictionary, such as those found on the SIL Webonary website.  Webonary provides linguists and language communities a way to disseminate lexical information garnered through language documentation projects. The process of uploading and hosting a FLEx project is guided closely by Webonary staff who allow several reviews of the online spell out of the FLEx project.  Webonary is one way of showcasing FLEx data.