Frequently Asked Questions

Word List Data

Q: How is the phonetic pitch column marked?

A: We have chosen to encode pitch as numbers 1-7 (1=lowest, 7=highest). The numbers will be displayed graphically as bars inbetween square brackets. Each number will be a new point on the line. Add a space between numbers to break the line. Other characters will be rendered as-is. For more information, see the help page on phonetic pitch

Example: An utterance with three syllables, the first of which is a contour pitch rising from level 2 to level 4, the second of which is a level 4 pitch, and the third of which is a level 6 pitch, would be entered as [24 4 6] and would appear as [  ]

Q: I want to submit a word list but don't want my name published.

A: Go ahead and submit your word list and click 'No' to the question 'May we publish the researcher's name?'

Q: Where do these domain names come from?

A: They are taken from Rapid Word Collection which provides a list of semantic domains that can be used to collect words, classify a dictionary, and facilitate semantic research.


Q: In the audio field, some of the words have a icon, some have a , others have a , and some are blank. What's does this mean?

A: Here's an explanation of what these mean:

Q: I don't hear anything when I click on the . What's wrong?

A: Are you speakers/headphones connected, working properly with the volume turned up? The website uses Javascript and Adobe Flash Player to play the audio clips. Make sure you have both of these working properly in your browser. Javascript comes with most browsers but is sometimes turned off for security reasons. Flash Player can be installed by visiting

Q: How do I tell what version of Adobe Flash is installed on my computer?

A: Check in your browser plugin page. Or, you can visit

Q: How are the sound files played?

A: This website uses an open source flash MP3 player called XSPF Web Music Player which relies on the Adobe Flash Player. Click here for a list of supported codecs.

Q: Why are the MP3 sounds playing too slow or fast?

A: It could be that there's a problem with the way the MP3s were created. The Adobe Flash player won't play MP3s that are encoded as variable bitrate (VBR). Also, if the MP3 is at a frequency other than multiples of 11,025hz (22050hz, 33075hz, 44100hz) the playback speed/pitch will be incorrect.

Web Browsers

Q: What browser do you recommend using?

A: For best results we recommend using the newest version of Mozilla FireFox. While we've done our best to ensure proper functionality in other browsers such as Internet Explorer, Safari, and Chrome, they all differ in small ways. If you use any other browser such as Internet Explorer 6, the results may be less than satisfactory.

Q: The letters are too small on my screen. How can I make them bigger?

A: Change the display text size for your browser by clicking View:Text Size and selecting a larger size. Alternatively your browser may also support zooming.

Q: When I select 'Show All' it goes off the right edge of the screen and I can't see all the columns?

A: The 'Show All' feature only functions properly in FireFox. In Internet Explorer, if the data extends past the right edge of the window it will be clipped off. It doesn't scroll at all in Chrome/Safari/Opera. To resolve this, choose 'Show 20' instead or switch to using Mozilla FireFox.

Q: Why do some of the letters show up as hollow boxes?

A: Your computer cannot display that particular letter because it doesn't have access to a suitable font. ComparaLex is programmed to embed a font (Dejavu Sans) with the webpage for your web browser to utilize when rendering language data. If your browser doesn't support this feature then it will fall back to a list of other fonts (see below).

To resolve this problem try using a newer browser or install Deja Vu Sans on your computer.

List of fonts that ComparaLex will try using

  1. DejaVu Sans -
  2. Bitstream Vera Sans -
  3. Charis SIL -
  4. Arev Sans -
  5. Gentium -
  6. Andika -
  7. Arial Unicode

To get better looking fonts on your screen try installing one of the fonts near the top of this list.

Q: I have a good font installed but some of the Unicode characters still don't display properly?

A: This site supports Unicode but the web browser you have on your computer may not render them properly. Upgrade to a newer browser with better support for unicode rendering. We recommend using Mozilla FireFox.

Q: Why do I see "JAVASCRIPT NOTICE" in red?

A: The website is informing you that JavaScript has been disabled in your browser and some of the features of ComparaLex will not work properly. Please enable JavaScript.

Special Characters

Q: I searched for é but nothing came up? I'm sure it's there. How do I find it?

A: In Unicode some characters can exist in more than one form. They appear the same and have the same semantic value but the underlying codes are different. For example é can exist in two forms:

It could be that you're searching for the wrong variation. Try searching for both kinds.

Q: I want to type a letter that's not on my keyboard. How do I type it?

There are a few methods:

Q: When I save my word list from Excel it turns all my special characters to "?"

A: It's converting special characters (probably Unicode) to ANSI, and there's no match for some of them. Try to save the document as 'Unicode Text' instead.

Submitting Word Lists

Q: I submitted a language word list but it doesn't show up in the list?

A: Once submitted, three things have to happen for a word list to be made publicly available:

  1. All of the data needs to be as correct as possible and you must answer 'Yes' to the question: 'Are you finished editing?'
  2. You must answer 'Yes' to the question: 'Do you grant permission to CanIL to publish your word list?'
  3. A ComparaLex staff member must check and approve your word list

It could be that your language word list has not completed one of these steps. Until all three items are completed you are the only one who can view the language word list.

Q: Why is there an asterisk beside my language?

A: This indicates that the language has not been approved for publishing yet. You are seeing it because you are the user who submitted it.

Q: I've tried to upload my audio files but it keeps crashing?

A: Uploading large files is time consuming and can be tedius. The maximum upload file size is 2mB but you may have better results breaking your data into smaller chunks. If you're still having problems please contact us.

Q: What if I don't have any sound clips? Am I allowed to submit a word list without audio?

A: Yes. For more information on the submission process, click here.

Q: Can I submit data on behalf of someone else?

A: Yes you may submit data but please obtain their permission first. The person should be named as the contributing researcher.


Q: I have a standard word list that might be useful. Do you want it?

A: Please contact us.

Q: I want to send the query results to someone. How do I email it?

A: You can just copy the web address from the browser and paste it into your email. Or, at the bottom of the query, you'll see a 'Link to results' link. Right-click on the link and select 'Copy Link'. Then paste it into your email.

Q: It only shows me 20 rows of words at a time. How do I tell it to show more (or less)?

A: At the bottom right corner of each list display there is a drop-down box to choose how many rows to display. Your choices are 10,20,30,40,50,100 or all. This will be saved in your user account. You can also edit this setting by editing your user account.

Q: I have a suggestion / I've found a problem with ComparaLex. Who do I tell?

A: We want your feedback. Please sign in and fill out a tracker item and we'll see what we can do.