eXtensible Interlinear Glossed Text
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examples Update ODIN schema and add Python3.5 to list of supported languages. Jan 7, 2016



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A framework for eXtensible Interlinear Glossed Text (IGT).


The philosophy of Xigt is that IGT data should be simple for the common cases while easily scaling up to accommodate different kinds of annotations. New annotations do not need to alter the original data, but instead can be applied on top of them. Furthermore, Xigt data is meant to be easily processed by computers so that it's easy to inspect, analyze, and modify IGT data.

The Xigt framework includes a data model and XML format as well as a Python API for working with Xigt data.

Here is a small example of an IGT encoded in Xigt's XML format:

<igt id="i1" lg="spa">
  <tier type="words" id="w">
    <item id="w1">cocinas</item>
  <tier type="morphemes" id="m" segmentation="w">
    <item id="m1" segmentation="w1[0:5]"/>  <!-- selects "cocin" -->
    <item id="m2" segmentation="w1[5:7]"/>  <!-- selects "as" -->
  <tier type="glosses" id="g" alignment="m">
    <item id="g1" alignment="m1">cook</item>
    <item id="g2" alignment="m2">2</item>
    <item id="g3" alignment="m2">SG</item>
    <item id="g4" alignment="m2">PRS</item>
    <item id="g5" alignment="m2">IND</item>

Installation and Requirements

The Xigt API is coded in Python (targeting Python 3.3+, but it is tested to work with Python 2.7).

Xigt can be installed via pip (see PyPI):

pip install xigt

(You may need to use pip3 to install for Python3.).

Alternatively, you can get the latest Xigt from the GitHub repository:

git clone https://github.com/xigt/xigt.git

After the cloning has finished, set up your PYTHONPATH environment variable to point to this directory.

The following extra features have their own requirements:

  • The Toolbox importer: get the toolbox module
  • The ODIN importer: get odin-utils
  • The [incr tsdb()] profile exporter: get pyDelphin

For validating Xigt's XML format, I recommend Jing.

Note: Xigt is primarily developed and tested on Linux. If you are having trouble installing on Windows, Mac, or some other operating system, please contact me or file an issue report.


Xigt has several features that help enable complex alignments, and these features can be ignored for simpler IGT.

Alignment Expressions

Alignment expressions are an expanded referencing system that allow some data to align to more than one target, and furthermore allows them to select substrings from the target(s).


<item id="a1">one</item>
<item id="a2">two</item>

The following alignment expressions will align to the following selections:

a1                  -> "one"
a1,a2               -> "one two"
a1+a2               -> "onetwo"
a1[0:1]             -> "o"
a1[0:1,2:3]         -> "o e"
a1[1:3]+a2[1:2+0:1] -> "newt"

Alignment expressions are specified on reference attributes at the item level.

Floating Alignments

When more than one item align to the same selection, they are said to be in a "floating alignment". That is, they are ordered (as in the XML), but have no definite subpartitioning among them. For instance, given the following phrase item:

<tier type="phrases" id="p">
  <item id="p1">A dog barks.</item>

...and the following word items all aligned to the same phrase item above:

<tier type="words" id="w" alignment="p">
  <item id="w1" alignment="p1">A</item>
  <item id="w2" alignment="p1">dog</item>
  <item id="w3" alignment="p1">barks</item>

Xigt will maintain the order ["A", "dog", "barks"] (i.e. not ["dog", "A", "barks"] and so on), but does not specify which substrings each item aligns to. In other words, it is understood that w1, w2, and w3 are contained by s1 and in that order, but there is no explicit character alignments. This is useful when one does not want to delimit items exactly (e.g. when dealing with noisy data), or when one cannot delimit the sub-items (e.g. glosses for portmanteau morphemes).

Referred Values

In Xigt, the only difference between primary data (e.g. phrases or words) and annotations (e.g. glosses or translations) is that annotations are aligned to some other items. The data/annotation-label is called the "value", and this value can either be explicitly given, or refer to some other source. In the latter case, an alignment expression (given by the "segmentation" or "content" reference attribute) is used to select the value.

The benefit of using alignment expressions to select item values is that the data becomes more linked. For instance, it becomes possible to say that not only does a morpheme align to some word, but that its value is a particular substring of that word. A second use for referred values is stand-off annotation, where the data comes from some external source and one wants to encode the relationship between the IGT structure and the original data.

For example, in the above example, rather than aligning w1--w3 to p1 and then explicitly giving the value, one can "segment" the words from the phrase:

<tier type="phrases" id="p">
  <item id="p1">A dog barks.</item>
<tier type="words" id="w" segmentation="p">
  <item id="w1" segmentation="p1[0:1]" />  <!-- selects "A" -->
  <item id="w2" segmentation="p1[2:5]" />  <!-- selects "dog" -->
  <item id="w3" segmentation="p1[6:11]" /> <!-- selects "barks -->

Here, items w1, w2, and w3 do not provide their own value, but instead select it via the alignment expression on their "segmentation" attribute.

Also note that an item can specify both a "segmentation" or "content" attribute and explicitly provide a value, in which case the provided value overrides the selected one, but the link remains. This is useful for cleaning up OCR results or showing the underlying form before phonological processes have occurred.


This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. 1160274.Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.

This project is also partially supported by the Affectedness project, under the Singapore Ministry of Education Tier 2 grant (grant number MOE2013-T2-1-016).

Xigt was initially developed under the AGGREGATION project (http://depts.washington.edu/uwcl/aggregation/)