Course:FNEL 382/TshwaneLex

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TLex (a.k.a. TshwaneLex)

TLex is a software tool specially designed for the creation of dictionaries. It is a comprehensive tool for creating multi- or monolingual dictionaries, composed of a database together with a WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) dictionary entry editor. TLex is part of a broader software package focussed on language-related work, the TLex Suite, which also includes a corpus tool, a tool for creating terminology databases, and a special tool to read and compare these files.[1]

Development & Pricing

TLex is a proprietary software developed by TshwaneDJe Software and Consulting, a South African company. The TshwaneDJe core team consists of two programmers, David Joffe[2] and Malcolm James MacLeod[3], as well as a tenured linguistics professor at Belgium's Ghent University, Dr Gilles-Maurice de Schryver[4]. TLex is actively developed, with the most recent version having been released in October of 2016.[5] Frequent updates are made to the software, which can be monitored via the online ChangeLog.

The TLex Suite is licensed on a per-user basis, with each licence costing between €150.00 and €1900.00. An Endangered Language licence is available to those working on languages with fewer than 50,000 speakers, which costs the same as the cheapest licence but is not limited by the publishing restrictions that would otherwise apply. Most licences, including the Endangered Language licence, do not include support, which can be purchased separately.[6] The software may be evaluated free of cost for a limited period of time.


TLex is a comprehensive tool which can be customized to suit any scale of project. Its database functionality makes it possible to use TLex from the beginning of a collection project, but it can also be integrated with an external database hosted on its own server. The default structure of the entries mirrors traditional print dictionaries closely, and can be modified to suit the needs of the project or language. For example, the data structure can be edited to include multimedia files in the entry. The Lua scripting language can be used for further customization of searches and styles. TLex's lexicography-specific tools include the following:

  • `Masked' versions of the dictionary can be exported (eg, for a pocket version).
  • Integrated capture of examples from corpora stored in the companion corpus software, tlCorp.
  • Entries tagged as incomplete will, by default, not be exported.
  • Entries in a bilingual dictionary can be automatically reversed to provide a starting point for the entry in the other language, or to create a lookup list.

TLex also supports project management of multiple workers on a common dictionary with the following tools:

  • Compare/Merge tool to ensure work is not accidentally overwritten when local files are consolidated.
  • User Management system that:
    • Tracks which users created and last modified an entry;
    • Provides statistics on the activity of each user; and
    • Allows field-specific editing privileges.

TLex can import files in XML or plain text format. (CSV files can also be imported using the plain text importer.) Files are saved to a proprietary format and can be exported to RTF, HTML, or XML (with or without formatting). TLex's output is limited to the entries themselves, so users may wish to perform further processing before final publication. UBC PhD student James A. Crippen's Tlingit dictionary webpage provides examples of TLex's `raw' output, as well as describing his process of post-processing into a PDF.

TLex is available for Mac or Windows.


In addition to linguists and academic lexicographers like James A. Crippen here at UBC, TLex is used by:

  • Publishing houses, including the University of Oxford Press and Pearson/Longman textbook publishers.
  • Language authorities like the Malaysian Institute of Language and Literature, the Welsh Language Board, and the Czech Language Institute.
  • Government bodies like Canada's Department of Justice and South Africa's Department of Arts and Culture.
  • Translators, for their own use during large translation projects. (tlTerm appears to be designed for this market.)

Examples of dictionaries created using TLex can be found here.

Skills Required

TLex is a sufficiently complex program that using it should be considered its own skill. Potential users should be aware that it may take some time to become familiar with the software and customize it to one's satisfaction. As noted above, additional skills and/or software may be required to perform the final processing of the dictionary.