Max Planck Institute
for Evolutionary Anthropology
Department of Linguistics

The World Atlas of Language Structures - WALS


WALS - CDInteractive Reference Tool

The Interactive Reference Tool (available on first CD-ROM, later probably on the web) will allow the atlas user to view the maps in a variety of different forms, as well as to combine features, i.e. to generate compound features and to display these as well. The interactive database will also contain additional information on languages (genealogical classification, alternative names) and on each language-feature pair (bibliographical reference, example sentence). The interactive maps can be zoomed and panned, dot colors and shapes can be customized, a few map properties (rivers, country names, etc.) are switchable, and languages can be searched by language name, family and genus name, country, and region within country. With the mouse over effect the corresponded language name is shown immediately and with a click the language profile appears in a separate window. The generation of compound features will be very useful for typological research. For example, the user will be able to correlate the existence of an question-word-fronting rule with particular word order types, the existence of tone with the size of the consonant inventory, or the alignment type (accusative, ergative, active-inactive) with the head-dependent marking type. Furthermore geographical and genealogical information can be included.

Main features of the Interactive Reference Tool

  • standalone version for MacOSX, MacOS9; Windows 98, 2000, XP with integrated database server
  • all maps are scalable vector graphics (best resolution for zooming)
  • interactive maps can be zoomed, panned, symbols can be customized
  • map properties are switchable (rivers, boundaries, country names, topological data, etc.)
  • mouse over effect for showing the corresponded language name
  • language profile with geographical, genealogical information, alternative names and typological features' overview
  • 142 predefined customisable feature maps (symbols - colour and shape -, merge and/or hide feature values)
  • each language-feature pair with data sources
  • generation of compound features of typological, genealogical, geographical data manually or combinatorially
  • import/export functions
  • tool for generating user defined maps based on own data
  • maps can be saved, printed and copied into the clipboard


Interactive Reference Tool


hard disk space required: about 110 MB
memory requirement (RAM): 256 MB (recommended)

Windows 98, 2000, XP:
copy the whole folder WALSwin to your hard disk

Macintosh OS X 10.2 and up:
copy the whole folder WALSosx to your hard disk

Macintosh Mac OS 9.2:
copy the whole folder WALSos9 to your hard disk

Getting started

To start the program double click the application file WALS for Mac or WALS.exe for PC.

For more information open the file 'index.html' within the subfolder 'manual' or use the help function within the program.

Note: Please do not start the program from the CD-ROM. It will not run!

If you have problems or questions please contact Hans-Joerg Bibiko
icon: mail  Email: