Welcome to SAILS Online

The South American Indigenous Language Structures (SAILS) is a large database of grammatical properties of languages gathered from descriptive materials (such as reference grammars) by a team directed by Pieter Muysken. SAILS Online was programmed by Harald Hammarström using the clld framework, with support from Robert Forkel.

SAILS consists of a number of data subsets (domains) for South American languages not all of which are uniform in terms of the languages covered or the design of the data:

Domain of design Designer Features Languages Datapoints
Note the following differences among the data subsets:
  • Domain: Some domains (NP, ARGEX, TAME, SUB) cover a certain typological division, while other domains cover a geographical area (FFQ, AND, IC) or a specific language family (ARW).
  • Languages: Four datasets (NP, ARGEX, TAME, SUB) span roughly the same sample of South American languages, while the other datasets overlap only sporadically with the aforementioned set and each other.
  • Typology: All datasets record structural characteristics of languages and one dataset (AND) also contains features sensitive to the form of certain key morphemes.
  • Orientation: All datasets except one (SUB) are language-based in their design, meaning that a language can logically take only one value per feature. The subordination (SUB) dataset is construction-based, meaning that a construction can logically take only one value per (construction-)feature, but a language can have any number of constructions. This difference calls for different browsing capabilities in that the language-based features can be found in the menu under Features and the construction-based data can be found under Constructions.
  • Design space: All features are designed such that the set of possible answers exhaust the logical possibilities for a language.
  • Logical dependencies between features: The NP, ARGEX, TAME, and SUB datasets are designed such that logical dependencies between features are absent except for a controlled kind of dependency with overarching versus specializing features. Such dependencies are indicated in the coding scheme of the feature id where X.1, X.2, .. X.n indicates that features X.1-X.n are logically dependent on the overarching feature X. To obtain only logically independent features one may simply use only the overarching features or use only the specializing features.

Further information can be found in the descriptions of the individual (domains). All datasets were published online in 2014 except the SUB dataset which was published online in 2016. SAILS may be thus referred to as SAILS 2014 and SAILS 2016 accordingly.

SAILS Online is a publication, published by the Department of Linguistic and Cultural Evolution at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Leipzig, authored by a team from the Languages in Contact Group (LinC) at Radboud University Nijmegen.

How to use SAILS Online

Using SAILS Online requires a browser with Javascript enabled.

You find the features or languages of SAILS through the items "Features" and "Languages" in the navigation bar.

How to cite SAILS Online

If you are citing data only from a specific domain of SAILS, cite the specific contribution, e.g., for the Noun Phrase (NP) domain:

Olga Krasnoukhova. 2016. Noun Phrase (NP). In Muysken, Pieter et al. (eds.) South American Indian Language Structures (SAILS) Online. Jena: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History. (Available at https://sails.clld.org)

If you are citing all the data, use:

Muysken, Pieter, Harald Hammarström, Olga Krasnoukhova, Neele Müller, Joshua Birchall, Simon van de Kerke, Loretta O'Connor, Swintha Danielsen, Rik van Gijn & George Saad. 2016. South American Indigenous Language Structures (SAILS) Online. Jena: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History. (Available at https://sails.clld.org)

Terms of use

The content of this web site is published under a Creative Commons Licence. We invite the community of users to think about further applications for the available data and look forward to your comments, feedback and questions.


SAILS Online was supported by funding from ERC, KNAW and Radboud University Nijmegen.

https://www.knaw.nl https://erc.europa.eu