Child-tiers in ELAN

I hope someone here can help me. I have two questions, and I will do my best to describe them.

(1) I am looking for a clear description of what it is a child-tier can “do”. Here is what is know/understand so far:
Child tiers are dependent on parent-tiers and will be altered if the parent-tier is altered. There are four stereotypes that all have different attributes - BUT, (2) how will I make the different stereotypes visible in my segmentation? (that time subdivision “fills out” the parent-tier segmentation, where as symbolic subdivision (allegedly) can be separated into smaller bits within the parent-tier).
I hope this makes sense - thanks in advance!

Hi Line,

Both time subdivision and symbolic subdivision “fill” the time interval of the parent annotation; in both cases there can be multiple “smaller bits” (child annotations) within the parent’s boundaries. In the case of time subdivision the child annotations can have real time boundaries (within the interval of the parent), whereas symbolic subdivision child annotations do not (cannot) carry individual time information (they just form a sequence of annotations).

The alternative to “filling out” the segment of the parent is available as stereotype “included in”; this type can have multiple child segments within the boundaries of the parent while allowing gaps between the child annotations.

I hope this somewhat clarifies the differences between these stereotypes. If not, maybe you can describe what you want to use the dependent tiers for, so that I can try to base my reply on that use case?


Hi Han,

Thank you so much for your response! I might need a little more clarification. Here is my case: I have a video file that I am analyzing, in which the participants are solving a problem by building a small object. Each participant is standing at a table, and two of them need to move away from the table in order to collect parts to build the object. Now, I wish to segment when they are present at the table with parent tiers – with the dependent tiers I want to segment their gestures and their audio (talk) in separate child tiers, because they only use gestures and talk when they are at the table.

Hope this clarifies my problem a bit,


Yes, that helps, Line. I think you have two options in this situation: either use independent tiers only (for presence, gestures, speech etc.) or use independent tiers for presence at table and “included in” type of dependent tiers for gestures and speech and whatever else you might want to segment and annotate. That type of child tier offers the freedom you need for segmentation (within the boundaries of the parent).

Wonderful, thank you so much! Could you satisfy my curiosity and give me an example of what the remaining three stereotypes can be used for?

It’s a bit difficult to list possible usages of the other types, but maybe you can have a look at page 8 of this how-to guide and/or the Import Toolbox and Import FLEx sections of the manual? The latter cases contain some screenshots illustrating tier type usage in morphological analysis and/or interlinear glossed text.

Thank you! I will look into that :slight_smile: