This R package provides functionality for querying and extracting data from LaBB-CAT servers, directly from R.

labbcat.url <- "http://localhost:8080/labbcat/"

# search for tokens of the KIT vowel
m <- getMatches(labbcat.url, list(segment="I"))

# extract F1, 2, and 3 from the mid-point of each vowel
f123 <- processWithPraat(

LaBB-CAT is a web-based linguistic annotation store that stores audio or video recordings, text transcripts, and other annotations.

This package provides access to basic corpus structure data, pattern-based search, annotation, audio, TextGrid (and other format) extraction, and server-side acoustic measurement with Praat.

Online documentation is available at

Basic usage instructions

Getting started

To install the latest version of the package in CRAN:


To use it:

For all functions, the first parameter is the URL to the LaBB-CAT instance you want to interact with - e.g. “”.

If the instance is password-protected, you’ll be prompted for the username and password the first time you invoke a function for that instance.

Basic informational functions

There are some basic functions that provide information about the LaBB-CAT instance you’re using.

labbcat.url <- ""

id <- getId(labbcat.url)
layers <- getLayerIds(labbcat.url)
corpora <- getCorpusIds(labbcat.url)

paste("LaBB-CAT instance", id, "has", length(layers), "layers. The corpora are:")

Accessing specific transcript and participant IDs

You can get a complete list of participants and transcripts:

participants <- getParticipantIds(labbcat.url)
transcripts <- getTranscriptIds(labbcat.url)

paste("There are", length(participants), "participants. The first one is", participants[1])
paste("There are", length(transcripts), "transcripts. The first one is", transcripts[1])

There are also ways to get a filtered list of transcripts:

## Transcripts in the UC corpus:
getTranscriptIdsInCorpus(labbcat.url, "UC")

## Transcripts featuring the participant QB1602:
getTranscriptIdsWithParticipant(labbcat.url, "QB1602")

## Transcripts with 'YW' in their name:
getMatchingTranscriptIds(labbcat.url, "/.*YW.*/.test(id)")

Accessing Media

Given a transcript ID you can access information about what media it has available:

## Download the default WAV file
wav.file <- getMedia(labbcat.url, "AP2515_ErrolHitt.eaf")

## Get information about all media available
media <- getAvailableMedia(labbcat.url, "AP2515_ErrolHitt.eaf")

## All media file names with their track suffixes and content types

## Download a specific media file <- getMedia(labbcat.url, "AP2515_ErrolHitt.eaf",
                                  track.suffix = "_face", mime.type = "video/mp4")

## tidily delete the files we just downloaded

Media fragments

You can access a selected fragment of a wav file with getSoundFragments. The function downloads a wav file to the current working directory, and returns the name of the file:

wav.file <- getSoundFragments(labbcat.url, "AP2505_Nelson.eaf", 10.0, 15.0)

paste("The third 5 seconds is in this file:", wav.file)

## tidily delete the file we just downloaded

getSoundFragments also accepts vectors for the id, start, and end parameters:

results <- data.frame(
  id=c("AP2505_Nelson.eaf", "AP2512_MattBlack.eaf", "AP2512_MattBlack.eaf"),
  start=c(10.0, 20.0, 30.0),
  end=c(15.0, 25.0, 35.0))

wav.files <- getSoundFragments(labbcat.url, results$id, results$start, results$end, no.progress = TRUE)


## tidily delete the files we just downloaded

This means that, if you have a results csv file exported from LaBB-CAT, which identifies segment tokens, you can iterate through the rows, downloading the corresponding wav files, something like:

## load the results from the CSV file
results <- read.csv("results.csv", header=T)

## download all the segment WAV files
wav.files <- getSoundFragments(
    labbcat, results$Transcript, results$segment.start, results$segment.end)

Getting annotations from other layers

If you have search results in a CSV file, and would like to retrieve annotations from some other layer, you can use the getMatchLabels function, providing the MatchId column (or the URL column) that indentifies the token, and the desired layer name:

results <- read.csv("results.csv", header=T)
phonemes <- getMatchLabels(labbcat.url, results$MatchId, c("participant_age", "phonemes"))

If you want alignment information - i.e. start and end time – you can use getMatchAlignments:

results <- read.csv("results.csv", header=T)
phonemes <- getMatchAlignments(labbcat.url, results$MatchId, "syllables")

Searching for matching tokens can be achieved using the getMatches function.

A basic search can be achieved with a simple, single-layer pattern like:

# all words starting with "ps..."
results <- getMatches(labbcat.url, list(orthography = "ps.*"))

More complex patterns, across multiple tokens an multiple layers, is possible by specifying a more complex structure:

# the word 'the' followed immediately or with one intervening word by
# a hapax legomenon (word with a frequency of 1) that doesn't start with a vowel
results <- getMatches(labbcat.url, list(columns = list(
     list(layers = list(
            orthography = list(pattern = "the")),
          adj = 2),
     list(layers = list(
            phonemes = list(not = TRUE, pattern = "[cCEFHiIPqQuUV0123456789~#\\{\\$@].*"),
            frequency = list(max = "2"))))))

The data frame that’s returned contains columns that can be used as parameters for other functions:

# get all instances of the KIT vowel
results <- getMatches(labbcat.url, list(segment = "I"))

# get phonemic transcription for the whole word
phonemes  <- getMatchLabels(labbcat.url, results$MatchId, "phonemes")

# download all the segment WAV files
wav.files <- getSoundFragments(
    labbcat.url, results$Transcript, results$Target.segment.start, results$Target.segment.end)

Looking up dictionaries

LaBB-CAT maintains a number of dictionaries it uses to look things up. These include access to CELEX, LIWC, and other lexicons that might be set up in the LaBB-CAT instance.

You can list the available dictionaries using:

dictionaries <- getDictionaries(labbcat.url)

With one of the returned layer manager ID and dictionary ID pairs, you can look up dictionary entries for a list of keys:

words <- c("the", "quick", "brown", "fox")
pronunciation <- getDictionaryEntries(labbcat.url, "CELEX-EN", "Phonology (wordform)", words)

Process with Praat

This function instructs the LaBB-CAT server to invoke Praat for a set of sound intervals, in order to extract acoustic measures.

The exact measurements to return depend on the praat.script that is invoked. This is a Praat script fragment that will run once for each sound interval specified.

There are functions to allow the generation of a number of pre-defined praat scripts for common tasks such as formant, pitch, intensity, and centre of gravity:

# Perform a search
results <- getMatches(labbcat.url, list(segment="I"))

# get F1 and F2 for the mid point of the vowel
formants <- processWithPraat(
       results$MatchId, results$Target.segment.start, results$Target.segment.end,

You can provide your own script, either by building a string with your code, or loading one from a file.

# execute a custom script loaded form a file
acoustic.measurements <- processWithPraat(
       results$MatchId, results$Target.segment.start, results$Target.segment.end,

Retrieving transcript and participant attributes

Transcript attributes can be retrieved like this:

# Get language, duration, and corpus for transcripts starting with 'BR'
attributes <- getTranscriptAttributes(labbcat.url,
            getMatchingTranscriptIds(labbcat.url, "/BR.+/.test(id)"),
            c('transcript_language', 'transcript_duration', 'corpus'))

Similarly, participant attributes can also be accessed:

# Get gender and age for all participants
attributes <- getParticipantAttributes(labbcat.url,
            c('participant_gender', 'participant_age'))



For building the documentation with pkgdown:

apt install pandoc
R -e "install.packages("pkgdown")"

Building the package and documentation

The package can be built from the source code using using:


Running automated tests

Unit tests use the ‘testthat’ package, which requires a one-time installation:

R -e "install.packages('testthat')"

The tests assume access to at least one LaBB-CAT server, with URL and credentials defined by environment variables, so you must create a .Renviron file something like:


Then you can use the following commands to run unit tests:

R -e "devtools::test()"

Specific tests can be run like this:

R -e "devtools::test(filter='getId')"