John McHardy Sinclair

John McHardy Sinclair (14 June 1933  13 March 2007) was a Professor of Modern English Language at Birmingham University from 1965 to 2000. He pioneered work in corpus linguistics, discourse analysis, lexicography, and language teaching.


Moving from Scotland to Birmingham in 1965 with his wife Myfanwy Sinclair and their three children, John Sinclair began work at the University of Birmingham as the foundation chair of Modern English Language. Sinclair was a first-generation modern corpus linguist and the founder of the COBUILD project. This project's aim was to build corpus-driven lexicons for foreign learners of English. He became chief adviser of Collins' Cobuild English Language Dictionary, whose first edition was published in 1987.

He was well known for having unconventional ideas which helped to advance the young field of corpus linguistics. At his valedictory lecture in 2000 he stated that none of his many published articles passed successfully through peer-review, and that even an article he had been invited to write for a journal was peer-reviewed by mistake and rejected.

After early retirement from his post as Professor of Modern English Language at Birmingham, Sinclair founded the Tuscan Word Centre with his second wife Elena Tognini-Bonelli. This institution provides training courses in corpus linguistics.

His sister is lexicographer B. T. S. Atkins.


Notable works include Towards the Analysis of Discourse, which he published together with Malcolm Coulthard in 1975, Corpus, Concordance, Collocation, (Oxford University Press, 1991), Reading Concordances, 2003, Trust the Text, 2004, and Linear Unit Grammar, 2006.

His Corpus, Concordance, Collocation formulated the idiom principle.[1]

Further reading

  • Rosamund Moon (2009). Words, grammar, text: revisiting the work of John Sinclair. John Benjamins Publishing Company. ISBN 978-90-272-2248-0.
  • Julia Lavid (2007). "To the memory of John Sinclair, Professor of Modern English Language. Estudios Ingleses de la Universidad Complutense". 15. pp. 9–12.


  1. Seretan, Violeta. Syntax-Based Collocation Extraction p.18
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