Sinclair Open Lecture series

John Sinclair was one of the founding fathers of corpus linguistics - a discipline that has radically changed theories about language and approaches to the study of language.

The annual Sinclair Open Lecture honours the memory of Professor John Sinclair, who held the Chair of Modern English Language at the University of Birmingham from 1965 to 2000 and who was an internationally-renowned figure of influence in the world of Linguistics. The annual lecture was sponsored from 2006 to 2016 by Education Development Trust, an education charity that John Sinclair actively supported throughout his lifetime.

John Sinclair (1933-2007)

Photograph of John SinclairJohn McHardy Sinclair was born in 1933, and attended George Heriot’s School in Edinburgh. He read English Language and Literature at Edinburgh University and took a 1st class Masters degree. Following a spell in the RAF as an Education Officer, he returned to Edinburgh as a research student in 1958, and shortly afterwards was appointed lecturer in the Department of English Language and General Linguistics. In 1965, John was elected to the chair of Modern English Language at The University of Birmingham, a post which he held until 2000. By the late 1970s, he was a consultant to Collins Dictionaries. He persuaded them to invest in a radical new research project in computational lexicography, and in 1980 work on the Cobuild project began. The first dictionary, with John as Editor-in-Chief, was published in 1987, and a host of Cobuild dictionaries, grammars and usage books were subsequently published. In 1995, John founded the Tuscan Word Centre, a centre for language research and teaching.

John was a highly influential figure in many areas of research in English Language world-wide. He was a founder member of the Linguistics Association of Great Britain, the British Association for Applied Linguistics, the International Association for Applied Linguistics, the Association for Language Awareness, and the Trans-European Language Resource Infrastructure, among other language-oriented Associations. In the 1970s and 1980s he was an Advisor on English Language at Nanyang Technological University and at the National University of Singapore. He was an Honorary Professorial Research Fellow at the University of Glasgow and an Adjunct Professor at Jiao Tong University, Shanghai. In 1998 he was awarded an Honorary Doctorate in Philosophy by the University of Gothenburg. For much of his career, John was Head of English Language Research at the University of Birmingham.

The Sinclair Lecture is an annual event, sponsored by the Education Development Trust (formerly CfBT Education Trust), that marks John’s association with the Trust from 1968, as a member first of the Advisory Board, and later as a member of Council Management.

Sinclair Lecture 2024: Applying Corpus Linguistics: impacts of corpus research in a minoritised language context

Professor Dawn Knight (Cardiff University), will give the 2024 Sinclair Lecture on 15 July 2024.

Previous lectures



27th July - Sinclair Lecture 2017


20th June - Sinclair Lecture 2016