John Sinclair and language theory

The following is an extract form Hunston (2022, p. 256).

Hunston, S. (2022). Corpora in applied linguistics. Cambridge University Press.

Sinclair made a number of generalisations in the 1980s (Sinclair 1991, 2004; see also Francis 1993; Hoey 2005; Hunston 2002; Stubbs 2001) which might be summarised as follows:

• In describing the meanings of a word, the ‘phrases’ that the word is used in are central to that description (= there is no distinction between form and meaning).

• Those ‘phrases’ are neither fully fixed nor fully open – in fact the distinction between ‘word’ and ‘fixed phrase’ does not hold up; the boundaries of a ‘phrase’ may be indeterminate and the variation resists classification.

• Those ‘phrases’ incorporate associations between individual words that might be discussed under the heading of collocation, but the ‘phrases’ also include aspects of grammar and commonalities of meaning rather than of form (= language is not divided into lexis and grammar).

• Although we commonly think of words as having meaning, and we often talk of a word having several meanings, what actually happens is that a word occurs in several ‘phrases’ and meaning resides in the ‘phrase’ rather than the word (= unit of meaning).

• When we look at text we can observe that a lot of it can be explained as a series of units of meaning and the remainder can be explained in terms of residual grammar (= idiom principle and open-choice principle).

Phil Durrant’s talk available on Youtube

Check out Dr Durrant’s talk “Researching writing development with a corpus” on our research group Youtube Channel

More info on the talk here.

More info on Corpus linguistics and applied linguistics research 2021 site.

Corpus of North American Spoken English (CoNASE)

The Corpus of North American Spoken English (CoNASE), a 1.25-billion-word corpus of geolocated automatic speech-to-text transcripts, is now available in a beta version.

URL for more information.

The corpus was created from 301,847 ASR transcripts from 2,572 YouTube channels, corresponding to 154,041 hours of video. The size of the corpus is 1,252,066,371 word tokens.

The channels sampled in the corpus are associated with local government entities such as town, city, or county boards and councils, school or utility districts, regional authorities such as provincial or territorial governments, or other governmental organizations.

The transcripts are primarily of recordings of public meetings, although other genres are also present. Video transcripts have been assigned exact latitude-longitude coordinates using a geocoding script.

This information was distributed through the Corpora-List by Steven Coats, University of Oulu, Finland

To cite the corpus, please use

Coats, Steven. 2021. Corpus of North American Spoken English (CoNASE).

Incorporating corpora in teaching symposium, Mittuniversitetet, Sweden

Check out the programme here.


Here you can find some useful resources to carry out your transcription project.

MacWhinney, B. (2000). The CHILDES Project: Tools for Analyzing Talk. 3rd Edition. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Brian MacWhinney (2019) Tools for Analyzing Talk. Part 1: The CHAT Transcription Format. URL:

Leech (2004): types of annotation

phonetic annotation e.g. adding information about how a word in a spoken corpus was pronounced.

prosodic annotation — again in a spoken corpus — adding information about prosodic features such as stress, intonation and pauses.

syntactic annotation —e.g. adding information about how a given sentence is parsed, in terms of syntactic analysis into such units such phrases and clauses

semantic annotation e.g. adding information about the semantic category of words — the noun cricket as a term for a sport and as a term for an insect belong to different semantic categories, although there is no difference in spelling or pronunciation.

pragmatic annotation e.g. adding information about the kinds of speech act (or dialogue act) that occur in a spoken dialogue — thus the utterance okay on different occasions may be an acknowledgement, a request for feedback, an acceptance, or a pragmatic marker initiating a new phase of discussion.
discourse annotation e.g. adding information about anaphoric links in a text, for example connecting the pronoun them and its antecedent the horses in: I’ll saddle the horses and bring them round. [an example from the Brown corpus]

stylistic annotation e.g. adding information about speech and thought presentation (direct speech, indirect speech, free indirect thought, etc.)
lexical annotation adding the identity of the lemma of each word form in a text — i.e. the base form of the word, such as would occur as its headword in a dictionary (e.g. lying has the lemma LIE).

Online services:


Backbone Transcriptor. URL



Metadata for corpus work:

Annotation on Sketch Engine:

TEI by example website: