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The History of COBUILD

A new generation of dictionaries for learners of English

When the first COBUILD dictionary was published in 1987, it revolutionized dictionaries for learners. It was the first of a new generation of dictionaries that were based on real examples of English - the type of English that people speak and write every day.

Collins and the University of Birmingham, led by Professor John Sinclair, developed an electronic corpus in the 1980s, which is where these examples of English were taken from. The Corpus became the largest collection of English language data in the world and COBUILD uses the Collins Corpus to analyze the way that people really use the language.

From the 1990s onwards the Corpus was also used as a basis for grammar and language reference titles as well as dictionaries. The grammar books included the COBUILD English Grammar and the Cobuild English Guides, including guides to Metaphor, Reporting and Confusable Words.

Collins’ new English Language Teaching (ELT) publishing

In 2011 Collins launched an innovative list of English Language Teaching (ELT) products focusing on high quality and easy-to-use self-study materials for language practice and reference.

More than 25 years after the publication of the first COBUILD dictionary our commitment to delivering authentic materials hasn’t changed. Apart from the Collins Corpus we use many other new and innovative techniques in our ELT publishing to ensure we deliver authentic and real English worth learning. Our Listening titles, for example, are based entirely on authentic material recorded on location, not scripted dialogues recorded in a studio.

The principles established by the COBUILD project and the Collins Corpus continue to be at the heart of all our publishing. This means that when you see COBUILD or ‘Powered by COBUILD’ on Collins books, you can be sure that the books are based on the most up-to-date information on English available, and so will help learners of English with the language they need to communicate effectively and accurately in English.