Triangulating Public Meaning: Corpus Linguistics, Immersion, and the Constitutional Record

35 Pages Posted: 16 Aug 2017  

Lawrence B. Solum

Georgetown University Law Center

Date Written: April 26, 2017

Abstract

This Essay contributes to the development of an originalist methodology by making the case for an approach that employs three distinct methods, each of which serves as a basis for confirming or questioning the results reached by the other two. This approach will be called the Method of Triangulation. The three component techniques are as follows:

(1) The Method of Corpus Linguistics: The method of corpus linguistics employs large-scale data sets (corpora) that provide evidence of linguistic practice.

(2) The Originalist Method of Immersion: The method of immersion requires researchers to immerse themselves in the linguistic and conceptual world of the authors and readers of the constitutional provision being studied.

(3) The Method of Studying the Constitutional Record: The method of studying the record framing, ratification, and implementation requires the researcher to examine the drafting process, including sources upon which the drafters relied, debates during the drafting and ratification process, and the early history of implementation of the constitutional provision.

These three methods each provide different inputs into the process of constitutional interpretation and construction. Because each method can be checked against the others, the combination of the three methods results in what can be called "triangulation."

Keywords: Corpus Linguistics, Constitution, Interpretation, Constitutional Theory, Linguistics, Semantics, Pragmatics

Suggested Citation

Solum, Lawrence B., Triangulating Public Meaning: Corpus Linguistics, Immersion, and the Constitutional Record (April 26, 2017). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3019494 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3019494

Lawrence B. Solum (Contact Author)

Georgetown University Law Center ( email )

600 New Jersey Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20001
United States

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