What 'If'? The Emerging Epistemic Community of International Criminal Justice
European Journal of Legal Studies, Network of Legal Empirical Scholars (NoLesLaw) Special Issue, January 2019
iCourts Working Paper Series No. 147
38 Pages Posted: 23 Dec 2018 Last revised: 19 Feb 2019
Date Written: December 7, 2018
Using international criminal law as a case study, this article aims to demonstrate how computer driven corpus linguistics combined with philosophy of law and sociology of science can help improve our understanding of legal knowledge and science. The article is built on a computer driven corpus linguistic study of all judgments from the ICTY and the ICTR from 1996-2017. To our surprise, this study revealed that the frequency of the use of ifs in all judgements had exhibited an almost perfectly steady annual decline – from 93 per 100,000 words on average in 1996 to 34 in 2017. As a linguistic phenomenon, this cuts against how we would expect language to behave. In the search for an explanation, we move from linguistics into the philosophical and sociological study of (legal) knowledge and science. In the most general terms, the explanation ties the disappearing of ifs to the emergence of international criminal law as a distinct specialized legal science, a separate sub-discipline constituted by a professionally shared corpus of knowledge – or of “a substantial body of jurisprudence on genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, as well as forms of individual and superior responsibility”, as the ICTR put it when closing down.
Keywords: international criminal law; corpus linguistics; legal philosophy; sociology of science; epistemic communities; tacit knowledge; paradigm; doxa; Thomas Kuhn; Hans Kelsen; Joseph Raz; Ronald Dworkin; Pierre Bourdieu
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