Corpora and Analyzing Legal Discourse in the United States
Routledge Handbook of Corpus Approaches to Discourse Analysis (Eric Friginal & Jack Hardy, eds. 2020 Forthcoming)
22 Pages Posted: 16 Mar 2020
Date Written: March 13, 2020
This book chapter will appear in the Routledge Handbook of Corpus Approaches to Discourse Analysis (Eric Friginal & Jack Hardy eds. forthcoming 2020). A digitized data set representing actual language – typically a very large data set – is called by the science of linguistics a “corpus” (plural: corpora). The focus in this chapter is on the use of corpora for the interpretation of statutes (i.e., written laws) and constitutional provisions. The chapter reports a number of examples, dating from the mid-1990s to the present, where corpus-based research either has been offered to American courts or initiated and used directly by judges themselves. Further, two detailed focal case studies will be provided: 1) a very early corpus-based analysis, on how “use a firearm” could be interpreted in a federal criminal statute, that appeared to influence an important decision by the U.S. Supreme Court, and 2) an investigation in 2019 of how a term in the U.S. Constitution, emolument, was used in the late 18th century when the Constitution was drafted and ratified, which is a question of considerable topical importance in the United States at the time of writing, at issue in a series of lawsuits against President Donald Trump.
Egbert is a professor of applied linguistics who has authored or co-edited three books and more than 60 peer-reviewed publications. Cunningham is a law professor who has written previously about applying linguistics to the interpretation of legal texts, including Plain Meaning and Hard Cases, 103 Yale L.J. 1561 (1994), Using Common Sense: A Linguistic Perspective on Judicial Interpretations of 'Use a Firearm', 73 Washington University Law Quarterly 1159 (1995), and A Linguistic Analysis of the Meanings of 'Search' in the Fourth Amendment: A Search for Common Sense, 73 Iowa L. Rev. 541 (1988).
Keywords: corpus linguistics, corpora, discourse analysis, legal discourse, law, original meaning
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