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

See all articles by Clark D. Cunningham

Clark D. Cunningham

Georgia State University College of Law

Jesse Egbert

Northern Arizona University

Date Written: March 13, 2020

Abstract

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

Suggested Citation

Cunningham, Clark D. and Egbert, Jesse, Corpora and Analyzing Legal Discourse in the United States (March 13, 2020). Routledge Handbook of Corpus Approaches to Discourse Analysis (Eric Friginal & Jack Hardy, eds. 2020 Forthcoming), Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3554023

Clark D. Cunningham (Contact Author)

Georgia State University College of Law ( email )

P.O. Box 4037
Atlanta, GA 30302-4037
United States

HOME PAGE: http://www.clarkcunningham.org

Jesse Egbert

Northern Arizona University ( email )

PO Box 15066
Flagstaff, AZ 86011
United States

HOME PAGE: http://oak.ucc.nau.edu/jae89/

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