Slocum and Gries, ‘Judging Corpus Linguistics’

The practice of legal interpretation has long sought legitimization through devices that seek to distance interpretations from the personal predilections of judges. Most notably, with the rise of textualism, courts have habitually relied on dictionary definitions to provide word meanings that are external to a judge’s own intuitions. Similarly, some scholars and judges have recently argued that corpus linguistics can provide especially powerful and objective information to judges about the ordinary meanings of statutory and constitutional texts. For instance, in their influential article, Judging Ordinary Meaning, Thomas R Lee and Stephen Mouritsen argue that courts should ‘import’ into the law of interpretation computer-aided means (primarily, corpus analysis) of determining ‘the sense of a word or phrase that is most likely implicated in a given linguistic context’. In the view of Lee and Mouritsen, statutory interpretation is an ’empirical question’ (the authors assert this more than forty times), which makes it natural that courts should rely on scientifically-based interpretive sources such as corpus linguistics …

Slocum, Brian G and Gries, Stefan, Judging Corpus Linguistics (July 6, 2020). Southern California Law Review, 2020.

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