Law & Corpus Linguistics

August 28, 2020

Building on the 2016 inaugural Law and Corpus Linguistics Conference, the 2017 BYU Law Review Symposium, “Law & Corpus Linguistics,” brings together legal scholars from across various substantive areas of scholarship, prominent corpus linguistics scholars, and judges who have employed corpus linguistics analysis in their decisions. The symposium will be held Friday, February 3, at BYU Law School.

Corpus linguistics is a way of understanding the meaning and usage of words in ordinary language useing a large databases of language gathered from relevant sources.  The Corpus of Contemporary American English, for example, includes TV show transcripts, magazine articles, newspaper articles, scholarly journals, and more. A user can find the frequency of words used over time as well as the surrounding words most often used with a particular word. This information gives nuance to meaning that provides a useful methodology in interpreting statutes. Sometimes, it is not clear exactly what a word in a statute means, and a dictionary provides too many definitions that are obviously not what the legislature intended. A corpus might provide a clearer understanding of the legislature’s intended meaning.

According to BYU Law Professor Carolina Núñez, this year’s conference “offers participants an opportunity to develop the methodology in the context of legal interpretation, employ the methodology in specific interpretation problems in participants’ fields of study, and engage in discussion about these topics with other interested scholars.”

Details about the conference are available on the Law & Corpus Linguistics website.