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Jurisprudence

University at Buffalo School of Law

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Corpus linguistics

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Legal Corpus Linguistics And The Half-Empirical Attitude, Anya Bernstein Nov 2021

Legal Corpus Linguistics And The Half-Empirical Attitude, Anya Bernstein

Journal Articles

Legal writers have recently turned to corpus linguistics to interpret legal texts. Corpus linguistics, a social-science methodology, provides a sophisticated way to analyze large data sets of language use. Legal proponents have touted it as giving empirical grounding to claims about ordinary language, which pervade legal interpretation. But legal corpus linguistics cannot deliver on that promise because it ignores the crucial contexts in which legal language is produced, interpreted, and deployed.

First, legal corpus linguistics neglects the relevant legal context—the conditions that give legal language authority. Because of this, legal corpus studies’ evidence about language use perversely obscures and misstates …