Linguistic Corpora as a Tool of Statutory Interpretation: American Theory and Practice Cover Image

Korpusy językowe jako narzędzie interpretacji prawa. Amerykańska teoria i praktyka
Linguistic Corpora as a Tool of Statutory Interpretation: American Theory and Practice

Author(s): Zygmunt Tobor, Mateusz Zeifert
Subject(s): Law, Constitution, Jurisprudence, Philosophy of Law
Published by: Stowarzyszenie Filozofii Prawa i Filozofii Społecznej – Sekcja Polska IVR
Keywords: statutory interpretation; corpus linguistic; linguistic corpora; US case law

Summary/Abstract: In American adjudicating practice and theory of statutory interpretation, great attention is paid to the notion of ordinary meaning of legal text. In order to determine the ordinary meaning, judges usually refer to their own linguistic intuition or dictionaries – both these methods give rise to a number of reservations that have been expressed in legal literature for years. In the last few years, courts have also started using linguistic corpora for this purpose. Linguistic corpora are electronic collections of authentic texts in a given language which can be analyzed using IT tools (e.g. searches, frequency lists, concordances, collocations). Corpus research requires considerable linguistic knowledge and technical skills, and in return it offers statistical data that can reveal a lot about the semantic layer of language. The use of corpora by judges – first in state courts, later also in the federal Supreme Court – sparked lively academic discussion. In Polish literature, this issue has not been discussed so far, which is why the article is essentially of a reporting nature. First, an outline of corpus linguistics is presented. Then the history of the use of linguistic corpora by US courts is reconstructed. Finally, the legal discussion about corpora in the US is presented, with particular emphasis on voices approving their use and on critical voices.

  • Issue Year: 25/2020
  • Issue No: 4
  • Page Range: 80-90
  • Page Count: 11
  • Language: Polish