iCourts Seminar with Lawrence Solan, Professor of Law, New York. Corpus Linguistics in Legal Analysis

Time: 10 November 2017, 13:00-14:00

Place: iLab - room 6B-4-66, Faculty of Law, Njalsgade 76, DK-2300 Copenhagen S

Organizer: iCourts, the Danish National Research Foundation’s Centre of Excellence for International Courts

Corpus Linguistics as a Tool in Legal Analysis

In his talk, Lawrence Solan sets out to explore conditions in which the use of large linguistic corpora can be optimally employed by judges and others tasked with construing authoritative legal documents. Linguistic corpora, sometimes containing billions of words, are a source of information about the distribution of language usage. Thus, corpora and the tools for using them are most likely to assist in addressing legal issues when the law considers the distribution of language usage to be legally relevant. As Thomas Lee and Stephen Mouritsen have so ably demonstrated in earlier work, corpus analysis is especially helpful when the legal standard for construction is the ordinary meaning of the document’s terms. It is argued that four issues should be addressed before determining that corpus analysis is likely to be maximally convincing. First, the legal issue before the court must be about the distribution of linguistic facts. Second, the court must decide what makes an interpretation “ordinary.”  Third, if one wishes to search a corpus to glean the ordinary meaning of a term, one must decide in advance what to search. Fourth, there are different reasons as to why a particular meaning might present a weak showing in a corpus search and these need to be understood. Each of these issues is described and discussed.

Lawrence Solan holds both a law degree and a Ph.D. in linguistics, and his scholarly works are largely devoted to exploring interdisciplinary issues related to law, language and cognition. He is a renowned author or co-author of six books and dozens of articles and book chapters, and his work has been translated into six languages. Among his publications is his acclaimed book, The Language of Judges, which is widely recognized as a seminal work on linguistic theory and legal argumentation. His most recent books are The Language of Statutes: Laws and their Interpretation, published by the University of Chicago Press in 2010, The Oxford Handbook of Language and Law, co-edited with Peter Tiersma and published in 2012, and Speaking of Language and Law. Conversations on the Work of Peter Tiersma, Oxford University Press 2015.

Professor Solan is a highly in-demand speaker around the world and has been a visiting professor at many universities in the US and Europe, among them Princeton, Yale, and Chicago. In the autumn semester, 2017, he is a visiting fellow at the Käte Hamburger Center for Advanced Study in the Humanities “Law as Culture,” Bonn.

Professor Solan is on the board of directors of the International Language and Law Association and a member of the editorial board of Oxford University Press’ Series ‘Oxford Studies in Language and Law’.

All interested are welcome to attend.

Registration: For participation in this lecture please use this registration form no later than Friday 10 November 2017, 12:00.