Kevin Tobia, ‘Dueling Dictionaries and Clashing Corpora’

Judges increasingly look to corpus linguistic tools in legal interpretation, as scholars advance corpus linguistics arguments about statutory and constitutional language. Corpus linguistics is sometimes offered as a preferred interpretive tool, avoiding the pitfalls of dueling canons or cherry-picked dictionary definitions. However, this short essay proposes, legal corpus linguistic tools are unlikely to resolve most difficult debates about the ordinary or public meaning of law. The essay articulates ten emerging ‘arguments’ and ‘counterarguments’ of legal corpus linguistics. Of course, the existence of ‘clashing corpora’ does not imply legal corpus linguistics will be abandoned. It’s been decades since the observation of ‘dueling canons’ and ‘dueling dictionaries’. Courts today regularly look to both tools.

Tobia, Kevin, Dueling Dictionaries and Clashing Corpora (July 17, 2021).

First posted 2021-08-19 12:00:39

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