Monday, October 15, 2018

New web platform helps users research meanings of words used in Constitution, Supreme Court opinions

A web platform that provides law-related historic linguistics information was announced recently:
Corpus linguistics involves the use of naturally occurring language in large collections of texts—called corpora—to help determine the meanings of words and phrases, according to a press release about the platform.

The unveiling of the Law and Corpus Linguistics Technology Platform, which is free to use, ties in with Constitution Day, the anniversary of the document’s ratification.

The Corpus of Founding Era American English, which allows users to examine how words from the Constitution were used from 1750 to 1799, is searchable on the platform; as is the Corpus of Early Modern English, which has more than 40,000 texts from 1485 to 1800; and the Corpus of the U.S. Supreme Court, which has more than 32,000 court documents. BYU Dean D. Gordon Smith said in the release that this is “the first corpora featuring all United States Supreme Court rulings (up to the most recent term).”

Georgetown University law professor Lawrence Solum said the new corpora will be helpful to those who want to research the meaning of the Constitution. “The method of corpus linguistics … provides an important tool for the recovery of the original public meaning of the constitutional text.”

The platform is available here. For more on the program, click here.