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Computer-Assisted Legal Linguistics: Corpus Analysis as a New Tool for Legal Studies

  • Friedemann Vogel, Hanjo Hamann and Isabelle Gauer


Law exists solely in and through language. Nonetheless, systematical empirical analysis of legal language has been rare. Yet, the tides are turning: After judges at various courts (including the US Supreme Court) have championed a method of analysis called corpus linguistics, the Michigan Supreme Court held in June 2016 that this method “is consistent with how courts have understood statutory interpretation.” The court illustrated how corpus analysis can benefit legal casework, thus sanctifying twenty years of previous research into the matter. The present article synthesizes this research and introduces computer-assisted legal linguistics (CAL2) as a novel approach to legal studies. Computer-supported analysis of carefully preprocessed collections of legal texts lets lawyers analyze legal semantics, language, and sociosemiotics in different working contexts (judiciary, legislature, legal academia). The article introduces the interdisciplinary CAL2 research group (, its Corpus of German Law, and other related projects that make law more transparent.

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