Brooklyn Law Review


Corpus linguistics presents an exciting tool for improving interpretation of documentary language. But it would be a mistake to overvalue the tool or to use it as grounds for ejecting consideration of other data from the interpretative task. While properly operationalized corpus linguistics analysis represents an advancement over traditional textualism, it remains subject to the same problems that plague excessively rigid textualism that refuses to give consideration to contextual evidence of meaning. To be most effective in achieving accurate and just interpretative results, corpus linguistics, like traditional reading of documentary language, requires context. This includes not only the context of additional informative data such as situational background, drafting history, and the purpose of the document under scrutiny but also an appreciation of the contexts in which corpus linguistics analysis is likely to be most helpful. While data-driven linguistics can be quite useful in some cases, it is largely irrelevant for cases in which the text itself is superficially clear but construction of the document and resolution of a dispute hinges on other jurisprudential factors. Even in cases where corpus linguistics and other forms of textual data analysis aid interpretation, correct construction of disputes terms will continue to require consideration of context and an appreciation of the limits of corpus linguistics analysis.