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BYU Law Advances Corpus Linguistics Discipline with 5th Annual Conference, Legal Executive Training

Linguists, Judges, Attorneys, Legal Scholars Access Version 4.0 of Pioneering Platform

PROVO, Utah, Feb. 4, 2020 /PRNewswire/ -- BYU Law, a leading national law school focused on innovation in the legal field, today announced that it will hold its fifth annual Law and Corpus Linguistics Conference Feb. 6-7, convening prominent federal and state judges, as well as legal and linguistics scholars committed to furthering the corpus linguistics discipline. The symposium is part of BYU Law's pioneering Law and Corpus Linguistics Project to further the study of corpus linguistics – the methodology for understanding the meaning of words by analyzing naturally occurring language in large collections of texts called "corpora." In addition to hosting this annual academic conference, BYU Law develops legal research corpora, and fosters influential scholarship and training using this method. Ahead of the conference, BYU Law will release the latest version of its law and corpus linguistics platform and announce the first Law and Corpus Linguistics Executive Training program.

(PRNewsfoto/BYU Law)

"Ten years ago, BYU Law student Stephen Mouritsen published his seminal article, 'The Dictionary Is Not a Fortress: Definitional Fallacies and a Corpus-Based Approach to Plain Meaning.' After reading the article and working with Stephen on several projects, I predicted in a blog post that corpus linguistics would revolutionize the process of interpretation," said D. Gordon Smith, Dean, BYU Law. "Since then, many of us at BYU Law have been engaged in writing scholarship, creating search tools, and building a community of scholars and lawyers around this methodology. We still have a long way to go, but we have begun to see that prediction fulfilled."

2020 Conference
The fifth annual Law and Corpus Linguistics Conference, sponsored by Schaerr Jaffe, LLP, will focus on several topics, including the discipline's application in intellectual property law and linguistics to address today's legal issues. Several prominent members of the judiciary will be in attendance, including judges on the U.S. Circuit Court for the Federal Circuit and U.S. District Court for the District of Delaware. Keynote speakers are Yale Law Professor William Eskridge, Jr., whose primary legal academic interest has been statutory interpretation, and Professor Douglas Lichtman from UCLA School of Law, whose areas of specialty include patent and copyright law. A panel will address the use of corpus linguistics pertaining to IP and patent claims construction.

As the discipline matures, the conference has expanded to attract linguists who have begun to develop theory to support and argue the merits of corpus linguistics and the law. In response, an Introduction to Corpus Linguistic Applications to Law Workshop will be held on Wednesday, February 5 to provide attending linguists with an introduction to the field of law and describe issues in the legal field that could benefit from corpus linguistics. During the conference, an interdisciplinary panel comprised of legal scholars and linguists will debate semantic canons of construction.

"As a linguist, it is tremendously exciting to see corpora and linguistic methods being used to address legal questions," said Jesse Egbert, Associate Professor at Northern Arizona University who teaches applied linguistics. "This new interdisciplinary movement has the potential to complement current approaches to legal interpretation, while providing increased transparency, accountability and reliability. If the quality of the papers submitted for this year's conference program is any indication, there is a bright future ahead for law and corpus linguistics."

Executive Training
BYU Law has conducted a series of workshops to train federal and state judges on the discipline of law and corpus linguistics, which it plans to continue to meet demand. Committed to training both judges and attorneys in this new area of the law, BYU Law will host the first Law and Corpus Linguistics Executive Training program in Washington, D.C. in May. The weeklong program, titled Advanced Interpretation: Law and Corpus Linguistics Executive Education Course, is open to corporate attorneys, appellate attorneys, research librarians, clerks and anyone seeking hands-on training to better understand the method and learn how to apply the latest tools and technologies in today's legal practices. https://execed.law.byu.edu/.

Law and Corpus Linguistics Platform Version 4.0 
Ahead of the conference, BYU Law released version 4.0 of its law and corpus linguistics research platform – an unprecedented legal technology tool launched in 2018 that makes available the first large-scale data sets of all U.S. Supreme Court rulings and founding-era documents to provide historical context for the usage and meaning of words for legal use. Each contains millions of words from thousands of texts representing the language from a relevant period or court. The platform enables legal professionals to analyze the meaning of words that can be applied to current cases, with several of the corpora having been referenced in legal opinions. The platform is available online at https://lawcorpus.byu.edu/.

Version 4.0 enhancements include more detailed corpus descriptions within the interface to help users better understand what each corpora encompasses. In response to requests from those using corpus linguistics research for court arguments, it now includes "save search" and "share" features enabling the user to share a read-only Google Sheets document with anyone in the world, which can be useful for trial preparation and verification. Inspired by input from linguists, developers have added an option to customize displays based on frequency and dispersion measures to determine how representative a word is compared to any other word in a corpus. Version 4.0 also includes the option for users to apply filters to customize their own corpus to answer specific questions and share how it was built. For example, if the Corpus of Founding Era American English or Corpus of Supreme Court Opinions of the United States is too large, users can filter by author or medium.

For more information about the Law and Corpus Linguistics Project, including the latest version of the research platform, visit https://lcl.byu.edu/

About BYU Law School
Founded in 1971, the J. Reuben Clark Law School (BYU Law) has grown into one of the nation's leading law schools – recognized for innovative research and teaching in social change, transactional design, entrepreneurship, corpus linguistics, criminal justice and religious freedom. The Law School has more than 6,000 alumni serving in communities around the world. In its most recent rankings, SoFi ranked BYU Law as the #1 best-value U.S. law school in their 2017 Return on Education Law School Ranking. For more information, visit http://www.law.byu.edu/.


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