Patterns in Language and Law

Lawrence M. Solan

Abstract


Our language faculty is rule-like in some ways, pattern-like in others, as Steven Pinker (1999) has shown. Much of syntax is describable a set of rules, whereas the range of meanings attributed to a word is best described in terms of patterns. Laws are typically written as rules, but they are written in words, many of which display pattern-like arrays of usage. Legal systems default to an expression’s “ordinary meaning,” requiring estimates of patterns of usage. Recently, advances in corpus linguistics have been adduced by judges and legal scholars in this regard. Furthermore, open-textured legal terms, including the word “pattern” itself, are by their nature more describable in terms of patterns of their application than in terms of hard-and-fast rules. Apart from linguistic issues in legal interpretation, legal systems value coherence, requiring that like things be treated alike, often focusing on patterns of how laws are applied. At times, however, these patterns uncover biases in a law’s application. This article attempts to describe how this duality in both linguistic description law interact with each other.

Cite as: Solan, JLL 6 (2017), 46–66, DOI: 10.14762/jll.2017.046

 


Keywords


corpus, ordinary meaning, rule, pattern, standard, legal linguistics, courts, US judiciary

Full Text:

PDF

References


Aleksander, Peczenik. (2008). On Law and Reason. Dordrecht: Springer.

Armstrong, Sharon L., Gleitman, Lilsa R. & Gleitman, Henry (1983). What Some Concepts Might Not Be. Cognition, 13, 263–308. DOI: 10.1016/0010-0277(83)90012-4.

Barsalou, Lawrence W. (1983). Ad hoc categories. Memory & Cognition, 11(3), 211–227. DOI: 10.3758/ BF03196968.

Chomsky, Noam (2005). Three factors in language design. Linguistic Inquiry, 36, 1–22. DOI: 10.1162/ 0024389052993655.

Conley, John M. & O'Barr, William M. (1998). Just Words: Law, Language, and Power. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Conrad, Susan M. & Biber, Douglas (2004). The Frequency and Use of Lexical Bundles in Conversation and Academic Prose. Lexicographica: International Annual for Lexicography, 20, 56–71. DOI: 10.1515/ 9783484604674.56.

Dworkin, Ronald (1986). Law's Empire. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Eskridge, William N., Jr. (2016). Interpreting Law: A Primer on How to Read Statutes and the Constitution. St. Paul, MN: Foundation Press.

Gales, Tammy (2009). Diversity as enacted in U.S. policy and law: A corpus-based approach. Discourse & Society, 20(2), 223–240. DOI: 10.1177/0957926508099003.

Goldberg, Adele & Jackendoff, Ray (2004). The English resultative as a family of constructions. Language, 80, 532–568.

Goodman, Nelson (1972). Seven Strictures on Similarity. In Goodman (Ed.), Projects and Problems (pp. 437–446). New York: Bobbs-Merrill Company.

Goźdź-Roszkowski, Stanisław (2011). Patterns of Linguistic Variation in American Legal English: A Corpus-Based Study. Frankfurt: Peter Lang.

Jackendoff, Ray (2003). Foundations of Language: Brain, Meaning, Grammar, Evolution. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Jackendoff, Ray (2008). Construction After Construction and its Theoretical Challenges. Language, 84, 8–28. DOI: 10.1353/lan.2008.0058.

Kim, Pauline T. (2007). Lower court discretion. NYU Law Review, 82, 383–442. Available at nyulawreview.org/sites/default/files/pdf/NYULawReview-82-2-Kim.pdf.

Lynch, Elizabeth B., Coley, John D. & Medin, Douglas L. (2000). Tall is typical: Central tendency, ideal dimensions, and graded category structure among tree experts and novices. Memory & Cognition, 28, 41–50. DOI: 10.3758/BF03211575.

Matoesian, Gregory M. (1993). Reproducing Rape: Domination through Talk in the Courtroom. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Mattila, Heikki E.S. (2006). Comparative Legal Linguistics. Aldershot: Ashgate.

Mouritsen, Stephen C. (2010). The Dictionary Is Not a Fortress: Definitional fallacies and a corpus-based approach to plain meaning. Brigham Young University Law Review, 2010, 1915–1978. Available at digitalcommons.law.byu.edu/lawreview/vol2010/iss5/10.

Mouritsen, Stephen C. (2011). Hard Cases and Hard Data: Assessing corpus linguistics as an empirical path to plain meaning. Columbia Science and Technology Law Review, 13, 156–205. Available at stlr.org/ cite.cgi?volume=13&article=4.

Nuñez, D. Carolina (2013). War of the words: Aliens, immigrants, citizens, and the languge of exclusion. Brigham Young University Law Review, 2013, 1517–1562. Available at digitalcommons.law.byu.edu/ lawreview/vol2013/iss6/9.

Pinker, Steven (1999). Words and Rules: The Ingredients of Language. New York: Basic Books.

Rosch, Eleanor (1975). Cognitive representations of semantic categories. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 104(3), 192–233.

Rottman, Dan B. & Tyler, Tom R. (2014). Thinking about Judges and Judicial Performance: Perspective of the public and court users. Oñati Socio-Legal Series, 5, 1046–1070. Available at opo.iisj.net/index.php/ osls/article/view/343.

Scalia, Antonin & Garner, Bryan (2012). Reading Law: The Interpretation of Legal Texts. St. Paul, MN: Thompson/West.

Schauer, Frederick (Ed.) (2009). Thinking Like a Lawyer. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Schauer, Frederick (2015). On the relationship between legal and ordinary language. In Solan, Ainsworth & Shuy (Eds.). Speaking of Language and Law: Conversations on the Work of Peter Tiersma (pp. 35–38). New York: Oxford University Press.

Shapiro, Scott (2011). Legality. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Shuy, Roger (Ed.) (2015). The Language of Fraud Cases. New York: Oxford University Press.

Slocum, Brian G. (2015). Ordinary Meaning: A Theory of the Most Fundamental Principle of Legal Interpretation. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Solan, Lawrence M. (2009). Linguistic knowledge and legal interpretation: What goes right, What goes wrong. In Schauer (Ed.), Thinking Like a Lawyer (pp. 66–87). Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Solan, Lawrence M. (2010). The Language of Statutes: Laws and their Interpretation. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Solan, Lawrence M. (2016). Precedent in Statutory Interpretation. North Carolina Law Review 94, 1165–1234. Available at scholarship.law.unc.edu/nclr/vol94/iss4/2.

Solan, Lawrence M. (2017), Linguistic knowledge and legal interpretation – what goes right, what goes wrong. In Slocum (Ed.). The Nature of Legal Interpretation: What Jurists Can Learn about Legal Interpretation from Linguistics and Philosophy (pp. 66–87). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Solan, Lawrence M. & Gales, Tammy (2016). Finding ordinary meaning in law: The judge, the dictionary or the corpus. International Journal of Legal Discourse, 1(2), 253–276. DOI: 10.1515/ijld-2016-0016.

Solan, Lawrence M., Rosenblatt, Terri & Osherson, Daniel (2008). False consensus bias in contract interpretation. Columbia Law Review, 108, 1268–1300. Available at jstor.org/stable/40041799.

Tiersma, Peter (1999). Legal Language. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Vogel, Friedemann, Hamann, Hanjo & Gauer, Isabelle (2017). Computer-Assisted Legal Linguistics. Corpus Analysis as a New Tool for Legal Studies, Law & Social Inquiry, 42, early view. DOI: 10.1111/lsi.12305.

Yang, Charles (2002). Knowledge and Learning in Natural Language. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Zippelius, Reinhold (2008). Introduction to German Legal Methods. Durham, NC: Carolina Academic Press.




DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.14762/jll.2017.046

Refbacks

  • There are currently no refbacks.


Copyright (c) 2017 Lawrence M. Solan

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.