The Fabric of Language and Law. Towards an International Research Network for Computer Assisted Legal Linguistics (CAL²)

Hanjo Hamann, Friedemann Vogel


Law and language can be described as complex institutions with emergent properties, like intricate fabrics woven from single-colored fibers. This metaphor suggests to think of legal language in terms of “patterns”: Recurrent motifs in the fabric that the individual language user may not (and in most cases cannot) be aware of, though they explain the development of language more coherently than any narrative based on a priori rules. This perspective corresponds with the recent trend towards computer linguistics using “text as data”. To discuss how these approaches might impact research on the language of law, the Heidelberg Academy of Sciences and Humanities hosted the first international conference on “The Fabric of Language and Law” from the perspective of legal corpus linguistics. Selected papers presented at this meeting in March 2016 were subsequently peer-reviewed and published in an eponymous volume of the International Journal of Language & Law (JLL), edited by the present authors as convenors of the conference. This special issue introduction elaborates on the topic of this meeting, summarizes its contributions, and contextualises the publications that resulted from it. The authors hope that this exchange, which has meanwhile been continued across the Atlantic, may help to establish an international network for research on Computer Assisted Legal Linguistics (CAL2).

Cite as: Hamann & Vogel, JLL 6 (2017), 101–109, DOI: 10.14762/jll.2017.101



corpus, computer linguistics, semantics, law and language, legal linguistics, big data, CAL²

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