Law & Corpus Linguistics

2020 Conference

The fifth annual Law & Corpus Linguistics Conference (February 6-7th) brings together legal scholars from across various substantive areas of scholarship, prominent corpus linguistics scholars, and judges who have employed corpus linguistics analysis in their decisions.

Call for Papers:
5th Annual Law & Corpus Linguistics Conference

Extended Proposal Deadline: October 8, 2019, 23:59 MDT

Contact: James Heilpern,

Event Date: February 6-7, 2020

Location: Brigham Young University, Provo, UT

Organization: Brigham Young University

Brigham Young University Law School will host the Fifth Annual Law & Corpus Linguistics Conference in Provo, UT on February 6-7, 2020. Although we will consider any paper related to law and corpus linguistics, broadly construed, our strong preference this year will be for papers related to either the canons of construction or intellectual property law. Keynote speakers will include Professor William Eskridge, Jr. (Yale) and Professor Doug Litchman (UCLA). We have also confirmed that 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.

Canons: One of the panels will focus on so-called “linguistic” or “semantic” canons of construction. These canons—such as expressio unius, ejusdem generis, the presumption of consistent meaning, and the presumption against surplusage—are often justified on the ground that they accurately describe common conventions of language usage. At the same time, no one thinks that the premises of these canons always hold; they are viewed as presumptions, which thus raise the question of when the presumptions stand, and in what circumstances they are rebutted.

For a panel that will address these canons, we are seeking co-authored papers from inter-disciplinary teams comprised of legal scholars and linguists. Each team should identify one or more canons that they propose to analyze, with a linguistic framework for evaluating the viability of the canon and for identifying criteria in which the canon will hold and circumstances in which it may not.

Intellectual Property: The law school is also specifically seeking original proposals for papers to be presented at the conference as part of a panel on Corpus Linguistics and IP Law. Topics include (but are not limited to) the application of corpus linguistics to trademark dilution, genericide, prior art determinations, patent claim construction, and copyrightability.

The proposal deadline is October 8, 2019, 23:59 MDT. Proposals should include an abstract of 500-750 words, a full outline, and complete contact information. Please send materials to Tom Lee at

Introduction to Corpus Linguistic Applications to Law Workshop

The 5th Annual Law & Corpus Linguistics Conference hosted by the BYU (Brigham Young University) J. Reuben Clark Law School is excited to be offering a workshop for any attending linguists on Wednesday, February 5th 2020 from 1pm to 4pm (MDT). This workshop will be led by BYU law and linguistics faculty and is meant to give an introduction to the field of law as well as describe issues that those in the legal field often encounter that corpus linguistics has been or could be used to address.  We would like to make a special invitation particularly to any graduate students or early career scholars who are interested in applying linguistics in addressing legal issues, including issues related to statutory interpretation as well as communication between the legal community and the general public (e.g. Miranda rights, jury instructions, immigrant interviews, etc.)

This cost of this workshop is being offered free of charge. A catered lunch will also be provided to any attendees at 12pm prior to the workshop. We hope that you will consider attending this highly meaningful educational opportunity. Additionally, we are currently working on obtaining funding to support travel grants and are optimistic that we will be able to assist in supporting those with particular need or interest to attend the conference.

If you are interested in attending this workshop, please complete this form found here:

Event Date: February 6-7, 2020

Location: Brigham Young University, Provo, UT

Organization: Brigham Young University


Law & Corpus Linguistics Project

The Project

BYU Law’s Law & Corpus Linguistics was initially inspired by Stephen C. Mouritsen’s BYU Law Review Note, The Dictionary Is Not a Fortress: Definitional Fallacies and a Corpus-Based Approach to Plain Meaning, (2010). As various scholars began to apply corpus linguistic to legal questions, BYU’s Linguistics Professor Mark Davies’ well known Corpus of Contemporary American English (COCA) and Corpus of Historical American English (COHA) proved invaluable.

Following the development of formal Law & Corpus Linguistics course at the Law School in the Fall of 2013, the BYU Law Library started providing limited support for students in the class and faculty applying corpus linguistics to their scholarship such as Gordon Smith.

Research Platform

James Philips, a visiting assistant professor in Winter of 2015 , envisioned the creation of a simplified research platform and the creation of a Corpus of Founding Era American English (COFEA). Initial texts were gathered throughout 2015 and 2016 and in the Fall of 2016 the initial design of the Law & Corpus Linguistics Platform commenced.