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Solving the Cherry-Picking Problem in Legislative History Use: A Corpus-Based Approach for Empirical Intentionalist Legal Interpretation Analysis


The use of legislative histories under intentionalist/purposivist theories of statutory interpretation is frequently criticized because it can be easily biased (see, e.g., Scheppele, 2012). To date, corpus-based statutory interpretation has relied almost exclusively on textualist theory of legal interpretation. However, corpus linguistic methods are not necessarily bound to any one theory (e.g., Biber & Reppen, 2015). The present study analyses two legislative histories as corpora and compares them against a general corpus of English to determine if interpretative theory makes a meaningful difference in two example cases (Costello v. United States, 2012; Taniguchi v. Kan Saipan Pacific, 2012). Senses of relevant terms were manually annotated by two independent human coders with high interrater reliability in the two types of corpora. The results indicate that a legislative history corpus can reveal multiple patterns of lexical meaning and produce unbiased and distributional results rather than a single biased data point as most legislative history analyses do. These two case studies show significant and meaningful differences in both cases using Fisher’s Exact Test (Costello, p < 0.0001, Cramer’s V = 0.70; Taniguchi, p < 0.0001, Cramer’s V = 0.53) between using a legislative history corpus versus a general language corpus. These results indicate that intentionalist/purposivist methods can be improved by using corpus-based analyses as well as the fact that intentionalist/purposivist and textualist theories produce practical semantic distinctions in legal interpretive settings due to the differences in relevant texts, registers, and speech communities.

صندلی اداری سرور مجازی ایران Decentralized Exchange


statutory interpretation, legislative history corpus, intentionalism, corpus-based legal interpretation, law and corpus lingusitics, legal linguistics



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