At BYU Law in Provo, Utah, a first-of-its-kind technology platform is enabling legal researchers to explore the meanings of legal words and phrases by examining the contexts in which they historically were used. The Law and Corpus Linguistics platform enables users to examine large collections of historical texts to help determine, for example, what early drafters meant by a phrase such as “bear arms.”

In this episode of LawNext, my guest is David Armond, head of infrastructure and technology and senior law librarian at BYU Law, who was instrumental in helping create and launch the platform. We discuss this emerging field of corpus linguistics and how it is being used by lawyers, judges and legal scholars.

The BYU Law collection is now home to seven collections of historical text, or corpora, including founding-era American English (1760-1799), early modern English (1475-1800), Supreme Court opinions, U.S. caselaw, records of the Constitutional Convention of 1787, and more.

As it happened, host Bob Ambrogi interviewed Armond live at BYU Law on the very day that the school decided to close down due to the coronavirus crisis. Before discussing their scheduled topic of corpus linguistics, Armond and Ambrogi had a conversation about how a law school prepares to shut down and go online. That conversation was posted as LawNext Episode 66: How One Law School Prepared for Coronavirus Shutdown.

Photo of Bob Ambrogi Bob Ambrogi

Bob is a lawyer, veteran legal journalist, and award-winning blogger and podcaster. In 2011, he was named to the inaugural Fastcase 50, honoring “the law’s smartest, most courageous innovators, techies, visionaries and leaders.” Earlier in his career, he was editor-in-chief of several legal publications, including The National Law Journal, and editorial director of ALM’s Litigation Services Division.