Stefan Th. Gries
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Last updated: 12 December 2021

Teaching at the University of California, Santa Barbara


Ling 253A: Corpus linguistics and legal interpretation (W 2022)

Syllabus and overview


This course is the first half of a two-quarter research seminar, in which we will be concerned with the intersection of (quantitative) (corpus) linguistics, lexical semantics, and legal/statutory interpretation. I will be taking some corpus-linguistic knowledge for granted (nothing technical, just the general ideas – if you want to make sure, you're on top of everything, maybe just check out Chapter 2 of the second edition of my corpus textbook). The first three weeks will be easy, slow, and introductory as we will deal with various aspects of semantics, in particular (dictionary) definitions, Natural Semantic Metalanguage, sentence semantics, and some aspects of cognitive semantics. After that, it'll get more intense, because the first quarters of these two-quarter research seminars are reading-intensive! We will consider several applications of corpus-linguistic methods to legal/statutory interpretation; you will read (and partially present)

  • some Supreme Court opinions;
  • some corpus-linguistic papers discussing legal applications;
  • a famous/infamous report currently under litigation;
  • legal critiques of corpus-linguistic applications;
  • discussions of experimental jurisprudence.
with some discussion of corpus linguistic methods on the side. If there's time or even interest, I might outline a few relevant aspects of working as a linguistic expert witness. The goals are to familiarize you with at least some aspects of legal/forensic linguistics so that you can write a (likely empirical) paper in the second quarter and maybe be a good expert witness at some point. ;-)


Course downloads



  1. Session 01:
  2. Session 02:
  3. Session 03:
  4. Session 04:
  5. Session 05:
  6. Session 06:
  7. Session 07
  8. Session 08: