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date: 27 October 2020

Abstract and Keywords

The sensitive use of historical courtroom data can elucidate the evolution of both (English) legal language specifically and also spoken language more generally. “Sensitive use” means appreciating not only the strengths and weaknesses of any primary data used, but also the linguistic, social, cultural, political and/or religious context of that data; and, hence, making extensive use of secondary sources (including the work of legal and social historians). This article first outlines the strengths and weaknesses of some of the most popular primary sources and then provides an overview of sourcing historical trials. It also discusses how the advent of electronic or web-based datasets has enabled researchers to investigate trial data using data mining and data retrieval techniques.

Keywords: courtroom data, data retrieval, legal English, legalese, speech, secondary sources, primary sources, historical, trials, data mining, Historical Thesaurus of English, linguistics, evidence

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