What 'if'? : the emerging epistemic community of international criminal law
Title: What 'if'? : the emerging epistemic community of international criminal law
Citation: European journal of legal studies, 2019, [Vol. 12, SI. 1], pp. 49-90
External link: https://ejls.eui.eu/
Using international criminal law as a case study, this article aims to demonstrate how computer-assisted corpus linguistics combined with philosophy of law and sociology of science can help improve our understanding of legal knowledge and science. The article is built on a computer-driven corpus linguistic study of all judgements from the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) and the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) from 1996 to 2017. To our surprise, this study revealed that the frequency of the use of ‘ifs’ in all judgements had exhibited an almost perfectly steady annual decline – from 93 per 100,000 words on average in 1996 to 34 in 2017. As a linguistic phenomenon, this contradicts how we would expect language to behave. In the search for an explanation, we move from linguistics into the philosophical and sociological study of (legal) knowledge and science. In the most general terms, the explanation links the disappearing of ‘ifs’ to the emergence of international criminal law as a distinct specialized legal science, a separate sub-discipline constituted by a professionally shared corpus of knowledge – or of ‘a substantial body of jurisprudence on genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, as well as forms of individual and superior responsibility’, as the ICTR put it upon its closure.
Published online 31st January 2019 in cooperation with the Network of Empirical Legal Scholars
Type of Access: openAccess
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