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A Corpus Approach to Roman Law Based on Justinian’s Digest

1
School of Law, University of Surrey, Guildford GU2 7XH, UK
2
Theoretical and Applied Linguistics, Faculty of Modern and Medieval Languages and Linguistics, University of Cambridge, Cambridge CB3 9DA, UK
3
The Alan Turing Institute, London NW1 2DB, UK
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 21 September 2020 / Revised: 11 October 2020 / Accepted: 13 October 2020 / Published: 15 October 2020
(This article belongs to the Section Digital Humanities)
Traditional philological methods in Roman legal scholarship such as close reading and strict juristic reasoning have analysed law in extraordinary detail. Such methods, however, have paid less attention to the empirical characteristics of legal texts and occasionally projected an abstract framework onto the sources. The paper presents a series of computer-assisted methods to open new frontiers of inquiry. Using a Python coding environment, we have built a relational database of the Latin text of the Digest, a historical sourcebook of Roman law compiled under the order of Emperor Justinian in 533 CE. Subsequently, we investigated the structure of Roman law by automatically clustering the sections of the Digest according to their linguistic profile. Finally, we explored the characteristics of Roman legal language according to the principles and methods of computational distributional semantics. Our research has discovered an empirical structure of Roman law which arises from the sources themselves and complements the dominant scholarly assumption that Roman law rests on abstract structures. By building and comparing Latin word embeddings models, we were also able to detect a semantic split in words with general and legal sense. These investigations point to a practical focus in Roman law which is consistent with the view that ancient law schools were more interested in training lawyers for practice rather than in philosophical neatness. View Full-Text
Keywords: Roman law; Digest; computational linguistics; corpus linguistics; clustering; distributional semantics; word embeddings; Python; Latin; LatinISE Roman law; Digest; computational linguistics; corpus linguistics; clustering; distributional semantics; word embeddings; Python; Latin; LatinISE
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MDPI and ACS Style

Ribary, M.; McGillivray, B. A Corpus Approach to Roman Law Based on Justinian’s Digest. Informatics 2020, 7, 44. https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/informatics7040044

AMA Style

Ribary M, McGillivray B. A Corpus Approach to Roman Law Based on Justinian’s Digest. Informatics. 2020; 7(4):44. https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/informatics7040044

Chicago/Turabian Style

Ribary, Marton; McGillivray, Barbara. 2020. "A Corpus Approach to Roman Law Based on Justinian’s Digest" Informatics 7, no. 4: 44. https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/informatics7040044

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