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NCJRS Abstract

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NCJ Number: 78461 Find in a Library
Title: Automated Retrieval of Information - Toward the Development of a Formal Language for Expressing Statutes
Date Published: 1979
Page Count: 14
Annotation: This article describes research activities to create formal languages for expressing statutes that can be used in automated response systems.
Abstract: A formal language that could record information would make possible certain automated inferential and communicative processes involving legal textual materials. The processes described are useful in creating artificial intelligence. This article first discussses methods for designing the infrastructure of a language, beginning with rules for constructing sentences based on precise definitional terms and semantic primitives. Rules for relating sentences to one another and a response strategy to accommodate queries written in the formal language are also examined. Reasons for choosing the statutory realm as the focus of language research are outlined, such as the formality of expressions used in statutes and their limited scope of coverage. The discussion regarding advantages of formal language over natural language expressions suggests that the artificial language could be used to draft statutes and would substantially increase the powers of an automated indexing system. Online retrieval systems for legal information are assessed, particularly TAXMAN which reportedly is capable of performing rudimentary forms of legal reasoning. Also reviewed are studies in the logical drafting of statutes which have produced extensive procedures for expressing statutory materials in conditional forms and removing areas of imprecision through the use of logical connectives. Based on this approach, a statute on illegal telephone calls is transformed into hierarchically structured sets of dependent conditions that can be expressed in the form of atomic expressions. A summary of a related project to develop language processing techniques for use in drafting statutes include a sequential list of research steps. Diagrams and approximately 40 footnotes are provided.
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