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Ordinary MeaningA Theory of the Most Fundamental Principle of Legal Interpretation$
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Brian G. Slocum

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780226304854

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: May 2016

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226304991.001.0001

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Hypothetical Intentionalism and Communicative Content

Hypothetical Intentionalism and Communicative Content

(p.36) Chapter Two Hypothetical Intentionalism and Communicative Content
Ordinary Meaning

Brian G. Slocum

University of Chicago Press

Chapter Two develops the claim that the interpretation of legal texts must necessarily be a hypothetical exercise with significant reliance on conventions of language, which largely constitute the ordinary meaning doctrine. In establishing this position, particular attention is given to the claims of intentionalists regarding language and meaning. As any definition of ordinary meaning is only coherent in light of some definition of the overall communicative meaning of a text, a proper view of communicative meaning should first be identified before arguments regarding the determinants of ordinary meaning are explored. At the same time, though, just as a chosen definition of communicative meaning should entail, or at least suggest, certain conclusions regarding whether various determinants of meaning are required or prohibited in the interpretive process, the nature of the interpretive process and the availability or unavailability of determinants of meaning may influence conclusions about definitions of communicative meaning. The relationship between the definition of meaning (both communicative and ordinary) and the determinants of meaning is therefore a mutually informative one. The constitutive and evidential aspects of ordinary meaning are informed by the possible definitions of communicative meaning, as well as certain understandings of the nature of meaning, language, and interpretation.

Keywords:   legal texts, intentionalism, communicative meaning, ordinary meaning, interpretive process

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