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The Nature of Legal InterpretationWhat Jurists Can Learn about Legal Interpretation from Linguistics and Philosophy$
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Brian G. Slocum

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780226445021

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: January 2018

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226445168.001.0001

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Legal Speech and the Elements of Adjudication

Legal Speech and the Elements of Adjudication

(p.191) Chapter Eight Legal Speech and the Elements of Adjudication
The Nature of Legal Interpretation

Nicholas Allott

Benjamin Shaer

University of Chicago Press

In this chapter, the authors seek to show that legal speech is best seen not as a radically distinct verbal phenomenon but rather as one variety of verbal interaction, albeit with various distinctive properties that follow from the institutional nature and goals of the legal domain. The authors first sketch a general picture of verbal communication as essentially inferential, drawing on recent work in linguistic pragmatics that takes its inspiration from the work of Paul Grice. The authors then focus on the complex activity of adjudication. The authors analyse adjudication in speech act terms as a “verdictive”, explaining how this act encompasses a number of sub-activities. In doing so, the authors pay particular attention to Endicott’s (2012) claims about the “interpretative” and “non-interpretative” aspects of judging. Significantly, the authors reject some specific claims of his regarding the “non-interpretative” nature of certain components of adjudication. The authors argue (i) that the general picture of verbal communication implies that understanding the speech act content of the law is an interpretative, inferential activity; and (ii) that a court creatively determining extensions of vague terms is also performing interpretation, if it is attempting to respect certain intentions of the legislature in doing so.

Keywords:   legal interpretation, Paul Grice, verdictive, statutory interpretation, interpretive, Endicott, adjudication, law and language

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