Brian G. Slocum, McGeorge School of Law, is publishing Introduction: The Nature of Legal Interpretation: What Jurists Can Learn about Legal Interpretation from Linguistics and Philosophy in The Nature of Legal Interpretation: What Jurists Can Learn About Legal Interpretation From Linguistics and Philosophy (University of Chicago Press, 2017). Here is the abstract.
Language shapes and reflects how we think about the world. It engages and intrigues us. Our everyday use of language is quite effortless — we are all experts on our native tongues. Despite this, issues of language and meaning have long flummoxed the judges on whom we depend for the interpretation of our most fundamental legal texts. Should a judge feel confident in defining common words in the texts without the aid of a linguist? How is the meaning communicated by the text determined? Should the communicative meaning of texts be decisive, or at least influential? To fully engage and probe these questions of interpretation, this volume draws upon a variety of experts from several fields, who collectively examine the interpretation of legal texts. In The Nature of Legal Interpretation, the contributors argue that the meaning of language is crucial to the interpretation of legal texts, such as statutes, constitutions, and contracts. Accordingly, expert analysis of language from linguists, philosophers, and legal scholars should influence how courts interpret legal texts. Offering insightful new interdisciplinary perspectives on originalism and legal interpretation, these essays put forth a significant and provocative discussion of how best to characterize the nature of language in legal texts.Download the essay from SSRN at the link.