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On the Possibility of Non-literal Legislative Speech

Asgeirsson, H (2016) On the Possibility of Non-literal Legislative Speech In: Pragmatics and Law. Perspectives in Pragmatics, Philosophy & Psychology, 10 . Springer International Publishing. ISBN 978-3-319-44599-1

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Abstract

The existing literature on indeterminacy in the law focuses mostly on the use of vague terms in legislation – terms the use of which makes the content of the relevant utterance to some extent indeterminate. As I aim to show, however, not only is the content of a legislative utterance often indeterminate, it is often indeterminate what the content of such an utterance is. In the second and third section of the chapter, I discuss in some detail the conditions for successful non-literal speech and address the question whether these conditions are satisfied in the legal context. I argue that due to the fact that legislative contexts generally contain little unequivocal information about legislative intent, interpreters are typically not warranted in taking the legislature to have intended to communicate something non-literal. In the fourth section, I consider what I take to be the strongest case against my argument: the wealth of actual cases in which the courts have taken the content of the law to be something other than its literal content, seemingly based on relatively straightforward inferences about the legislature’s communicative intentions. As I hope to show, however, very few of these cases are as straightforward as they appear to be. In the fifth, and final section, I argue that the argument from sections two and three has important consequences for the extent to which we should take the content of the law to be determinate. This has significant implications for the analysis of a number of important but controversial legal cases, which I discuss in some detail.

Item Type: Book Section
Subjects : Law
Divisions : Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences > School of Law
Authors :
NameEmailORCID
Asgeirsson, HUNSPECIFIEDUNSPECIFIED
Date : 2 December 2016
Identification Number : 10.1007/978-3-319-44601-1_4
Copyright Disclaimer : © 2017 Springer International Publishing
Uncontrolled Keywords : Linguistic communication, Non-literal speech, Pragmatics, Legal directives, Legal interpretation, Legislative intent, Linguistic indeterminacy, Legal indeterminacy
Depositing User : Symplectic Elements
Date Deposited : 03 Feb 2017 15:04
Last Modified : 31 Oct 2017 19:06
URI: http://epubs.surrey.ac.uk/id/eprint/813451

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