What Does the Law Say? Semantics and Pragmatics in Statutory Language

Analisi e diritto, Forthcoming

USC Law Legal Studies Paper No. 07-9

23 Pages Posted: 29 Aug 2007

See all articles by Andrei Marmor

Andrei Marmor

Cornell University - Law School


The content of communication in a given speech situation often goes beyond what the speaker has explicitly said. The main purpose of this essay is to explore this aspect of linguistic communication in the legal context. The paper begins with a general outline of the dividing lines between semantics and pragmatics, laying out the main distinctions that need to be employed. Next, the paper suggests that the pragmatic aspects of statutory language differ in some important ways from the pragmatics of an ordinary conversation. The paper explains some of these differences which make the understanding of legal language somewhat problematic. Finally, the paper points toward some solutions, based on the distinction between content that is semantically implicated by an utterance and content that is implicated conversationally.

Suggested Citation

Marmor, Andrei, What Does the Law Say? Semantics and Pragmatics in Statutory Language. Analisi e diritto, Forthcoming; USC Law Legal Studies Paper No. 07-9. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1009622

Andrei Marmor (Contact Author)

Cornell University - Law School ( email )

Myron Taylor Hall
Cornell University
Ithaca, NY 14853-4901
United States

HOME PAGE: http://www.lawschool.cornell.edu/faculty/bio_andrei_marmor.cfm

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