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Macmillan Higher Education Palgrave Higher Education

Word Meaning and Legal Interpretation

An Introductory Guide

ISBN 9781137016140
Publication Date March 2014
Formats Paperback Ebook (PDF) 
Publisher Palgrave Macmillan

This textbook offers a concise introduction to key concepts in the study of meaning and interpretation taken from linguistics, philosophy and the law. A range of actual cases that involve ordinary words, commonsense categories and problems of classification are explored and clearly explained for readers who want to learn more but lack the legal background.

Word Meaning and Legal Interpretation:
• provides a strong sense of the texture of legal problems
• includes detailed summaries and analyses of cases from common law jurisdictions
• equips the reader for more advanced studies in language and the law, legal theory and legal interpretation

This is an ideal primer for language and law, forensic linguistics and applied linguistics students who wish to explore this fascinating field.

Christopher Hutton is Chair Professor in the School of English at the University of Hong Kong.

Note on Conventions
Introduction: Scope and Aims of the Book
1. Linguistic Meaning
2. Word Meaning and Interpretation in the Law
3. Ordinary Language and Legal Language
4. Classification and Legislative Intent
5. Characterizing an Event
6. The Classification of Mundane Objects I: Food Items in United Kingdom Tax Law
7. The Classification of Mundane Objects II: Cases from the United States
8. Technological Change and Legal Categories
9. Lawful and Unlawful Searches
10. Colonial Encounters: What is a Sacred Object?
11. Defining Identity I: Job or Profession
12. Defining Identity II: Nation, People and Race
13. Defining Identity III: Transgender Identities
14. Defining Identity IV: Corporate Personhood
15. Word Meaning and Interpretative Authority
Cases Cited


'Framed as an introduction, Hutton's book is much more than that. It is a masterpiece of lucidity in telling the stories of classic legal disputes over meaning from the US, Hong Kong, the UK and India, and associating each dispute with the linguistic dilemma that caused the disagreement and the legal culture that resolved it. For those who care about the law, the human mind, or both, it is a wonderful book to read.' Lawrence M. Solan, Brooklyn Law School, USA
'An authoritative and lively commentary on the range of considerations (including linguistics and lexicology, philosophy of language, ethics, sociology, and matters of policy) which bear on judges' efforts to be inspectably fair and reasonable in their descriptions (hence their classification) of particular contentious things and acts. Enlivened by a range of fascinating case-studies. Invaluable for students and practitioners of the law, but an intellectual feast also for anyone interested in grappling with the interpretive difficulties - which simply cannot be left intractable and unresolved, however suspect the decision may be - that senior judges face.' Michael Toolan, University of Birmingham, UK
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