Searching for Meaning in Law, Literature, and Language

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2006-05-03

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This paper presents a preliminary analysis of the potential application of literary theory and cognitive language theory to the law, specifically to the judicial process of statutory interpretation. The process of interpreting statutory text has long been the subject of a polarized debate in the law and has produced competing approaches for carrying out the task of meaning construction. Equally as intriguing as the merits of the debate itself, however, is the staunch reticence among members of the legal community to employ insights from other disciplines that have long grappled with similar debates over ways in which a written text acquires or is assigned meaning. Observations from literary theory and cognitive linguistic theory can be instructive in revealing the legal community's interpretive assumptions and in enriching the vocabulary of the legal debate.

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