THE 6th INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE ON LAW, LANGUAGE AND DISCOURSE

The development of legal language and its interpretation: Linguistic and pragmatic aspects of the evolution of the synchronic understanding of legal texts

August 1-4, 2006, The University of Haifa, Israel

ABOUT THE LLD6 CONFERENCE

The Conference, the theme of which is “The development of legal language and its interpretation: Linguistic and pragmatic aspects of the evolution of the synchronic understanding of legal texts,” is taking place for the first time in the sunny Middle East (after China and Sweden). It affords the participants an opportunity to present, listen to and discuss, in plenary sessions and workshops, fundamental issues regarding this topic, in a global context, from the perspectives of several systems of law in different historical areas, including ancient systems of law (Chinese, Roman, etc.), religious law (Jewish, Christian, etc.), as well as modern Continental and common law.
The Conference also provides opportunities for the participants and accompanying persons to continue their discussions during the social activities of the Conference, which include visits to historical and traditional venues of Israel..

ABOUT THE LLD6 CONFERENCE’S THEME

The development of legal language and its interpretation; linguistic and pragmatic aspects of the evolution of the synchronic understanding of legal texts It is generally accepted by the public that the legal language spoken in court and written in legal documents is hard or even impossible to understand. Studies show that there are indeed some differences between ordinary and legal language (in particular, in vocabulary and in the complexity of syntax). However, besides the words used and their grammatical structure, legal language appears incoherent to the general public for another reason – not just because of what is said in this language, but also because of what is implied without saying: the professional legal knowledge that is presumed, as a rule, in legal texts. This knowledge is presented explicitly only rarely, but typical legal texts can be thoroughly understood only if legal knowledge is considered implicit in them.
At least since the publication of Charles Fillmore’s theory of Case Grammar, it is widely accepted (and is, in fact, the starting point of inferential pragmatics) that speakers present information implicitly quite regularly. Efficient speakers do not waste time on saying what their addressees already know or can easily infer – they imply it instead. Legal language is, in fact, the language used by legal professionals to communicate among themselves (for example, in court the parties’ attorneys address the judge and the judge addresses the judicial forum of any possible appeal). The speakers of legal discourse have reason to assume that their addressees – legal professionals – have all the relevant legal knowledge. Accordingly, they do not waste time on presenting it explicitly – rather, they imply it. The language used in legal discourse is therefore inevitably characterized by the implicit presentation of legal professional information.
What needs to be studied, then, is the type of legal information that is presented implicitly in certain types of legal text and the cues (textual or others) that can guide nonprofessional readers of these texts to obtain this information.

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Poster Program and Abstracts Schedule