McGeorge School of Law

Inference, intention, and "ordinary meaning": What jurists can learn about legal interpretation from linguistics and philosophy


May 1, 2015

About the Symposium

The interpretation of legal texts is one of the fundamental duties of the judiciary. The standard by which legal texts are to be interpreted, though, is subject to differing views. For instance, should the communicative meaning of the text be decisive, or at least influential? If so, how is the communicative meaning determined? Is actual authorial intent decisive or should interpretation rely on objective determinants of meaning and eschew the decisiveness of authorial intent? If the communicative meaning of a text is not decisive, what should be the determinants of meaning? Should the answers to the above questions depend on the kind of legal text being interpreted?

One might expect that those who study language would have particular insights into many of the issues involved in legal interpretation. The conference will therefore consider the extent to which disciplines that study language can help shape views of legal interpretation. The conference will address the issues raised above, as well as others relating to legal interpretation.

Participants will include law professors with interdisciplinary interests in linguistics and philosophy as well as professors from linguistics and philosophy departments.

Reservations can be made by email: or by phone: 916.739.7316.

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