Insult in Context: Incorporating Speech Act Theory in Doctrinal Legal Analysis of Interpretative Discussions

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Abstract

In this article, I want to show that some doctrinal problems of legal interpretation and argumentation can be analysed in a more precise way than a standard doctrinal analysis, when we use insights from speech act theory and argumentation theory. Taking a discussion about the accusation of the criminal act insulting as a starting point, I will try to show that the doctrinal perspective on meaning of statutory norms and of the qualification of utterances as legal acts lacks the instruments to explain why discussions about these meanings and utterances are so complicated. In short, a doctrinal analysis focuses on word or sentence meaning, distinguishing between the literal or semantic meaning on the one hand and the meaning in context on the other. However, the analysis of this ‘meaning in context’ is often rather vague, especially in cases of indirect and strategic communication. It is the analysis of this meaning in context that can profit from insights from speech act theory. I do not want to ‘solve’ the problems of the interpretation of the norms concerning insulting. I only use this case in point as an exemplary example to discuss important (often implicit doctrinal) starting points about the related concepts meaning and intention (or commitment) in interpretative discussions
Original languageEnglish
Article number5
Pages (from-to)123-129
Number of pages7
JournalErasmus Law Review
Volume2015
Issue number3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 3 Mar 2016

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