When Lawyers Are More Logical Than Ordinary Speakers and When They Are Not: An Empirical Enquiry into Laypersons' and Legal Experts' Understanding of Pragmatic Meanings
There is currently underway a wide debate on the nature of legal interpretation. At issue, in particular, is whether legal interpretation is a form of communication that can be assimilated to ordinary communication or whether it is marked by an irreducible specificity. One aspect of this debate concerns pragmatic meanings, i.e., meanings which are not expressed by the semantic content of legal provisions, but which can be grasped through pragmatic inferences. According to some authors, legal experts do not ordinarily rely on such meanings, or, better to say, they do not rely on them as routinely as ordinary speakers do. In order to test the hypothesis that legal experts are less prone to rely on pragmatic meanings, we have designed a pilot experiment comparing the way in which pragmatic meaning factors into the way people with legal training at university level (target group) and people with nonlegal training at university level (control group) interpret both nonlegal (ordinary) sentences and legal texts. Our findings show that a legal education does not make one any less inclined to attribute pragmatic meanings to legal texts. This suggests that legal experts conceive of legal interpretation as a form of communication, not significantly different from ordinary interpretation. What this also seems to suggest is that pragmatic theories of ordinary meaning can be useful in explaining and predicting the ways in which legal texts are interpreted.
Cite as: Domaneschi, Poggi & Marocchini, JLL 11 (2022), 121–141, DOI: 10.14762/jll.2022.121
legal interpretation, experimental jurisprudence, legal pragmatics, literal interpretation
- Asgeirsson, Hrafn (2017). On the Possibility of Non-literal Legislative Speech. In Capone & Poggi (Eds.), Pragmatics and Law. Philosophical Perspectives (pp. 67–101). Cham: Springer.
- Baude, William & Sachs, Stephen E. (2017). The law of interpretation. Harvard Law Journal, 130, 1081–1147.
- Börjesson, Kristin (2014). Semantics-Pragmatics Controversy. Berlin/Boston: De Gruyter.
- Borg, Emma (2012). Semantics without pragmatics? In Allan & Jaszczolt (Eds.), The Cambridge Handbook of Pragmatics (pp. 113–128). Cambridge: University Press.
- Borg, Emma (2019). Explanatory Roles for Minimal Content. Nous, 53, 513–539.
- Carston, Robyn (2013). Legal Texts and Canons of Construction: A View from Current Pragmatic Theory. In Freeman & Smith (Eds.), Law and language: current legal issues, 15, (pp. 8–33). Oxford: University Press. DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199673667.003.0010.
- Chiassoni, Pierluigi (1999). Interpretative Games: Statutory Construction Through Gricean Eyes. Analisi e diritto, 79–99.
- Ekins, Richard (2012). The nature of legislative intent. Oxford: University Press.
- Farnsworth, Ward, Guzior, Dustin F. & Malani, Anup (2011). Implicit Bias in Legal Interpretation. Chicago Unbound, John M. Olin Program in Law and Economics Working Paper No. 577.
- Gibbs, Raymond W. Jr. (1984). Literal meaning and psychological theory. Cognitive Science, 8(3), 275–304. DOI: 10.1207/s15516709cog0803_4.
- Gibbs, Raymond W. Jr. (1994). The poetics of mind: Figurative thought, language, and understanding. Cambridge: University Press.
- Gibbs, Raymond W. Jr. (1999). Speaker’s intuitions and pragmatic theory. Cognition, 69, 355–359. DOI: 10.1016/S0010-0277(98)00071-7.
- Gibbs, Raymond W. Jr. (2002). A new look at literal meaning in understanding what is said and implicated. Journal of Pragmatics, 34(4), 457–486. 10.1016/S0378-2166(01)00046-7.
- Grice, Paul H. (1989). Studies in the Way of Words. Cambridge/London: Harvard University Press.
- Guastini, Riccardo (2011). Rule-Scepticism Restated. In Green & Leiter (Eds.), Oxford Studies in Philosophy of Law (pp. 138–161). Oxford: University Press.
- Jamieson, Susan (2004). Likert scales: how to (ab)use them. Medical education, 38(12), 1217–1218. DOI: 10.1111/j.1365-2929.2004.02012.x.
- Knobe, Joshua & Shapiro, Scott J. (2021). Proximate cause explained: An essay in experimental jurisprudence. University of Chicago Law Review, 75, 409–431.
- Macagno, Fabrizio, Walton, Douglas & Sartor, Giovanni (2018). Pragmatic maxims and presuppositions in legal interpretation. Law and Philosophy, 37, 69–115.
- Marmor, Andrei (2007). What does the law say? Semantics and pragmatics in statutory language. Analisi e diritto, 127–140. Available at papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1009622 (accessed 21 December 2022).
- Marmor, Andrei (2011). Can law imply more than it says? On some pragmatic aspects of strategic speech. In Marmor & Soames (Eds.), Philosophical foundations of the language in the law (pp. 83–104). Oxford: University Press.
- Miller, Geoffrey P. (1990). Pragmatics and the maxims of interpretation. Wisconsin Law Review, 1990(2), 1179–1227.
- Molot, Jonathan T. (2006). The Rise and Fall of Textualism. Columbia Law Review, 106(1), 1–69. Available at jstor.org/stable/4099460?seq=69#metadata_info_tab_contents (accessed 21 December 2022).
- Morra, Lucia (2015). Conversational Implicatures in Normative Texts. In Capone & Mey (Eds.), Interdisciplinary Studies in Pragmatics, Culture and Society (pp. 537–562). Cham: Springer. DOI: 10.1007/978-3-319-12616-6_21.
- Morra, Lucia (2016). Widening the Gricean Picture to Strategic Exchanges. In Capone & Poggi (Eds.), Pragmatics and Law. Philosophical Perspectives (pp. 201–229). Cham: Springer. DOI: 10.1007/978-3-319-30385-7_10.
- Nelson, Caleb (2005). What is textualism. Virginia Law Review 91(2): 347–418. Available at jstor.org/stable/3649427#metadata_info_tab_contents (accessed 21 December 2022).
- Pirker, Benedikt, Skoczén, Izabela & Fikfak, Veronika (forthcoming). Experimental Jurisprudence in International Law. In Tobia (Ed.), Cambridge Handbook of experimental Jurisprudence. Cambridge: University press. DOI: 10.13140/RG.2.2.25049.19042.
- Pirker, Benedikt & Smolka, Jennifer (2017). Making Interpretation More Explicit: International Law and Pragmatics. Nordic Journal of International Law 86, 228–266. DOI: 10.1163/15718107-08602004.
- Pirker, Benedikt & Smolka, Jennifer (2018). International Law, Pragmatics and the Distinction between Conceptual and Procedural Meaning. International Journal of Law and Language, 7, 117–141. DOI: 10.2139/ssrn.3230954.
- Pirker, Benedikt & Smolka, Jennifer (2019). The Future of International Law is Cognitive. German Law Journal, 20(4), 430–448. DOI: 10.1017/glj.2019.30.
- Poggi, Francesca (2011). Law and Conversational Implicatures. International Journal for Semiotics of Law, 24(1), 21–40. DOI: 10.1007/s11196-010-9201-x.
- Poggi, Francesca (2018). Conversational implicatures and legal interpretation. On the difference between conversational maxims and legal interpretative criteria. Analisi e diritto, 18(2), 39–66.
- Poggi, Francesca (2020a). Il modello conversazionale. Pisa: ETS.
- Poggi, Francesca (2020b). Review Article of Implicatures Within Legal Language by Izabela Skoczeń (Springer 2019). International Journal for the Semiotics of Law, 33(4), 1199–1205. DOI: 10.1007/s11196-020-09729-2.
- Prochownik, Karolina M. (2021). The experimental philosophy of law: New ways, old questions, and how not to get lost. Philosophy Compass, 16(12), e12791. DOI: 10.1111/phc3.12791.
- Raz, Joseph (2009). Between Authority and Interpretation. Oxford: University Press.
- Sbisà, Marina (2017). Implicitness in Normative Texts. In Poggi & Capone (Eds.), Pragmatics and Law. Practical and Theoretical Perspectives (pp. 23–42). Cham: Springer. DOI: 10.1007/978-3-319-44601-1_2.
- Skoczén, Izabella (2019). Implicatures within legal language. Dordrecht: Springer.
- Slocum, Brian G. (2016). Conversational Implicatures and Legal Texts. Ratio Juris, 29, 23–43.
- Sinclair, M. B.W. (1985). Law and language. The role of pragmatics in statutory interpretation. University of Pittsburgh Law Review, 46, 373–420. Available at repository.law.indiana.edu/facpub/2262?utm_source =www.repository.law.indiana.edu%2Ffacpub%2F2262&utm_medium=PDF&utm_campaign=PDFCoverPages (accessed 21 December 2022).
- Struchiner, Noel, Hannikainen, Ivar R. & Almeida, Guilherme (2020). An experimental guide to vehicles in the park. Judgements and Decision Making 15(3), 312–329. Available at papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=3576159 (accessed 21 December 2022).
- Sullivan, Gail M. & Artino, Anthony R. Jr. (2013). Analyzing and interpreting data from likert-type scales. Journal of graduate medical education, 5(4), 541–542. DOI: 10.4300/JGME-5-4-18.
- Sunstein, Cass R. (2015). There is nothing that interpretation just is. Constitutional Commentary, 30, 193–212. DOI: 10.2139/ssrn.2489088.
- Tobia, Kevin P. (2020). Testing ordinary meaning. Harward Law Review, 134(2), 726–806. Available at harvardlawreview.org/2020/12/testing-ordinary-meaning/ (accessed 21 December 2022).
- Troper, Michel (1999). Una teoria realista dell’interpretazione. Materiali per una storia della cultura giuridica 29, 473–493. DOI: rivisteweb.it/doi/10.1436/6738.