Legal Speech and Implicit Content in the Law

Ratio Juris 29 (1):3-22 (2016)
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Abstract

Interpreting the content of the law is not limited to what a relevant lawmaker utters. This paper examines the extent to which implied and implicit content is part of the law, and specifically whether the Gricean concept of conversational implicature is relevant in determining the content of law. Recent work has focused on how this question relates to acts of legislation. This paper extends the analysis to case law and departs from the literature on several key issues. The paper's argument is based upon two points: Precedent-setting judicial opinions may consist of multiple conversations, of which some entail opposing implicata, and if a particular precedent-setting judicial opinion consists of multiple conversations, of which some entail opposing implicata, then no meaningful conversational implicatum is part of the content of that particular precedent-setting opinion. Nevertheless, the paper's conclusion leaves open the prospect of gleaning something in between conversational implicature and what is literally said, namely, conversational impliciture

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Luke William Hunt
University of Alabama

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