Publication details [#67367]

Publication type
Article in book
Publication language


Reconstructing the meaning of a text is a complex operation, involving linguistic, situational, inter-textual, cognitive, cultural, and ideological parameters. Due to a well-known polarization in contemporary linguistic theory, the interpretation process spans between an abstract “linguistic” meaning and a concrete “communicative” meaning. The former is the result of combining the meanings of the lexical units following the rules of syntax and punctuation, while the latter results from inferential processes, where linguistic meaning is taken as a point of departure and enriched with further information. The distinction between linguistic and communicative meaning maps onto the boundary between semantics and pragmatics, which can be seen as the conventional meaning of linguistic units vs. the meaning inferred through the interaction of linguistic meaning with context (Hansen 2008: 12ff.; Visconti 2014: 247ff.). This chapter focuses on court decisions, a type of text in which the interplay between semantics and pragmatics is particularly striking. It will investigate the way in which the interpreter, i.e. the judge, takes the linguistic meaning as an input (a set of instructions) and enriches it with further information by means of prepositions or connectives, which are often neglected in the legal literature, despite playing a crucial role in steering the interpretation.