Clear ambiguity: the Interpretation of Plain Language in English Legal Judgments
Charnock, Ross (2006), Clear ambiguity: the Interpretation of Plain Language in English Legal Judgments, in Cacciaguidi-Fahy, Sophie; Wagner, Anne, Legal Language and the Search for Clarity: practice and tools, Peter Lang : Berne, p. 65-103
Book titleLegal Language and the Search for Clarity: practice and tools
Book authorCacciaguidi-Fahy, Sophie; Wagner, Anne
Number of pages493
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Abstract (EN)It is inevitable in a complex discipline, that expression should sometimes appear obscure. In the legal field it is agreed that such obscurity should be reduced to a minimum. However, the avoidance of (unnecessary) obscurity will not eliminate problems of interpretation. It is shown that problems of ambiguity may arise even where the language is clear. A study of celebrated English cases shows that common words are more ambiguous than specialised terms. It is argued that, because “what is said” is not determined (merely) by the words, but also depends on the context of discourse, there can be no purely literal meaning. Where the contextual features are unavailable or inadmissible, the sense may appear indeterminate. A consideration of the classical rules of legal construction as applied in common law judgments shows that although ambiguity is an integral part of the law, it may be seen not as a defect, but as an essential tool of adjudication.
Subjects / KeywordsLinguistique Droit
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