Category Archives: Interpretation

Gries and Slocum, ‘Ordinary Meaning and Corpus Linguistics’

Abstract This paper demonstrates how corpus analysis, and similar empirically-based methods of language study, can help inform judicial assessments about language meaning. We first briefly outline our view of legal language and interpretation in order to demonstrate the importance of the ordinary meaning doctrine, and thus the relevance of tools such as corpus analysis, to […]

Martin Kelly, ‘Mixed-up Wills, Rectification and Interpretation: Marley v. Rawlings

Abstract In Marley v Rawlings, the UK Supreme Court had to decide who should inherit the estate of Alfred Rawlings – who had mistakenly signed his wife’s Will (instead of his own). In this article, I will examine the issues of interpretative methodology arising from this case. The Supreme Court resolved the dispute by exercising […]

Hugh Davis, ‘The Problems with Amann: Would an Agreement-Centred Approach to Remoteness Benefit Australian Jurisprudence?’

Abstract The agreement-centred approach to assessing damages for breach of contract formulated by Lord Hoffmann in The Achilleas dovetails neatly with the modern approach to contractual interpretation. In this paper, I will seek to analyse and expose what I respectfully submit are shortcomings in the joint judgment of Mason and Dawson JJ in Amann and […]

Gerard McMeel, ‘Foucault’s Pendulum: Text, Context and Good Faith in Contract Law’

Abstract: Recent developments in the construction of contracts have favoured a more literal approach to contractual language, and been hostile to the implication of words to fill perceived gaps in professionally drawn contracts. At the same time there has been renewed interest in the role of good faith in contract law. Until very recently the […]

Jonathan Sumption, ‘A question of taste: the Supreme Court and the interpretation of contracts’

Abstract: This is the text of the inaugural Farquharson Lecture, delivered at Keble College, Oxford, on 8 May 2017. These Lectures were established by the Harris Society, the law society at Keble College, in honour of The Rt Hon Sir Donald Farquharson, an Old Member and Honorary Fellow of the College who served as a […]

Carter and Courtney, ‘Unexpressed Intention and Contract Construction’

Abstract: Many contract disputes concern issues of unexpressed intention: the express terms of the contract do not directly answer the particular question raised by the circumstances.  In this article we argue that there are different bases for resolving such issues in the law of contract and we present a hierarchical framework for understanding their interaction. […]

Andrew Gold, ‘Interpreting Fiduciary Law’

Abstract: Although there are exceptions, fiduciary theory has paid limited attention to interpretive methodology. Yet methodology matters, and the distinctive features of fiduciary law offer insights for interpreting private law more generally. Private law theorists commonly assess interpretive theories against a range of criteria, including: fit, coherence, morality, and transparency. I will suggest that fiduciary […]

‘Philosophy of Language and Legal Interpretation’

Brian G Slocum, Pragmatics and Legal Texts: How Best to Account for the Gaps between Literal Meaning and Communicative Meaning, in The Pragmatic Turn in Law: Inference and Interpretation in Legal Discourse (Mouton Series of Pragmatics, forthcoming 2017), available at SSRN. Law is pervasively interested in the proper understanding and application of texts: contracts, wills, […]

Andreas Blank, ‘Common usage, presumption and verisimilitude in sixteenth-century theories of juridical interpretation’

Abstract: The question of how common usage could be constitutive for the meaning of linguistic expressions has been discussed by Renaissance philosophers such as Lorenzo Valla, and it also played an important role in Renaissance theories of juridical interpretation. An aspect of the analysis of common usage in Renaissance theories of juridical interpretation that concerns […]

Jonathan Sumption, ‘A Question of Taste: The Supreme Court and the Interpretation of Contracts’

“Judges are fond of speculating about the motives and practices of businessmen in drafting contracts. It is a luxurious occupation. The rules of admissibility protect them from the uncomfortable experience of being confronted by actual facts. So, I propose to open my remarks this evening with a case study. On 6 February 1663, Samuel Pepys […]