Klapper, Schmidt and Tarantola, ‘Ordinary Meaning from Ordinary People’

Ordinary meaning has an extraordinary impact. Across virtually every field of law, statutory interpretation battles of enormous consequence hinge on what judges perceive to be the ‘ordinary meaning’ of law’s words and phrases – how an ordinary person would interpret a provision. In making that determination, judges across the ideological spectrum reach far and wide for sources of authority – invoking not only their own intuition, but insight from newspapers, literature, film, dictionaries, linguistic corpora, and even Dr. Seuss. It seems that everyone has been consulted in the search for ordinary meaning – everyone, that is, except for ordinary people. This Article begins to remedy that oversight. We offer the first account of ordinary meaning grounded in its source: ordinary people …

Klapper, Shlomo and Schmidt, Soren and Tarantola, Tor, Ordinary Meaning from Ordinary People (February 3, 2020).

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