456 - Meaning and Interpretation in Public and Private Law (2 hours)
With practicing lawyers in mind, this course not only explores meaning and interpretation of various constitutional and statutory provisions but also explores meaning and interpretation of contracts and other private law documents and instruments drawn from actual practice. Exploring interpretation and meaning of such real-world documents and instruments requires more than just studying canons of construction. It also requires exploring: (1) how legal language is a system of interrelated signs (an area of study called semiotics); (2) how various levels of legal meaning tie into or fail to tie into real-world experience (an area of study called semantics); (3) how speaker meaning can differ from literal meaning and what this means in actual practice (an area of study called pragmatics); (4) how linguistic success and failure can in large part turn on framing, categories, metaphors, and narratives lawyers wittingly or unwittingly use; and (5) how context in its various forms not only drives meaning but also determines any operative text itself. Facility in all these areas is essential to both litigation and transactional practice.