Assessing the dynamic character of legal terms

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Published May 31, 2017
Jan Engberg


In this article, a method for establishing hypotheses about the structure and content of expert knowledge as a basis for meaning construction in the field of legal discourse is presented. In the same way as in other fields of human linguistic meaning, a full picture of the actual complexity of meaning as it emerges in communicative situations presupposes the combination of an individual and a collective perspective on meaning. More specifically, meaning construction is performed by individuals on the basis of their individual knowledge base, at the same time as the process is inherently collective in order for it to be communicatively efficient. The method presented in this article chooses to give priority to the individual perspective, but also contains options for taking the collective perspective by aggregating individual results. The article starts out by discussing some of the basic issues of the methodological problem at hand. The concept from US law analyzed here (criminal liability of corporations) is described, as well as the chosen unit of description (i.e., Matrix Frame), is presented in some detail and used for a practical analysis of the concept. The article finally situates the presented method on three scales that are relevant for assessing its scope.

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Engberg, Jan. 2017. “Assessing the Dynamic Character of Legal Terms”. Fachsprache 31 (3-4):126-38.
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