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Identifying the meanings hidden in legal texts: The three conditions of relevance theory and their sufficiency

  • Sol Azuelos-Atias EMAIL logo
From the journal Semiotica


I present a tool of interpretation that can be applied to legal texts. The tool is intended for people who wish to make sure that they thoroughly understand a certain text – including the meanings hidden between its lines in general, and in particular for legal laypersons who wish to make sure that they thoroughly understand a legal text.

I have developed this tool of interpretation from the relevance-theoretic communicative principle of relevance; I will show that the tool supplies a general method of demonstrating that certain meanings (including meta-forms, implications, and socio-semiotic meanings) are hidden in a communicated text. According to relevance theory, the interpretation accepted by the addressees of a spoken utterance reconstructs the speaker’s meaning; the tool of interpretation enables other recipients of the utterance’s text to identify the addressee’s interpretation. This tool consists of three conditions that function as a criterion of correctness of interpretations in the following sense: if an interpretation meets the three conditions then it is the addressee’s interpretation – the interpretation that reconstructs the meanings the text’s producer intended to convey, whether these meanings were presented explicitly or not.


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Published Online: 2016-1-23
Published in Print: 2016-3-1

©2016 by De Gruyter Mouton

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