Copyright 1995 Washington University
Washington University Law Quarterly
INTRODUCTION: "WHAT IS MEANING IN A LEGAL TEXT?"
A FIRST DIALOGUE FOR LAW AND LINGUISTICS
73 Wash. U. L. Q. 771
JUDITH N. LEVI *
This Essay reviews the interdisciplinary events that led to the 1995 conference entitled, What is Meaning in a Legal Text? A Dialogue Among Scholars of Law and Linguistics. The transcribed proceedings of this conference form the core of this special issue of Washington University Law Quarterly. This Essay begins by describing the development of interest within linguistics over the last two decades in the language of legal processes, continues by tracing the evolution of the conference from a 1993 collaborative research project carried out by one law professor and three linguists, and concludes with some personal observations of the author on the benefits that linguists like herself stand to gain from further interdisciplinary efforts in this domain.
I. Prelude: Law And Linguistics Before 1993
We can attribute various birthdates to the discipline of linguistics, some going back into ancient history with others placed at diverse points in the last century or two. However, it is a fact beyond dispute that the discipline in the United States experienced extraordinary growth and unprecedented intellectual expansion following the publication in 1957 and 1965 of Noam Chomsky's two seminal works on transformational grammar, Syntactic Structures 1 and Aspects of the Theory of Syntax, 2 respectively. 3
The major thrust of the Chomskyan revolution was in theoretical linguistics, comprising those subfields of linguistics that focus on analyzing the structure and organization of the largely unconscious yet wondrously complex knowledge that humans have of their native language(s). These subfields correspond to ...
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