Lawyers using dictionaries: a guide

Terrence R. Carney, of the University of South Africa, has published Linguistics for Legal Translation (thanks to Juliette Scott in her From Words to Deeds blog). The book can be downloaded free of charge as a PDF.

The book is intended not for scholars of linguistics but for legal practitioners.

The focus is statutory interpretation, though constitutional interpreters and interpreters of contracts might also gain from this text. Furthermore, I wrote the book specifically for those who must clarify lexical semantic and pragmatic meaning contested in case law, but who have no official training in linguistics or language studies. More precisely, the book aims at providing a resource for those who attempt forensic lexicological investigations in order to resolve legal disputes.

The book has a particular interest in the use of dicionaries and legal corpora. It is rather strange to read case reports where judges alight on a particular dictionary – whether monolingual or bilingual – and treat it as gospel. So one may hope that some of them come across this book and have time to read it.


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