Chapter

The Semiotics of Law, Language and Money

Christopher Hutton

in Language, Meaning and the Law

Published by Edinburgh University Press

Published in print January 2009 | ISBN: 9780748633500
Published online September 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780748671489 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.3366/edinburgh/9780748633500.003.0015
The Semiotics of Law, Language and Money

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This chapter explores analogies between the law, the circulation of money and the circulation of linguistic signs. Theories of modernity (Simmel) see money as the universal measure of value; law also has this role, and requires that language provide a set of labels. This leads to an interplay between foreground and background, whereby some aspects of a case are held fixed, so that others can be interpreted in the light of the facts of the case itself. Language is required to play both these roles. It is required to provide an external and reliable frame of reference, yet in many cases it is also at the heart of the interpretative uncertainties. The distinction between ordinary language and legal language is thus highly unstable and reflects the interpretive dilemma of particular cases. Law appeals to fictions but also monitors and on occasion undermines its own fictions.

Keywords: Circulation; Foreground; Background; Georg Simmel; Legal fiction; Interpretation

Chapter.  4000 words. 

Subjects: Language Teaching and Learning

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