Reading semiotics

Jan M. Broekman, Larry Catá Backer

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

3 Scopus citations


A text has, not unlike a word, never one meaning and in particular never one forever fixated meaning, as lawyers experience often against their desire when they would like to find an “originalist” ground for their determination of text-meanings in law. Reading legal texts in the semiotic mode is reading sign meanings in connection with their social function, and, what is more: reading the sign whilst it unfolds into a diversity of meanings. To understand a text as an (social) action seems a risk. How can laws, conceived in the form of texts, ever be an act rather than a norm for action? The answer is, that speech not only creates communication and information but also a horizon of expectation and activity within which social acts unfold. A legal text is a hierarchically organized intentional unit of written speech acts, which is not arbitrarily composed but constructed for a social and political purpose, constituting a presence and function of law in society. Such texts are composites and surfaces made for a specific reception-situation dominated by for example the court, the judge's decision, or the concept of precedent.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationSigns in Law - A Source Book
Subtitle of host publicationThe Semiotics of Law in Legal Education III
PublisherSpringer International Publishing
Number of pages18
ISBN (Electronic)9783319098371
ISBN (Print)9783319098364
StatePublished - Jan 1 2015

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Social Sciences
  • General Arts and Humanities
  • General Psychology


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