[lg policy] Webster's lays down the law

Dennis Baron debaron at ILLINOIS.EDU
Thu Jun 16 02:09:39 UTC 2011


There's a new post on the Web of Language: http://t.co/pCtFkzn

Webster's lays down the law.

The Supreme Court is using dictionaries to interpret the Constitution. Both conservative justices, who believe the Constitution means today exactly what the Framers meant in the 18th century, and liberal ones, who see the Constitution as a living, breathing document changing with the times, are turning to dictionaries more than ever to interpret our laws: a new report shows that the justices have looked up almost 300 words or phrases in the past decade. According to the New York Times, last week alone Chief Justice Roberts consulted five dictionaries.

Even though judicial dictionary look-ups are on the rise, the Court has never commented on how or why dictionary definitions play a role in Constitutional decisions. That’s further complicated by the fact that dictionaries aren’t designed to be legal authorities, or even authorities on language, though many people, including the justices of the Supreme Court, think of them that way. What dictionaries are, instead, are records of how some speakers and writers have used words. Dictionaries don’t include all the words there are, and except for an occasional usage note, they don’t tell us what to do with the words they do record. Although we often say, “The dictionary says…,” there are many dictionaries, and they don’t always agree.


Read all about it on The Web of Language http://t.co/pCtFkzn


____________________
Dennis Baron
Professor of English and Linguistics
Department of English                    
University of Illinois 
608 S. Wright St.
Urbana, IL 61801                                               

office: 217-244-0568
fax: 217-333-4321

http://www.illinois.edu/goto/debaron

read the Web of Language:
http://www.illinois.edu/goto/weboflanguage








-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL: <http://listserv.linguistlist.org/pipermail/lgpolicy-list/attachments/20110615/bba581e1/attachment.html>
-------------- next part --------------
_______________________________________________
This message came to you by way of the lgpolicy-list mailing list
lgpolicy-list at groups.sas.upenn.edu
To manage your subscription unsubscribe, or arrange digest format: https://groups.sas.upenn.edu/mailman/listinfo/lgpolicy-list


More information about the Lgpolicy-list mailing list