Dissertation
Dissertation > Language, writing > Linguistics > Semantics,pragmatics,lexicology, meaning school > Semantics, pragmatics

A Semantic and Pragmatic Approach to Legislative Vagueness

Author WangZuoDan
Tutor XinBin
School Nanjing Normal University
Course English Language and Literature
Keywords legislative vagueness semantic approach pragmatic approach
CLC H030
Type Master's thesis
Year 2011
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Vagueness is a universal phenomenon as well as an inborn, indispensable property of our language. The phenomenon of vagueness in language has attracted much attention since ancient Greek and many scholars have approached it from various perspectives and have given different definitions. However, the author gives his own working definition of vagueness for this thesis as any expression which has more than one possible interpretation and is characterized by indeterminacy, indefiniteness or uncertainty in meaning or scope. The reasons for vagueness in natural language are the nature of physical world, the limitation of human cognition as well as the limitation of natural language. Vagueness is then classified into semantic vagueness and pragmatic vagueness, which lays the foundation for our analysis of vagueness from both the semantic and pragmatic perspectives.Law, the demonstration of national power and the guarantee of social stability, is formulated, promulgated, interpreted and enforced through language; thus law and language are closely related. As for legislative vagueness, or vagueness in legislative language, most studies on vagueness in language have been oriented to ordinary language, and though there are a few scholars both abroad and at home have approached it from various angles, most of them carry out their study only from the legal perspective instead of from the linguistic, esp. from the semantic and pragmatic angles. Thus, as a matter of fact, semantic and pragmatic research on the legislative vagueness remains a comparatively unexplored area. Then the author analyzes legislative vagueness from both semantic and pragmatic perspectives, within the framework of different theories, and this thesis attempts to prove the prevalent existence of semantic and pragmatic vagueness in law. Through the analysis of causes of legislative vagueness, it concludes that legislative vagueness is an inherent and inseparable quality of law, playing an important role in the process of legislation. The author also briefly provides some suggestions on how to deal with legislative vagueness properly based on some analysis of its demerits, and concludes that we shall make legislative vagueness be an advantage to the uttermost rather than a handicap:A certain number of legislative vagueness which may play a positive and desirable role as an aid to the precision of law should be preserved, while legislative vagueness that acts as disturbance to the precision of the law should be eliminated, or if not possible, minimized.

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