Reading Semiotics

  • Jan M. BroekmanEmail author
  • Larry Catá Backer


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.


Deep Structure Legal Theory Legal Text Legal Practice Legal Discourse 
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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Dickinson School of LawPenn State UniversityCarlisleUSA
  2. 2.Departments of Law and International AffairsPenn State UniversityUniversity ParkUSA

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