On the interpretation of allusions and other innuendo meanings in libel actions: the value of semantic and pragmatic evidence.

Durant, Alan (1996) On the interpretation of allusions and other innuendo meanings in libel actions: the value of semantic and pragmatic evidence. International Journal of Speech Language and the Law, 3 (2). pp. 195-210. ISSN 1748-8885

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Abstract

Allusions and other cultural references are problematic in defamation actions. This paper presents an account of linguistic evidence concerning a contested expression, ‘economical with the truth’, whose origins as a quotation, coupled with more recent general currency, present an important interpretive challenge. Distinction between idiomatic use and more specialised allusion can be crucial in libel litigation, in that qualification is allowed to the ‘ordinary reader’ test only in respect of so-called ‘innuendo’ meanings (or meanings available only to a sub-set readership with relevant, specialised knowledge). Discussion of semantic and pragmatic evidence suggests that linguists can valuably narrow the scope of plausible interpretation. Linguistic analysis can also contribute to understanding of both the ‘ordinary reader’ and ‘innuendo’ tests of meaning. Generalising from the case under discussion, the author comments on established methods for attributing meanings (and responsibility from meaning) in English libel law, and describes emergent tendencies in the related fields of forensic linguistics and critical legal studies.

Item Type:Article
Additional Information:

Founded in 1994 as 'Forensic Linguistics', ISSN 1350-1771, the journal changed to its present title in 2003.

Research Areas:School of Media and Performing Arts > Media > English Language and Literature
ID Code:8168
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Deposited On:07 Oct 2011 07:39
Last Modified:20 Jul 2014 01:11

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