Pragmatic Maxims and Presumptions in Legal Interpretation

Fabrizio Macagno, Douglas Walton, Giovanni Sartor

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Citations (Scopus)


The fields of linguistic pragmatics and legal interpretation are deeply interrelated. The purpose of this paper is to show how pragmatics and the developments in argumentation theory can contribute to the debate on legal interpretation. The relation between the pragmatic maxims and the presumptions underlying the legal canons are brought to light, unveiling the principles that underlie the types of argument usually used to justify a construction. The Gricean maxims and the arguments of legal interpretation are regarded as presumptions subject to default used to justify an interpretation. This approach can allow one to trace the different legal interpretive arguments back to their basic underlying presumptions, so that they can be compared, ordered, and assessed according to their defeasibility conditions. This approach allows one to understand the difference between various types of interpretive canons, and their strength in justifying an interpretation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)69-115
Number of pages47
JournalLaw and Philosophy
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2017


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