The problem of definition has a long history and has engaged the minds of some of the most eminent thinkers in the Western tradition, from Plato and Aristotle onwards. But it is also an everyday problem constantly confronting all who have to draft or interpret the countless texts on which modern society depends. Definition in Theory and Practice focuses on two areas where difficulties arise in a particularly acute form: lexicography and the law. Examining a wide range of approaches and definitional techniques, backed up by detailed analyses of dictionary entries and court cases, the authors provide a comprehensive survey of their subject. They argue that what underlies the problem of definition are conflicting assumptions about the way language functions. This in-depth study of definition will be of interest to academics researching lexicography, semantics and the intersection of linguistics and jurisprudence.
Roy Harris is Emeritus Professor of General Linguistics in the University of Oxford, UK. Christopher Hutton is Head of the English Department at the University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong.
Preface; Part One: Definition and Theory; 1. On stipulative definition; 2. On definition and common usage; 3. On real definition; 4. Ostensive definition and linguistic theory; Part Two: Definition and the Dictionary; 5. The lexicographer's task; 6. Definitions and history; 7. Types and problems of definition; Part Three: Definition and the Law; 8. The definition of law and legal definition; 9. Strategies of construction; 10. Linguistics, science and meaning; Part Four: Conclusion; 11. Definition, indeterminacy and reference.