Edited by Jan M. Smits
Chapter 66: Statutory interpretation*
Statutory interpretation, in a broad sense, involves determining the meaning of a statute. In practice, this is only rarely done for its own sake. People usually engage in this exercise in order to establish whether a particular statute applies to a given case. Thus statutory interpretation in a narrow sense is concerned with determining whether a given set of facts falls within the scope of a particular statutory provision and therefore triggers the legal consequences spelt out in the provision. The word ‘interpretation’ is derived from the Latin interpretari and interpretatio which have connotations of ‘exposition’, ‘explanation’, ‘meaning’ and ‘understanding’. In medieval and early modern legal Latin it was often used synonymously with explicatio, expositio or declaratio. The term also found its way into the Romance languages (interprétation, interpretazione, interpretación), into English via the medieval ‘law French’ and, in the 16th century, into German (Interpretation). The older German expression Auslegung (Dutch: uitleg) is still used synonymously. So is, in English, the term ‘construction’ which indicates that interpretation is a ‘constructive’ exercise which not only explains a word but actively ‘sets up’ something (Vogenauer, 2003, pp. 564–5).
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