This article offers a new technique for analyzing and evaluating competing interpretations of a legal text and applies that technique to one of the most debated questions of modern constitutional interpretation: the meaning of "searches" in the first clause of the fourth amendment. This Technique is called the "common sense" approach because it begins with a semantic analysis of the text in terms of the sense that the key words have in everyday speech. Such analysis reveals a complex of interlocked concepts that underlies the ability of speakers to recognize meaningful uses of these words. The common sense approach then examines competing interpretations of the legal text in terms of their selection, modification, or rejection of these conceptual elements, which linguists call semantic features. Differing interpretations can thus be evaluated by comparing the meaningfulness of each of the meaning generated by common sense understanding of the text.
A Linguistic Analysis of the Meanings of "Search" in the Fourth Amendment: A Search for Common SenseIowa Law Review
Citation InformationClark D. Cunningham, A Linguistic Analysis of the Meanings of ‘Search’ in the Fourth Amendment: A Search for Common Sense, 73 Iowa L. Rev. 541 (1988).