Andrei Marmor (University of Southern California - Law School) has posted The Pragmatics of Legal Language on SSRN. Here is the abstract:
In most standard cases, the content of the law is tantamount to the content that is communicated by the relevant legal authority. It has been long noticed by linguists and philosophers of language, however, that the content of linguistic communication is not always fully determined by the meaning of the words and sentences uttered. Semantics and syntax are essential vehicles for conveying communicative content, but the content conveyed is very often pragmatically enriched by other factors. My purpose in this essay is to explore some of the pragmatic aspects of understanding what the law communicates. I argue that in some respects the pragmatics of legal language is unique, sometimes uniquely problematic. Exploring those problems forms one of the aims of this essay. But I suggest that we can do more than that: by drawing on the distinctions between the various pragmatic aspects of language use, we should be able to offer some generalizations about types of pragmatic enrichment that could be taken to form, or not to form, part of what is actually determined by legal expressions.
And from the text:
The pragmatic aspect of language use is typically associated with two key ideas: one idea refers to the prevalent role that context plays in understanding the content of an act of communication. The second idea is related to the distinction between what has been said or asserted, and what has only been implied or implicated.3 It is important, however, not to conflate these two issues: context may play a crucial role in our ability to understand what has been asserted whether there is any further implicated content or not. And vice versa: though it is often the case that implied content is context dependent, this is not necessarily so; there are cases in which the content implied is not particularly context- sensitive.
And a bit more:
Abstractly, the idea is this: one might think that just as we draw conclusions about the maxims that apply to an ordinary conversation from the basic cooperative objective of ordinary conversations, we should be able to draw some conclusions about the maxims that would apply to legislative speeches from the nature and objective of such communicative interactions. As we noted earlier, the Gricean maxims of conversation are normative instantiations of the general purpose of a conversation seen as a cooperative exchange of information. Legislation is a different kind of conversation. Can we not simply observe the main objectives of such conversation and then draw some conclusions about the relevant conversational maxims that would instantiate those objectives? Perhaps we can think about it in a way which is very similar to a competitive game. The purpose of competitive games is not the cooperative exchange of information; games manifest certain forms of strategic behavior. However, the rules of the game typically determine what counts as the point of the game, what kind of skills and abilities one would need to exhibit in order to play the game and play it successfully.27 Typically we can draw some conclusions from the purpose of the game about different forms of conduct in it that would be deemed permissible, and others, which would not be permissible. Consider chess, for example. Since it is an intellectual kind of competition, we should be able to conclude that chess players are not allowed to use physical intimidation as part of their tactics in the game.28 In other games, however, such as boxing, and perhaps even football, physical intimidation might be perfectly acceptable. In other words, we can draw some normative conclusions about the kind of moves players should be allowed to make, simply from the nature of the game and its general purposes. Can we extend this analogy to legislation, and try to deduce some maxims of conversation that would basically instantiate our conception of what kind of “game” legislation is, so to speak?
This is the best work I've seen on this important topic, and it is highly recommended.