Date: 08 Nov 2010

Legal Ontologies: The Linguistic Perspective

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Abstract

“There is a strong relationship/dependence between concepts and their linguistic terms, change on linguistic aspects may affect the intended meaning….” (Avicenna (980–1037 a.c.)) . The paper discusses the approaches to legal ontologies from a linguistic point of view. The starting point is that legal language depends upon the linguistic factor. Legal concepts are partly coming from the ordinary language and partly arising specifically from the legal domain. Both can be identified according to two different approaches:—bottom up and—top down. The attention will be focused on the analysis of the bottom-up approach which: implies two levels of analysis at lexical and ontological level; requires the integration of methodologies and tools in complex and modular architectures generally indicated as ontology learning from texts techniques. The discussion will be based on the assumption that the relationships among meanings are inferred by the analysis of the relationships of the linguistic expressions within texts and the assumption that some logic structures exist, specific for the legal domain, standing below the linguistic expressions of the law. The integration of a theoretical conceptual model with the lexical level extracted from texts allows to respect the contextuality of the law. Therefore, the need to bridge the gap between lexicons and the ontological layer will be underlined focusing on methodologies that can be put in place for integrating these two levels.