ABSTRACT

Although legal terms, on their own, are generally considered to have selfreferential, self-closed meaning (Hart 1983; Teubner 1986), often independent of context, most of them, just as other signs, essentially acquire their meanings within a given context. As the context varies, the meaning of the same legal term as a sign may change correspondingly. Drawing on a corpus-based semiotic study, we argue that a legal term is just a sign within semiotic systems, and as such it does not carry any inherent meaning, and its meaning can only exist in the relationship with other signs or sign systems; in other words, a legal term only denotes in a particular temporal and spatial context.