INTERPRETATION

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INTERPRETATION (from the Latin); the explanation of the true meaning of an author or instrument. (For the interpretation of the Scripture, see Exegesis; for interpretation in politics, see Construction.) On the continent of Europe, if a law is interpreted by the legislative power, it is called interpretatio authentica; if by the unwritten usage, inteipr. usualis; if in a scientific way, interpr. doctrinalis, which may be interpr. grammatica, if the meaning is found out from the words according to grammatical rules, or interpr. logica, if the meaning is found by internal reasons, or interpr. critica, if obtained by correcting the text. The interpr. logica is called extensiva, if it extends the law beyond the literal meaning of the words, or restrictiva, if it restricts the application of the law to fewer cases than the words would imply, and declarativa, if it settles vague expressions. In the interpretation of laws, it is of the first importance to ascertain the meaning of the lawgivers; the intention of the person who drew up an instrument in the nature of a contract, is not so decisive, because there the intention of the party with whom the contract was made, is equally important. Furthermore, the meaning which words bore at certain periods, is important in the explanation of old laws, and a knowledge of local usages is often essential for interpretation. In former times, laws and instruments were drawn up with a profusion of words, to avoid, as far as possible, leaving any thing to construction ; but experience has proved this view to be erroneous, for nothing is clearer than the simplest language ; and, though there will always be room left for interpretation, except in mathematics, yet this increases with the profusion of words and the endeavor to embrace eveiy detail.