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The Logical Form of Contract Formation


This dissertation lays the foundation for linguistic inquiry into the question of how speakers of English know when a contractual offer has been made. Of primary interest here is the issue of whether the perception that an offer has been made is somehow, apparently silently, reflected in the syntax and semantics of the language of the offer itself or whether such a perception is a matter of intention on the part of the speaker and/or inference on the part of the hearer – notions that have no real reflection in the “literal” meaning of the language of offers in the typical case. Using traditional linguistic methodology, I argue that the latter is more likely: In particular, I show that the postulation of silent offer or promise elements in the syntax and semantics of a typical contractual offer produces incorrect predictions as to which sentences of English should be viable contractual offers and as to what contractual offers should mean. The dissertation is written for popular consumption, so no expertise in linguistics (or law) is presumed.

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