Duhaime's Law Dictionary


Literal Construction Definition:

A form of construction which does not allow evidence extrapolated beyond the actual words.

Related Terms: Liberal Construction, Plain Meaning Rule, Interpretatio Cessat in Claris

A form of construction which does not allow evidence extrapolated beyond the actual words of a phrase or document but, rather, takes a phrase or document at face value, giving effect only to the actual words used.

Also known as "strict" or "strict and literal" construction.

Contrasts with liberal construction (which allows for the input from other factors such as the purpose of the document being interpreted).

According to Côté:

"According to the literal rule ... the interpreter is forced to give written expression a paramount role, to the exclusion of al other factors, when the text is clear."

The principle is of ancient origin; consider the Latin maxim: interpretation cessat in claris.

REFERENCES:

  • Côté, Pierre-André, The Interpretation of Legislation in Canada (Toronto: Carswell, 2000), page 282-305

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