R.I.P. Antonin Scalia

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Antonin Scalia died this weekend at the age of 79. The impact of his life and death has already been widely discussed: see e.g. "The Death of Justice Scalia: Reactions and Analysis", NYT; Rick Hasen, "Justice Scalia’s Death and Implications for the 2016 Election, the Supreme Court and the Nation", Election Law Blog 2/13/2016; Ross Douthat, "Antonin Scalia, Conservative Legal Giant", NYT 2/13/2016; Nolan McCaskill, "The 11 most memorable Scalia quotes", Politico 2/14/2016; etc.

Here at Language Log, we've had multiple occasions over the years to discuss Justice Scalia's theories of linguistic interpretation in general, his opinions about usage, and a few of his own usages:

"Scalia on the meaning of meaning", 10/29/2005
"Is marriage similar or identical to itself?", 11/2/2005
"A result that no sensible person could have intended", 12/8/2005
"Everything is too appropriate these days", 4/5/2006
"Scalia's 'buddy-buddy' contractions", 5/12/2008
"The meaning of meaning: Fish v. Scalia", 1/4/2011
"Justice Breyer, Professor Austin, and the Meaning of 'Any'", 7/6/2011
"Scalia and Garner on legal interpretation", 7/17/2012
"Scalia's argle-bargle", 6/27/2013
"What did Justice Scalia mean?", 10/7/2013
"Antonin and Beppe", 3/4/2014

My personal favorites among Scalia's opinions are his dissent in Smith v. United States (91-8674) and his concurrent opinion in California Division of Labor Standards Enforcement v. Dillingham Construction (95-789), which brilliantly apply and simultaneously subvert his textualist theory of legal interpretation; and his response to those who questioned his impartiality.



  1. bks said,

    February 14, 2016 @ 10:35 am

    Scalia left instructions to have his body cremated, but a million women want to decide what he can and cannot do with his body.

  2. David Marjanović said,

    February 14, 2016 @ 12:47 pm

    More "memorable […] quotes" from this "Legal Giant", with some discussion (which continues in the comments), can be found here.

  3. Grover Jones said,

    February 15, 2016 @ 8:50 am

    @bks He wanted to cremate himself, not his kid. Pretty sure there's a different.

  4. Victor Mair said,

    February 15, 2016 @ 7:53 pm

    "China’s Legal Professionals, Under Limits at Home, Note Scalia’s Death"

    Didi Kirsten Tatlow 2/15/16

    Very interesting blog posts and comments, with one explicitly mentioning linguistic context.

  5. Jerry Friedman said,

    February 16, 2016 @ 12:45 am

    Oddly enough, a different kind of textualism came up in alt.usage.english yesterday. Somebody expressed surprise that "Ern Malley" had been mentioned in a recent episode of The Simpsons. Malley was the modernist poet (an attenuated Crane, or Dylan Thomas and water) created by two Australian hoaxsters one afternoon. The poems were intended to be bad, but apparently a lot of readers still think they're good.

  6. Will G-R said,

    February 18, 2016 @ 11:06 am

    The Italian chin-flick gesture Scalia introduced into the US news cycle has a special historical place in the philosophy of mind and language: as the stimulus for Ludwig Wittgenstein's mid-career reversal from the linguistic formalism and logical atomism of the Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, toward the more context-dependent and anthropological perspective on display in later work like his Philosophical Investigations. Norman Malcolm describes the crucial moment from a conversation between Wittgenstein and economist Piero Sraffa:

    Wittgenstein was insisting that a proposition and that which it describes must have the same 'logical form', the same 'logical multiplicity', Sraffa made a gesture, familiar to Neapolitans as meaning something like disgust or contempt, of brushing the underneath of his chin with an outward sweep of the finger-tips of one hand. And he asked: 'What is the logical form of that?'

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