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Journal Articles Frontiers in Physics Year : 2021

Conceptual Graphs and Terminological Idiosyncrasy in UNCLOS and CBD



Do two conventions of international environmental law necessarily endow the same word with the same meaning? A single counterexample is enough to answer in the negative: this is the case of the term “ resource ” in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). Beyond this result, we tackle the questions, raised by the method of analysis implemented, about the semantics of legal texts, a source of interpretative flexibility but also of cognitive amalgamations and confusions of various types. A conceptual graph is associated with each proposition or sentence comprising the term “ resource .” Some expressions, especially those of a deontic nature and noun phrases naming a group of interrelated entities or a fact, are encoded in nested graphs. The scope of a term is revealed by the neighbourhood of its uses. Neighbouring expressions, positioned along the paths of conceptual graphs, are ranked owing to their distance from the target expression. Then the neighbours the most contributing to the distributional meaning of the targets are classified in a coarse taxonomy, providing basic ontological traits to “ resource ” and related expressions in each convention. Although the two conventions rely on the same language, the weak overlap of their respective neighbourhoods of the term “ resource ” and associated expressions and their contrasted ontological anchorages highlight idiosyncratic meanings and, consequently, divergent orientations and understandings regarding the protection and conservation of resources, especially of living resources. Thus, the complexity of legal texts operates both in the gap between language semantics and cognitive understanding of the concepts used, and in the interpretative flexibility and opportunities for confusion that the texts offer but that the elementary operations of formalisation allow to deconstruct and clarify.

Dates and versions

hal-03956117 , version 1 (25-01-2023)



Pierre Mazzega. Conceptual Graphs and Terminological Idiosyncrasy in UNCLOS and CBD. Frontiers in Physics, 2021, 9, ⟨10.3389/fphy.2021.664621⟩. ⟨hal-03956117⟩
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