Controlling inadvertent ambiguity in the logical structure of legal drafting by means of the prescribed definitions of the a-hohfeld structurallanguage
David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
Rafael De Clercq
Jack Alan Reynolds
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Theoria: Revista de Teoría, Historia y Fundamentos de la Ciencia 9 (2):135-172 (1994)
Two principal sources of imprecision in legal drafting (vagueness and ambiguity) are identified and illustrated. Virtually all of the ambiguity imprecision encountered in legal discourse is ambiguity in the language used to express logical structure, and virtually all of the imprecision resulting is inadvertent. On the other hand, the imprecision encountered in legal writing that results from vagueness is frequently, if not most often, included there deliberately; the drafter has considered it and decided that the vague language best accomplishes the purpose at hand. This paper focuses on the use of some defined terminology for minimizing inadvertent ambiguity in the logical structure of legal discourse, where desired by the drafter. The current set of signaled structural definitions that are included in the A-Hohfeld language are first set forth and their use is illustrated in an extensive example from the treaty establishing the European Economic Community. The use of definitions in legal writing is widespread, butaddressed almost exclusively to controlling the vagueness of substantive legal terms; they are seldom used for structural purposes. Furthermore, their use in American legislative drafting is unsignaled. Here, attention is devoted to the relatively-neglected domain in legal discourse of imprecisely expressed logical structure, and the remedy offered, where desired by the drafter, is a set of signaled structuraldefinitions for use in controlling such imprecision
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