Palashevskaya I.V. Legal Definitions: Functional and Typological Characteristics


Irina V. Palashevskaya

Doctor of Sciences (Philology), Associate Professor, Professor of the Department of Foreign-Language Communication, Volgograd State University

Prosp. Universitetsky, 100, 400062 Volgograd, Russian Federation

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Abstract. The article focuses on specific features of legal definitions as linguistic phenomena constructing the institutional reality, their main functions and types. Successful interaction in institutional environment is hardly possible without a system of communicative codes, shared by discourse participants. The legal language, being such a code, serves as an integrating basis for institutional interactions. An effective combination of competences requires common definitions of concepts. The article distinguishes constitutive function of legal definitions, constituting the conventional meanings of legal phenomena and situations, as well as their regulative function, which is expressed in the ability to serve as guides for carrying out, interpreting and argumentation of different actions in different types of legal communication. The article draws attention to semantic changes of commonly used vocabulary (intentional delimitation, extension and narrowing of lexical meanings), as a result of its terminologisation, and the corresponding types of definitions. The author analyzes the types of legal definitions, based on cognitive models: definitions of classification and transformation types, as well as illustrative enumerations, frames and scripts or procedural definitions. Linguistic research of legal definitions aims to find out the logic of meaning construction strategies of reality, reflected in institutional lexicon. The analysis is based on juridical documents of the USA, the UK and the Russian Federation.

Key words: legal discourse, legal definition, institutional culture, legal communication, legal terminology, language of law.

Citation. Palashevskaya I.V. Legal Definitions: Functional and Typological Characteristics. Vestnik Volgogradskogo gosudarstvennogo universiteta. Seriya 2, Yazykoznanie [Science Journal of Volgograd State University. Linguistics], 2017, vol. 16, no. 3, pp. 131-141. (in Russian). DOI:

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