Main Article Content

Mateusz Zeifert


Prototype theory is a semantic theory according to which the membership of conceptual categories is based not on a list of criterial features, but rather on the similarity to the most representative member of the category. Consequently, conceptual categories may lack classical definitions and rigid boundaries. This article supports the claims, already made by other scholars working in the field, that prototype theory may greatly augment our understanding of legal (i.e. statutory, judicial) interpretation. Legal provisions are traditionally written as classical definitions, but they are rarely applied that way. Statutory concepts tend to be interpreted with a great deal of flexibility, using a wide array of extra-textual factors. This is especially true for the case law of the Court of Justice of the European Union, which has to deal with the challenges of the multilingual, supranational law of the European Union.


Download data is not yet available.

Article Details

How to Cite
Zeifert, M. (2020). PROTOTYPE THEORY IN THE JUDICIAL PRACTICE OF THE COURT OF JUSTICE OF THE EUROPEAN UNION. A CASE STUDY. Comparative Legilinguistics, 44, 93-119. Retrieved from
Author Biography

Mateusz Zeifert, University of Silesia in Katowice

Department of the Theory and Philosophy of Law

Faculty of Law

University of Silesia in Katowice


  1. Bajčić, Martina. 2017. New Insights into the Semantics of Legal Concepts and the Legal Dictionary. Amsterdam-Philadelphia: John Benjamin’s Publishing.
  2. Engberg, Jan. 2002. Legal Meaning Assumptions – What Are the Consequences for Legal Interpretation and Legal Translation. International Journal for the Semiotics of Law 15 (4): 378-388.
  3. Fallon, Richard H. 2015. The Meaning of Legal “Meaning” and Its Implications for Theories of Legal Interpretation. University of Chicago Law Review 82 (3): 1235-1308. Available at: (accessed on 15 September 2020).
  4. Fennelly, Nial. 1996. Legal Interpretation at the European Court of Justice. Fordham International Law Journal 20 (3): 656-679. Available at: (accessed on 15 September 2020).
  5. Fillmore, Charles J. 1975. An Alternative to Checklist Theories of Meaning. Proceedings of the First Annual Meeting of the Berkeley Linguistics Society. https :// (accessed on 15 September 2020).
  6. Geerearts, Dirk. 2016 (1989). Prospects and Problems of Prototype Theory. Diachronia 4, A53: 1–16.
  7. Hamilton, Jonnette. 2002. Theories of Categorization: A Case Study of Cheques. Canadian Journal of Law and Society 17 (1): 115 – 138.
  8. Hart, Herbert L.A. 1994 (1961). The Concept of Law. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  9. Holmes, Oliver W. Jr. 1882. The Common Law (1st ed.). London: Macmillan. Retrieved 15 July 2020 via Project Gutenberg: (accessed on 15 September 2020).
  10. Klimek, Libor. 2015. European Arrest Warrant. Cham-Heidelberg-New York-Dordrecht-London: Springer.
  11. Kutscher, Hans. 1976. Methods of Interpretation as Seen by a Judge at the Court of Justice. Judicial and Academic Conference, 27-28 September 1976, Luxembourg: Office for Official Publications of the European Communities, 5-51.
  12. Lakoff, George. 1973. Hedges: A Study in Meaning Criteria and the Logic of Fuzzy Concepts. Journal of Philosophical Logic 2 (4): 458-508.
  13. Lakoff, George. 1987. Women, Fire, and Dangerous Things: What Categories Reveal About the Mind. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
  14. Langacker, Ronald W. 2008. Cognitive Grammar. A Basic Introduction. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  15. Lenaerts, Koen, and José A. Gutirrez-Fons. 2013. To Say What the Law of the EU is: Methods of Interpretation and the European Court of Justice. EUI Working Paper AEL 2013. Available at: (accessed on 15 September 2020).
  16. Łachacz, Olga, and Rafał Mańko. 2013. Multilingualism at the Court of Justice of the European Union: Theoretical and Practical Aspects. Studies in Logic, Grammar and Rhetoric, vol. 34 (47): 75-92.
  17. Mellinkoff, David. 2004 (1963). The Language of the Law. Eugene, Oregon: Wipf and Stock Publishers.
  18. Osenga, Kristen. 2011. A Penguin’s Defence of the Doctrine of Equivalents: Applying Cognitive Linguistics to Patent Law. New York University Journal of Law & Liberty 6: 313-358.
  19. Pacho Aljanti, Lucie. 2018. Multilingual EU Law: a New Way of Thinking. European Journal of Legal Studies, vol. 10: 5-46. (accessed on 15 September 2020).
  20. Paluszek, Karolina. 2019. Komparatystyka językowa jako narzędzie interpretacyjne Trybunału Sprawiedliwości Unii Europejskiej. Warszawa: Diffin.
  21. Paul, Jeremy. 2002. Changing the Subject: Cognitive Theory and the Teaching of Law. Brooklyn Law Review 67 (4): 987-1022.
  22. Questionnaire on the CJEU’s judgments in relation to the independence of issuing judicial authorities and effective judicial protection (by Eurojust & European Judicial Agency). Available at: (accessed on 15 September 2020).
  23. Rosch, Eleanor. 1973. On the Internal Structure of Perceptual and Semantic Categories. In Cognitive Development and the Acquisition of Language, ed. T. Moore, 111-144. New York: Academic Press.
  24. Rosch, Eleanor. 1975. Cognitive Representations of Semantic Categories. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General 104 (3): 192-233. Available at: https :// (accessed on 15 September 2020).
  25. Rosch, Eleanor. 1978. Principles of Categorization. In Cognition and Categorization, eds. Eleanor Rosch and Barbara Lloyd, 27-48. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.
  26. Rosch, Eleanor. 2011. “Slow lettuce”: Categories, Concepts, Fuzzy Sets, and Logical Deduction. In Concepts and Fuzzy Logic, eds. Radim Belohlavek and George J. Klir, 89-120. Cambridge-Oxford: The Massachusetts Institute of Technology Press.
  27. Šarčević, Susan. 2000. Legal Translation and Translation Theory: a Receiver-oriented Approach. 192 (accessed on 15 September 2020).
  28. Šarčević, Susan. 2013. Multilingual Lawmaking and Legal (Un)Certainty in the European Union. International Journal of Law, Language and Discourse, vol. 3 (1): 1-29.
  29. Smith, Michael R. 2011. Linguistic Hooks: Overcoming Adverse Cognitive Stock Structures in Statutory Interpretation. Legal Communication & Rhetoric: JALWD 8 (1): 1-36.
  30. Solan, Lawrence. 2010. The Language of Statutes. Laws and Their Interpretation. Chicago & London: The University of Chicago Press.
  31. Solan, Lawrence. 2018. The Interpretation of Legal Language. Annual Review of Linguistics vol. 4: 337-355.
  32. Taylor, John R. 2003 (1989). Linguistic Categorization. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  33. van der Mei, Anne Pieter. 2017. The European Arrest Warrant System: Recent Developments in the Case Law of the Court of Justice. Maastricht Journal of European and Comparative Law 2017, vol. 24 (6): 889-904.
  34. Walshaw, Christopher. 2013. Interpretation is Understanding and Application: The Case for Concurrent Legal Interpretation. Statute Law Review vol. 34: 101-127.
  35. Winter, Steven L. 2001. A Clearing in the Forest. Law, Live and Mind. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.
  36. Wittgenstein, Ludwig. 1953. Philosophical Investigations. Oxford: Basil-Blackwell.