Main Article Content

Virginia Vecchiato


This paper aims at comparing the definition of ‘trademark’ in three different legal systems – EU law, international law and US common law – in order to identify the discoursal, generic and textual characteristics of definition as a genre. The selected corpus of analysis is made up of three definitions from EU Regulation 2017/1001, WTO Agreement on Trade-Related aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) and US Lanham Act (sec.45) and of several US cases from 1926 to 2019. The theoretical framework within which the analysis is carried out is the seminal work on definition as carried out by Richard Robinson (1954) and Harris and Hutton (2007). The approach is mainly linguistic, though a historical excursus on the concept of definition is provided as a necessary introductory premise. The findings support the theory that considers EU legal texts as a different genre (Robertson 2012) characterised by a hybrid style (Robertson 2010) further emphasised in the definitional sections here analysed where EU term formation and definition result text-driven (Šarčević 2016). EU legal texts in their English version originate from the dynamic combination of two aspects: one connected to EU legal English – which is not common law English – and one connected to matters of terminology, syntax and general structure which has a French origin.


Download data is not yet available.

Article Details

How to Cite
Vecchiato, V. (2020). DEFINITION AS A GENRE IN THREE LEGAL SYSTEMS: A COMPARATIVE ANALYSIS . Comparative Legilinguistics, 44, 65-92.


  1. Alcáraz, Enrique, and Brian Hughes. 2014. Legal Translation Explained. London: Routledge.
  2. Anselmi, Simona, and Francesca Seracini. 2015. The Transposition of EU Directives into British Legislation. In English Legal Language and Translation, eds. Federica Scarpa and Jan Engberg, 39-62. Roma: Carocci.
  3. Beebe, Barton. 2004. Semiotic Analysis of Trademark Law. UCLA Law Review 51 (3): 621-704.
  4. Bhatia, Vijay K. 1993. Analysing Genre. Language Use in Professional Settings. London: Routledge.
  5. Bhatia, Vijay K. 2010. Legal Writing: Specificity Specification in Legislative Writing: Accessibility, Transparency, Power and Control. In The Routledge Handbook of Forensic Linguistics, eds. Malcom Coulthard and Alison Johnson, 37-51. London: Routledge.
  6. Cacchiani, Silvia. 2015. Performativity and Modal Meanings in the Case Law of the European Court of Justice. In English Legal Language and Translation, eds. Federica Scarpa and Jan Engberg, 125-144. Roma: Carocci.
  7. Cairns, Huntington. 1936. A Note on Legal Definitions, Columbia Law Review 36 (7): 1099-1106.
  8. Caplan, Harry, trans. 1989. Rhetorica ad Herennium. Harvard: Harvard University Press.
  9. Cutts, Martin, and Emma Wagner. 2002. Clarifying EC Regulations. Whaley Bridge (United Kingdom): Language Commission.
  10. Dacko, Scott. 2008. The Advanced Dictionary of Marketing: Putting Theory to Use. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  11. Engberg, Jan. 2016. Autonomous EU Concepts: Fact or Fiction? In Language and Culture in EU Law. Multidisciplinary Perspectives, ed. Susan Šarčević, 169-181. London: Routledge.
  12. European Union. 2016. Joint Practical Guide of the European Parliament, the Council and the Commission for Persons Involved in the Drafting of European Union Legislation. Available at: (accessed 7 December, 2020).
  13. Felici, Annarita. 2016. Translating EU Legislation from a Lingua Franca: Advantages and Disadvantages. In Language and Culture in EU Law. Multidisciplinary Perspectives, ed. Susan Šarčević, 123-140. London: Routledge.
  14. Fine, Gail J. 1979. Knowledge and Logos in the Theaetetus. The Philosophical Review 88 (3): 366-397.
  15. Fiorito, Lorenzo. 2006. On Performatives in Legal Discourse. Metalogicon 9 (2): 101-112.
  16. Foley, Richard. 2002. Legislative Language in the EU: the Crucible. International Journal for the Semiotics of Law 15: 361-374.
  17. Goźdź-Roszkowski, Stanisław. 2013. Legal Language. In The Encyclopedia of Applied Linguistics, ed. Carol A. Chapelle. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, 3281-3289.
  18. Hacker, Peter M.S. 1969. Definition in Jurisprudence. Philosophical Quarterly 19 (77): 343-347.
  19. Harris, Roy, and Christopher Hutton. 2007. Definition in Theory and Practice. London: Bloomsbury.
  20. Hart, Henry. 1954. Definition and Theory in Jurisprudence. Law Quarterly Review 70: 37-60.
  21. Hart, Henry. 1952. Signs and Words. Philosophical Quarterly 2 (6): 59-62.
  22. Hurley, Patrick J. 1988. A Concise Introduction to Logic. Belmont: Wadsworth.
  23. Hyland, Ken. 2012. EAP and Discourse analysis. In Routledge Handbook of Discourse Analysis, eds. Paul Gee and Michael Handford, 412-423. London: Routledge.
  24. Jakobson, Roman. 1959. On Linguistic Aspects of Translation. In On Translation, ed. Reuben A. Brower, 232-239. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.
  25. Jeffries, Lesley. 2010. Critical Stylistics. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.
  26. Jopek-Bosiacka, Anna. 2011. Defining Law Terms: a Cross-Cultural Perspective. Research in Language 9 (1): 9-30.
  27. Kelsen, Hans. 1981. On the Basis of Legal Validity. American Journal of Jurisprudence 26 (1): 178-189.
  28. Kevelson, Roberta. 1992. Property as Rhetoric in Law. Cardozo Studies in Law and Literature 4 (2): 189-206.
  29. Kirkness, Alan. 2004. Lexicography. In The Handbook of Applied Linguistics, eds. Alan Davies and Catherine Elder. 54-81. Oxford: Blackwell.
  30. Locke, John. 1706. An Essay Concerning Human Understanding: In Four Books. Retrieved from (accessed 3 December 2020).
  31. Mattila, Heikki. 2013. Comparative Legal Linguistics: Language of Law, Latin and Modern Lingua Francas. London: Routledge.
  32. Mellinkoff, David. 1963. The Language of the Law. Eugene: Resource Publications.
  33. Pozzo, Barbara. 2016. Comparative Law and the New Frontiers of Legal Translation. In Language and Culture in EU Law. Multidisciplinary Perspectives, ed. Susan Šarčević, 73-87. London: Routledge.
  34. Putnam, Hilary. 1970. Is Semantics Possible? Metaphilosophy 1 (3): 187-201.
  35. Rasmussen, Kirsten Wølch, and Jan Engberg. 1999. Genre Analysis of Legal Discourse. Hermes, Journal of Linguistics 22: 113-132.
  36. Robertson, Colin. 2010. EU law and Semiotics. International Journal of Semiotics and Law 23: 145-164.
  37. Robertson, Colin. 2011. Multilingual Legislation in the European Union. EU and National Legislative-Language Styles and Terminology. Research in Language 9 (1): 51-67.
  38. Robertson, Colin. 2012. EU Legal English: Common Law, Civil Law, or a New Genre? European Review of Private Law 5-6: 1215–1240.
  39. Robertson, Colin. 2016. Multilingual Law. A Framework for Analysis and Understanding. London: Routledge.
  40. Robinson, Richard. 1954. Definition. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  41. Sager, Juan C. 1997. Text Types and Translation. In Text Typology and Translation, ed. Anna Trosborg, 25-41, Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins Publishing Company.
  42. Šarčević, Susan. 2016. Language and Culture in EU Law: Introduction and Overview. In Language and Culture in EU Law. Multidisciplinary Perspectives, ed. Susan Šarčević, 1-14. London: Routledge.
  43. Smyrnova, K. 2013. Rethinking EU Soft Law: New Dimensions in Competition Law. Law of Ukraine: Legal Journal 3: 125-132.
  44. Swales, John. 1990. Genre Analysis English in Academic and Research Settings. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  45. Swales, John. 2009. Other Floors, Other Voices. London: Routledge.
  46. Werlich, Eric. 1976. A Text Grammar of English. Heidelberg: Quelle-Meyer.
  47. White Beck, Lewis. 1956. Kant’s Theory of Definition. The Philosophical Review 65 (2): 179-191.
  48. Tiefenbrun, Susan. 1986. Legal Semiotics. Cardozo Arts and Ent. Law Journal 5 (1): 89-156.
  49. Tiersma, Pieter M. 2000. Legal Language. Chicago/London: Chicago University Press.