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This essay examines the common opinion that there is a close relationship between the indeterminacy of legal language and hard cases. The analysis begins with Frederick Schauer’s conception of plain meaning in law in order to argue that the co-existence of hard and easy cases in a legal system is independent of the written or unwritten nature of the rules involved in each case and that the distinction between hard and easy cases depends much more on the pragmatic features of legal language and the specific context in which rules are applied.
To sum up the main theses presented in the essay, first, legal disputes and, especially, litigation might be either encouraged or prevented by using, according to the circumstances, a determinate or an indeterminate lexicon.
Moreover, the fact that in some cases legal meanings are equivalent to ordinary meanings, while in other cases they are not, is a pragmatic feature unrelated to the original linguistic field of the terms or the nature of legal concepts used in legal provisions. Finally, the similarities and differences existing in law between technical legal meanings and ordinary meanings is the outcome of the general conception of legal language implicit in the concept of law adopted by legal interpreters.