Varieties of Vagueness in the Law

USC Legal Studies Research Paper No. 12-8

25 Pages Posted: 12 Apr 2012 Last revised: 19 Jul 2013

See all articles by Andrei Marmor

Andrei Marmor

Cornell University - Law School

Date Written: July 18, 2013


The main purpose of this essay is to articulate the different types of vagueness, and related linguistic indeterminacies, that we find in statutory language and to explain their different rationales. I argue that the various normative considerations involved in employing vague terms in legislation depend on the kind of vagueness in question. I show that while some cases of vagueness in law are concerned with fairly standard problems of borderline cases, other are not. I also argue that semantic vagueness can be distinguished from conversational vagueness, which we also find in law, and that vagueness in law should be clearly distinguished from cases of ambiguity and polysemy.

Suggested Citation

Marmor, Andrei, Varieties of Vagueness in the Law (July 18, 2013). USC Legal Studies Research Paper No. 12-8. Available at SSRN:

Andrei Marmor (Contact Author)

Cornell University - Law School ( email )

Myron Taylor Hall
Cornell University
Ithaca, NY 14853-4901
United States


Here is the Coronavirus
related research on SSRN

Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics