The Rules of Language

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The Ejusdem Generis Rule

  • In a list, general words which follow specific words are limited to the same type as the specific ones.
  • If an act states the phrase "dogs, cats and other animals" the 'other animals' would include domestic animals, but not wild animals.
  • Powell v KPR 1899 - the court concluded that 'house, office, room or other place for betting' could not include open-air betting as the places within the list were specific to being indoors
  • Allen v Emerson - 'theatre or other place for entertainment' need a licence but as only one place was specified the rule could not be used


  • Flexibility and keeping up to date


  • Undermines Parliament sovereignity
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Expressio unius est exclusio alterius

  • Specific words not followed by general term implies the exclusion of other words (statute only applies to words stated)
  • If an Act specifically referred to Labrador dogs, it would not include other breeds of dog.
  • R v Sedgeley 1831 - an Act referred to coal mines, it could not apply to other types of mines
  • R v Harris - OWA "stab, cut or wound" means the statute would not apply to bites.


  • Upholds Parliament Sovereignity
  • Uncontraversial


  • Lack of Flexibility
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Noscitur a sociis

  • "A word draws meaning from the other words around it"
  • Frere 1965 - a section of the Act referred to 'interest, annuities or other annual interest' so therefore the court decided that the first use of 'interest' must be restricted to annual interest
  • Bromley - the meaning of 'economic' in it context meant a transport scheme couldn't be run at a loss, it must be run at a profit.


  • Flexibility
  • Judicial creativity
  • Keeps law up to date


  • Undermines Parliament sovereignity
  • Overly Complex
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