Triangle of reference

The triangle of reference (also known as the triangle of meaning[1] and the semiotic triangle) is a model of how linguistic symbols are related to the objects they represent. The triangle was published in The Meaning of Meaning (1923) by Charles Kay Ogden and I. A. Richards.[2] While often referred to as the "Ogden/Richards triangle", the idea was also expressed in 1810, by Bernard Bolzano, in his Beiträge zu einer begründeteren Darstellung der Mathematik. The triangle can be traced back to the 4th century BC, in Aristotle's Peri Hermeneias. The Triangle relates to the problem of universals, a philosophical debate which split ancient and medieval philosophers, especially realists and nominalists.

The triangle describes a simplified form of relationship between the speaker as subject, a concept as object or referent, and its designation (sign, signans).

Image:Ogden semiotic triangle.png

Interlocutory applicationsEdit

Other trianglesEdit

The relations between the triangular corners may be phrased more precisely in causal terms thus[citation needed][original research?]:

  1. The matter evokes the writer's thought.
  2. The writer refers the matter to the symbol.
  3. The symbol evokes the reader's thought.
  4. The reader refers the symbol back to the matter.

The communicative standEdit

Such a triangle represents one person, whereas communication takes place between two (objects, not necessarily persons). This can be represented by two triangles, when for the two to understand each other, the content that the "triangles" represent must be aligned. This calls for synchronisation, an interface, and scale, among other things. The world is perceived mostly through our eyes and in alternative phases of seeing and not seeing, with change in the environment as the most important information to look for. Our eyes are lenses and we see a surface (2D) in one direction (focusing) if we are stationary and the object is not moving either. This is why you may position yourself in one corner of the triangle and by replicating (mirroring) it, you will be able to see the whole picture, your cognitive epistemological and the ontological existential or physical model of life, the universe, existence, etc. combined.[citation needed][original research?]

Direction of fitEdit

John Searle used the notion of "direction of fit" to create a taxonomy of illocutionary acts. [3][4]

  decoded ↑  
  ↓ encoded 


WRITER retrieves WORD for WORLD;
READER retrieves WORLD for WORD.

The arrows indicate that there is something exchanged between the two parties in a feedback cycle, especially when the world is represented in both persons' minds and used for reality check. When looking at the triangle above, reality check is not what is indicated there between the sign and the referent and marked as "true', because a term or a sign is allocated "arbitrarily'. What is being corroborated is the observance of the law of identity which requires both parties to establish that they are talking about the same thing. So the chunk of reality and the term are replaceable/interchangeable within limits and concepts in the mind as presented in some appropriate way are all related and mean the same thing. Usually the check does not stop there; ideas must also be tested for feasibility and doability to make sure that they are "real" and not "phantasy". Reality check comes from consolidating experiences with the experiences of others to avoid solipsism, and/or by putting ideas (projection) into practice (production) to observe the reaction. However, the verbs used here are vague, and the concept of a fit itself is not explained in detail.[editorializing]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Colin Cherry (1957) On Human Communication
  2. ^ C. K. Ogden and I. A. Richards (1923) The Meaning of Meaning
  3. ^ John Searle (1975) "A Taxonomy of Illocutionary Acts", in: Gunderson, K. (ed.), Language, Mind, and Knowledge (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press) pp. 344-369.
  4. ^ John Searle (1976) "A Classification of Illocutionary Acts", Language in Society, Vol.5, pp. 1-24.

External linksEdit