I was reading the wiki on The Semantic TriangleWikipedia, but it is not as good, so I have few doubts: enter image description here

  • As I read on many places an example for the vertices could be (I may have written incorrectly):
    • Thought: insect, 2 wings, 6 legs
    • Symbol: Fly /flʌɪ/
    • Referent: Real world object, fly
  • Now the relation between symbol and thought should be correct, we can't use the wrong word.
  • the bottom line is dotted since there is no fixed relation, e.g. Dog can be related to bow-wow or vow-vow in English or German. Thus we need to go through the Thought as an intermediate.

I'm not entirely clear with the rest of it so, Now I have few questions:

  • What does Adequate and True refer to?
  • What is the difference between casual and imputed relation?
  • The terms: CORRECT, TRUE, ADEQAUTE. Which property of the relationship are these? P.S. someone add a semantic-triangle or semiotic-triangle tag.
  • 2
    The diagram was published in Ogden and Richards, and those are their labels and annotations. As to what they mean, your guess is as good as mine; O&R were not very semantically sophisticated. As the article points out, this is the place where Nominalists and Realists part intellectual company.
    – John Lawler
    Apr 3, 2016 at 21:04

1 Answer 1


The schema is from:

See page 9:

Symbols direct and organize, record and communicate. In stating what they direct and organize, record and communicate we have to distinguish as always between Thoughts and Things.It is Thought (or reference) which is directed and organized, and it is also Thought which is recorded and communicated.

See page 11:

Between a thought and a symbol causal relations holds. When we speak, the symbols we employ is caused partly by the reference we are making [...].

Between the Thought and the Referent there is also a relation; nore or less direct [...].

Between the symbol and the referent there is no relevant relation other than the indirect one, which consists in its being used by someone to stand for a referent.

And see page 102:

It will be convenient here to define a true Symbol as distinghuised from a true Reference: A true symbol [set of words: proposition or sentence] = one which correctly records an adequate reference. [...] It correctly records an adequate reference when it will cause a similar reference to occur in a suitable interpreter [the subject partecipating to the process of communication]. It is false when it records an inadequate reference.

It is often of great importance to distinguish between false anc incorrect propositions. An incorrect symbol is one which in a given universe of discourse causes in a suitable interpreter a refernce different from that symbolized in the speaker.

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