Semiotic triangle

Ogden & Richard's (1923) famous triangle of meaning implies that the referent of an expression (a word or another sign or symbol) is relative to different language users: With the terminology of Peirce: "A sign, or representamen, is something which stands to somebody for something in some respect or capacity. It addresses somebody, that is, creates in the mind of that person an equivalent sign, or perhaps a more developed sign. That sign which it creates I call the interpretant of the first sign. The sign stands for something, its object [or referent]. It stands for that object, not in all respects, but in reference to a sort of idea, which I have sometimes called the ground of the representamen." (Peirce, 1931-1958, 2, 228).



An external file that holds a picture, illustration, etc., usually as some form of binary object. The name of referred object is 0006f01.jpg



The Ogden and Richards (1923) semiotic triangle








Sowa (2000) writes about Ogden & Richards' (1923) triangle of meaning: "The triangle in Figure 1 has a long history. Aristotle distinguished objects, the words that refer to them, and the corresponding experiences in the psychê. Frege and Peirce adopted that three-way distinction from Aristotle and used it as the semantic foundation for their systems of logic. Frege's terms for the three vertices of the triangle were Zeichen (sign) for the symbol, Sinn (sense) for the concept, and Bedeutung (reference) for the object."






Karpatschof, B. (2000). Human activity. Contributions to the Anthropological Sciences from a Perspective of Activity Theory. Copenhagen: Dansk Psykologisk Forlag.


Ogden, C. K. and I. A. Richards, I. A. (1923). The Meaning of Meaning: A Study of the Influence of Language Upon Thought and of the Science of Symbolism London: Routledge & Kegan Paul.


Peirce, C. S. (1931-1958). Collected Papers of C. S. Peirce ed. by C. Hartshorne, P. Weiss, & A. Burks, 8 vols., Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA.


Sowa, J. F. (2000). Ontology, Metadata, and Semiotics. Presented at ICCS'2000 in Darmstadt, Germany, on August 14, 2000. Published in B. Ganter & G. W. Mineau, eds., Conceptual Structures: Logical, Linguistic, and Computational Issues, Lecture Notes in AI #1867, Springer-Verlag, Berlin, 2000, pp. 55-81. Available at:



See also: Meaning; Semiotics; Sign






Birger Hjørland

Last edited: 27-07-2006