Dear Xueshan Yan,

May I suggest moving from a set-theoretical model to a model of two (or more) helices. The one dimension may be the independent and the other the dependent variable at different moments of time. One can research this empirically; for example, in bodies of texts.

In my own models, I declare a third level of codes of communication organizing the meanings in different directions. Meaning both codes the information and refers to horizons of meaning being specifically coded.

Might this work as an answer to your paradox?


Loet Leydesdorff

Professor emeritus, University of Amsterdam
Amsterdam School of Communication Research (ASCoR) <>; Associate Faculty, SPRU, <>University of Sussex;

Guest Professor Zhejiang Univ. <>, Hangzhou; Visiting Professor, ISTIC, <>Beijing;

Visiting Fellow, Birkbeck <>, University of London;

------ Original Message ------
From: "Xueshan Yan" <>
To: "FIS Group" <>
Sent: 3/4/2018 2:17:01 AM
Subject: Re: [Fis] A Paradox

Dear Dai, Søren, Karl, Sung, Syed, Stan, Terry, and Loet,

I am sorry to reply you late, but I have thoroughly read every post about the paradox and they have brought me many inspirations, thank you. Now I offer my responses as follows:

Dai, metaphor research is an ancient topic in linguistics, which reveals the relationship between tenor and vehicle, ground and figure, target and source based on rhetoric. But where is our information? It looks like Syed given the answer: "Information is the container of meaning." If I understand it right, we may have this conclusion from it: Information is the carrier of meaning. Since we all acknowledge that sign is the carrier of information, the task of our Information Science will immediately become something like an intermediator between Semiotics (study of sign) and Semantics (study of meaning), this is what we absolutely want not to see. For a long time, we have been hoping that the goal of Information Science is so basic that it can explain all information phenomenon in the information age, it just like what Sung expects, which was consisted of axioms, or theorems or principles, so it can end all the debates on information, meaning, data, etc., but according to this view, it is very difficult to complete the missions. Syed, my statement is "A grammatically correct sentence CONTAINS information rather than the sentence itself IS information."

Søren believes that the solution to this paradox is to establish a new discipline which level is more higher than the level of Information Science as well as Linguistics, such as his Cybersemiotics. I have no right to review your opinion, because I haven't seen your book Cybersemiotics, I don't know its content, same as I don't know what the content of Biosemiotics is, but my view is that Peirce's Semiotics can't dissolve this paradox.

Karl thought: "Information and meaning appear to be like key and lock." which are two different things. Without one, the existence of another will lose its value, this is a bit like the paradox about hen and egg. I don't know how to answer this point. However, for your "The text may be an information for B, while it has no information value for A. The difference between the subjective." "‘Information’ is synonymous with ‘new’." these claims are the classic debates in Information Science, a typical example is given by Mark Burgin in his book: "A good mathematics textbook contains a lot of information for a mathematics student but no information for a professional mathematician." For this view, Terry given his good answer: One should firstly label what context and paradigm they are using to define their use of the term "information." I think this is effective and first step toward to construct a general theory about information, if possible.

For Stan's "Information is the interpretation of meaning, so transmitted information has no meaning without interpretation." I can only disagree with it kindly. The most simple example from genetics is: an egg cell accepts a sperm cell, a fertilized egg contains a set of effective genetic information from paternal and maternal cell, here information transmission has taken place, but is there any "meaning" and "explanation"? We should be aware that meaning only is a human or animal phenomena and it does not be used in any other context like plant or molecule or cell etc., this is the key we dissolve the paradox.

In general, I have not seen any effective explanation of this paradox so far.

Best wishes,


From: Syed Ali []
Sent: Tuesday, February 27, 2018 8:10 PM
To: Sungchul Ji <>
Cc: Terrence W. DEACON <>; Xueshan Yan <>; FIS Group <>
Subject: Re: [Fis] A Paradox

Dear All:

If a non English speaking individual saw the newspaper headline “Earthquake Occurred in Armenia Last Night”: would that be "information?"

My belief is - Yes. But he or she would have no idea what it was about- the meaning would be : Possibly "something " as opposed to the meaning an English speaking individual would draw.

In both situations there would be still be meaning - A for the non English speaking and B for the English speaking.

Conclusion: Information is the container of meaning.

Please critique.


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On Mon, Feb 26, 2018 at 5:43 PM, Sungchul Ji <> wrote:

Hi FISers,

I am not sure whether I am a Procrustes (bed) or a Peirce (triadomaniac), but I cannot help but seeing an ITR (irreducible Triadic Relation) among Text, Context and Meaning, as depicted in Figure 1.

f g

Context --------> Text ---------> Meaning

| ^

| | | |



“The meaning of a text is irreducibly dependent on its context.”

“Text, context, and meaning are irreducibly triadic.” The “TCM principle” (?)

Figure 1.  The Procrustean bed, the Peircean triadomaniac, or both ?

f = Sign production; g = Sign interpretation; h = Correlation or information flow.

According to this 'Peircean/Procrustesian' diagram, both what Terry said and what Xueshan said may be valid. Although their thinking must have been irreducibly triadic (if Peirce is right), Terry may have focused on (or prescinded) Steps f and h, while Xueshan prescinded Steps g and h, although he did indicate that his discussion was limited to the context of human information and human meaning (i.e., Step f). Or maybe there are many other interpretations possible, depending on the interpreter of the posts under discussion and the ITR diagram.

There are an infinite number of examples of algebraic operations: 2+3 = 5, 3 - 1 = 2, 20 x 45 = 900, etc., etc.

If I say "2 + 3 = 5", someone may say, but you missed "20 x 45 = 900". In other words, no matter what specific algebraic operation I may come up with, my opponent can always succeed in coming up with an example I missed. The only solution to such an end-less debate would be to discover the axioms of algebra, at which level, there cannot be any debate. When I took an abstract algebra course as an undergraduate at the University of Minnesota, Duluth, in 1962-5, I could not believe that underlying all the complicated algebraic calculations possible, there are only 5 axioms (

So can it be that there are the axioms (either symbolic, diagrammatic, or both) of information science waiting to be discovered, which will end all the heated debates on information, meaning, data, etc. ?

All the best.


From: Fis <> on behalf of Terrence W. DEACON <>
Sent: Monday, February 26, 2018 1:13 PM
To: Xueshan Yan
Cc: FIS Group
Subject: Re: [Fis] A Paradox

It is so easy to get into a muddle mixing technical uses of a term with colloquial uses, and add a dash of philosophy and discipline-specific terminology and it becomes mental quicksand. Terms like 'information' and 'meaning" easily lead us into these sorts of confusions because they have so many context-sensitive and pardigm-specific uses. This is well exhibited in these FIS discusions, and is a common problem in many interdisciplinary discussions. I have regularly requested that contributors to FIS try to label which paradigm they are using to define their use of the term "information' in these posts, but sometimes, like fish unaware that they are in water, one forgets that there can be alternative paradigms (such as the one Søren suggests).

So to try and avoid overly technical usage can you be specific about what you intend to denote with these terms.

E.g. for the term "information" are you referring to statisitica features intrinsic to the character string with respect to possible alternatives, or what an interpreter might infer that this English sentence refers to, or whether this reference carries use value or special significance for such an interpreter?

And e.g. for the term 'meaning' are you referring to what a semantician would consider its underlying lexical structure, or whether the sentence makes any sense, or refers to anything in the world, or how it might impact some reader?

Depending how you specify your uses your paradox will become irresolvable or dissolve.

— Terry

On Mon, Feb 26, 2018 at 1:47 AM, Xueshan Yan <> wrote:

Dear colleagues,

In my teaching career of Information Science, I was often puzzled by the following inference, I call it Paradox of Meaning and Information or Armenia Paradox. In order not to produce unnecessary ambiguity, I state it below and strictly limit our discussion within the human context.

Suppose an earthquake occurred in Armenia last night and all of the main media of the world have given the report about it. On the second day, two students A and B are putting forward a dialogue facing the newspaper headline “Earthquake Occurred in Armenia Last Night”:

Q: What is the MEANING contained in this sentence?

A: An earthquake occurred in Armenia last night.

Q: What is the INFORMATION contained in this sentence?

A: An earthquake occurred in Armenia last night.

Thus we come to the conclusion that MEANING is equal to INFORMATION, or strictly speaking, human meaning is equal to human information. In Linguistics, the study of human meaning is called Human Semantics; In Information Science, the study of human information is called Human Informatics.

Historically, Human Linguistics has two definitions: 1, It is the study of human language; 2, It, also called Anthropological Linguistics or Linguistic Anthropology, is the historical and cultural study of a human language. Without loss of generality, we only adopt the first definitions here, so we regard Human Linguistics and Linguistics as the same.

Due to Human Semantics is one of the disciplines of Linguistics and its main task is to deal with the human meaning, and Human Informatics is one of the disciplines of Information Science and its main task is to deal with the human information; Due to human meaning is equal to human information, thus we have the following corollary:

A: Human Informatics is a subfield of Human Linguistics.

According to the definition of general linguists, language is a vehicle for transmitting information, therefore, Linguistics is a branch of Human Informatics, so we have another corollary:

B: Human Linguistics is a subfield of Human Informatics.

Apparently, A and B are contradictory or logically unacceptable. It is a paradox in Information Science and Linguistics. In most cases, a settlement about the related paradox could lead to some important discoveries in a subject, but how should we understand this paradox?

Best wishes,


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Professor Terrence W. Deacon
University of California, Berkeley

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