Semantics and Linguistics
In a broad sense, information is structured, processed and organised information used by individuals or teams for specific purposes. Information can be used to satisfy an individual’s need (for instance, learning about a particular subject), to complete certain tasks (for instance, studying a language) or to make decisions (for instance, buying goods). It gives context to other data and allows effective decision making. For instance, a single consumer’s sale in a restaurant is information-this becomes information if the company is able to identify which customers are most likely to buy the dish with the highest profit margin.
However, information is neither complete nor useful unless it is appropriately translated, used and interpreted by our brains. This is done by our cognitive faculties, which are more complex than our sensory organs and involve both our faculties of sight, touch, hearing and taste. We are much more complex than this, and each aspect of our cognitive process corresponds to a particular information-processing faculty or organ. This information-processing organ is the conscious mind, which is further subdivided into three general types:
In information theory, the conscious mind consists of the following basic components: the stored representations of external reality, abstract thought processes and feelings, the informational response to external stimuli and the control centre or super-ego. The conscious mind cannot be consciously informed about external reality, abstract thoughts and feelings or the control centre or super-ego. The information that reaches the conscious mind must first be processed through the different information channels and then interpreted by the various cognitive faculties and their sub-parts, i.e., the language faculty, the visual system, the sensorial faculty and the intention system. All the three parts of the human brain interact in a coordinated and synchronised way to form our informational equivalents.
In contrast to information theory, the other two major strands of linguistics – Pragmatics and Ethics – provide methods for inferring objective information about the world. In pragmatics, as in most of the sciences, we seek to achieve some goal by making predictions about what will actually happen. An example of such a prediction would be, ‘If X happens, then Y will also occur.’ In information theory, on the other hand, we use sentences like ‘A is B’ to infer objective facts about an entity that cannot be proved absolutely true or completely false in any consistent manner.
An example of a very common source of information in the criminal law field is the confession of a criminal. Criminal defendants often give contradictory statements during court proceedings; sometimes they even contradict themselves outside the courtroom. Legal professionals call these discrepancies ‘pragmatic inconsistency’. We call it converges to the truth, since the statements of one counsel (i.e., the pro-defendant) and one counsel (the accused) are obviously contradictory to each other.
The pragmatics of information are not merely theories; they are the heart of legal reasoning. Legal systems across many countries, cultures and time periods utilize information to justify the actions of their defenders and penalize criminals. A skilled information processor can analyze any recorded or live-heard statement in its context and determine how a sentence can be split up and what it means. Information processing in this context is distinctively different from the more traditional semantic analysis used by linguistic scientists.