Pragmatics – The Nature of Criminal Charges

Information, in a broad sense, is structured, processed and organised information. It gives context to otherwise unprocessed data and allows effective decision making on any subject. For instance, a single consumer’s sale in a particular restaurant is statistical data which becomes information when the company is able to separate out the best or worst dish. Therefore, information is of two types: qualitative information and quantitative data. Qualitative information is general opinion, which may not be true, based on facts. Quantitative information, on the other hand, refers to quantities and statistics.


One of the major developments in information theory is the notion of communication. Communication is a complex process, and information must be communicated from one level to another in the right format, with the appropriate message and to the right audience. In business, information needs to reach to decision makers who can act on it. Decision makers will then be more likely to use that information in their day to day activities. Quantitative and qualitative data cannot be used to communicate information to all stakeholders, because each stakeholder will process information differently, taking his own point of view into account.

An effective communicator always communicates the message in its original form, as understood by the receiver. If the recipient misunderstands the message, the whole purpose of communicating it is defeated. The main aim of any communication channel is to make the receiver understand whatever is being communicated. For example: a letter sent by a post office to a home, with an address label attached, is only useful if the recipient understands what the post office wants to convey.

This form of communication occurs in our conscious mind. In this sense, information is considered to be information, even though it is unprocessed information that has been consciously processed. However, this information is not random, like the raw sensory information that reaches our senses. Rather it is systematically processed. We usually refer to this kind of information as ‘conscious’.

In fact any kind of information can be a source of communication. Any event that has a cause and effect relationship can be a source of communication. Information is only meaningful in terms of those relationships. A complex set of relationships can be communicated using a single term, such as the elements of a set of laws. It is not random chance that causes a criminal charge, but a system of pragmatics, of cause and effect relationships.

Information can also be communicated through semiotics. Semiotics is concerned with knowing how to communicate about what is said and what is not said. So a communication system using pragmatics can convey information about which words are appropriate to use to express a particular meaning, and which words are inappropriate. In this way an entire complex communication system is expressed using only a single term, the word ‘punish’. Punish is a term that means the same thing as ‘pain’ in both languages, and that therefore can be used in conjunction with other words to make a meaning more precise.