The uniqueness and consistency of meaning

Generally speaking, classical semioticians in the West are primarily concerned with the multiplicity of meanings of a symbol,2 and they tend to overlook the fact that some symbols can produce a single meaning or signified. This is what is called the uniqueness of meaning, which is precisely an essential characteristic of the strong symbols - the isology. This means that the signified of the strong symbols cannot acquire multiple meanings in accordance with the changing contexts. This uniqueness and consistency of meaning of the signified is a fundamental feature of a strong symbol, which is also its essential feature. For example, the wedding gown which, under any circumstances, has only one referent, that is, the bride. For another instance, one of the traditional Chinese principles is that “the relationship between the monarch and the officials is that between the father and the son.” This principle, when it becomes a strong symbol with only one single meaning, determines that the relationship between the monarch and the officials cannot be that between brothers, or that between friends, or anything else. The meaning thus signified is not liable to change, and obedience and submission (the meaning signified) become absolute principles. Here, the strong symbol no longer serves any specific referents; instead, it produces a singular connotative signification that becomes frozen in a particular historical and social context. The strong symbol becomes a most faithful vehicle for metaphor. Veritably, it becomes a super-metaphor itself.

A strong symbol finalizes a unique signified which might otherwise have multiple connotative meanings and it does so by means of a vivid and immediate form, the existing acknowledgement resulting from long-time and high-frequency communication, and the user group’s identification with its value. This single meaning ends up being frozen as the sole signified of the symbol, the particular and the only extended meaning that is being communicated. Within a minimum time limit and on a maximum scale, the communication of such a symbol forms a cycle of its own, as in the case in which one would automatically associate the wedding gown with the bride and, vice versa, associate the bride with the wedding gown. Therefore, when the symbol “Made in China” becomes forever associated with high quality and when high quality becomes the sole signified of the symbol “Made in China,” then, whenever people sight the symbol “Made in China,” they would automatically regard it as representing high quality. Vice versa, whenever people come across products of high quality, they would automatically associate the products with “Made in China.” By that time, the dream of China’s rise in the world will be fulfilled, and the communication has produced its due effect.

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