Journal of Logic, Language and Information

, Volume 22, Issue 3, pp 249–267 | Cite as

On the Origin of Ambiguity in Efficient Communication



This article studies the emergence of ambiguity in communication through the concept of logical irreversibility and within the framework of Shannon’s information theory. This leads us to a precise and general expression of the intuition behind Zipf’s vocabulary balance in terms of a symmetry equation between the complexities of the coding and the decoding processes that imposes an unavoidable amount of logical uncertainty in natural communication. Accordingly, the emergence of irreversible computations is required if the complexities of the coding and the decoding processes are balanced in a symmetric scenario, which means that the emergence of ambiguous codes is a necessary condition for natural communication to succeed.


Ambiguity Logical (ir)reversibility Communicative efficiency Shannon’s entropy 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Catalan Philology, Facultat de FilologiaUniversitat de BarcelonaBarcelonaSpain
  2. 2.Section for Science of Complex SystemsMedical University of ViennaViennaAustria
  3. 3.ICREA-Complex Systems LabUniversitat Pompeu FabraBarcelonaSpain

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