Go Figure: The Strategy of Nonliteral Speech
Hugo M. Mialon
Emory University - Department of Economics
Sue H. Mialon
May 29, 2012
Emory Public Law Research Paper No. 10-135
Emory Law and Economics Research Paper No. 10-87
We develop a model of figurative or indirect speech, which may convey a meaning that differs from its literal meaning. The model yields analytical conditions for speech to be figurative in equilibrium and delivers a number of comparative statics results. For instance, it predicts that the likelihood of figurative speech is greater if the benefit to the listener of correctly understanding the speaker is greater. We then apply the model to analyze particular forms of indirect speech, including terseness, irony, and veiled bribery. Interestingly, the model provides a novel argument for the effectiveness of laws that strictly punish attempted bribery.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 39
Keywords: Literal Speech, Figurative Speech, Terseness, Irony, Bribery, Law
JEL Classification: D83, C72, Z11working papers series
Date posted: October 5, 2010 ; Last revised: October 13, 2012
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