Meaningful Talk

33 Pages Posted: 20 Mar 2015

Date Written: February 2015


This paper develops a semiotic-inferential model of verbal communication for incomplete information games: a language is seen as a set of conventional signs that point to types, and the credibility of a message depends on the strategic context. Formally, there is an encoding-decoding step where the receiver can understand the sender's message if and only if a common language is used, and an inferential step where the receiver may either trust the message's literal meaning or disregard it when updating priors. The epistemic requirement that information be transmitted through the literal meaning of the message uttered leads to an equilibrium concept distinct from a Perfect Bayesian Equilibrium, ruling out informative equilibria where language is not used in its ordinary sense. The paper also proposes a refinement by which the sender selects among equilibria if all sender types are willing to play the same equilibrium.

Keywords: Cheap talk, Language, Literal and equilibrium meaning, Signs, Comprehensibility, Relevance, Trust, Credibility, Equilibrium selection

JEL Classification: D83, C72

Suggested Citation

Streb, Jorge Miguel and Torrens, Gustavo, Meaningful Talk (February 2015). IDB Working Paper No. IDB-WP-571, Available at SSRN: or

Jorge Miguel Streb (Contact Author)

Universidad del CEMA ( email )

Av. Cordoba 374
Buenos Aires, CABA


Gustavo Torrens

Indiana university ( email )

Wylie Hall, 100 S Woodland Ave
Bloomington, IN 47405-7104
United States
8128568131 (Phone)
47405-7104 (Fax)

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