Category: 

What Is a Fallacy of Accent?

Article Details
  • Written By: Angie Bates
  • Edited By: John Allen
  • Last Modified Date: 09 September 2016
  • Copyright Protected:
    2003-2016
    Conjecture Corporation
  • Print this Article
Free Widgets for your Site/Blog
The U.S. Coast Guard led the evacuation of more than 500,000 people from Lower Manhattan on 11 September 2001.  more...

September 27 ,  1940 :  The World War II Axis powers formed with the signing of the Tripartite Pact.  more...

A fallacy of accent occurs when the meaning of a sentence can be taken two different ways depending on whether a specific word is emphasized. Appearing frequently in speech, the fallacy of accent also can be seen clearly in written works. This fallacy is named one of accent because Aristotle's original definition included only those sentences with a variable accent on a specific word. Modern definitions, however, include stresses on whole words or groups of words.

The fallacy of accent falls into the fallacies of ambiguity category. Ambiguity leads to false assumptions about the statement made. The reader or listener is often led to believe that the original statement actually meant the opposite what it was intended to mean.

Sometimes said to be strictly a vocal phenomenon, the fallacy also occurs in writing or when speech is reprinted. For example, a sign which advertises a free product in large, bold letters but has in smaller letters that the free product is only available with a 20 dollar purchase is an example of a fallacy of accent. One group of words is heavily emphasized over another, leading the reader to an inaccurate belief.

Ad

Often a spoken comment will either be printed or repeated without the desired emphasis, leading to misinterpreted statements. For example, if someone asks another "did you enjoy the woman's dancing?" the person asked might respond, "I enjoy dancers with skill." Without any clear emphasis, this statement can be taken as a yes. The respondent did enjoy the dancing. If, however, the speaker emphasizes the word skill, "I enjoy dancers with skill," the answer ends up in the negative.

The fallacy also may take a sentence out of context. For example, saying "she was on time for work Tuesday" in response to the question "Was she on time Tuesday?" may have no bearing on whether "she" is normally on time for work. If, however, one puts an emphasis on the word "Tuesday" or omits the question asking about the specific day, a reader or listener may conclude that the "she" in the sentence is not normally on time.

In writing, the fallacy of accent can be avoided or enacted by placing specific words in bold type or italics to change or clarify the meaning of the sentence. Alternately, leaving words that should be emphasized without emphasis leads to this fallacy as well. In speech, intentionally or unintentionally repeating statements with difference emphasis can lead to the fallacy of accent.

Ad

You might also Like

Recommended

Discuss this Article

Post your comments

Post Anonymously

Login

username
password
forgot password?

Register

username
password
confirm
email