Source: p 114, With Good Reason, An Introduction to Informal Fallacies (6 ed, 2000) by York U. Prof. S. Morris Engel

Unintended meanings can arise not only from faulty sentence, structure, as in the case of amphiboly, but also from confusion to emphasis. The fallacy of accent* results when (1) a statement is spoken in a tone of voice not intended (2) certain words are wrongly accented or stressed; or (3) certain words (or even whole sentences and paragraphs) are taken out of context and thus given an emphasis (and therefore a meaning) they were not meant to have.

*Accent was the term applied by Arisiotle to misinterpretations resulting from wards that differ in syllabic accent. An example in English would be the confusion of invalid (meaning "someone ill") and invalid (meaning "a faulty argument"). By extension, the term came to be applied In whole words and sentences chat when similarly misaccented convey a meaning they were not intended to convey.

Is the last paragraph above correct, because the word accent originates from Latin from PIE without entering Ancient Greek? 'accent' was the Loan Translation or Calque of the Ancient Greek 'prosodia', but 'prosodia' appears too positively connoted a noun to describe a Logical Fallacy?

  • A better term might be "prosodic contour". Your suspicion is well-motivated; English is accented, French is not, nor was Attic Greek. But the basic idea is right.
    – user20153
    Jun 8, 2016 at 18:14

1 Answer 1



See Sophistical Refutations:

[166b1-166b9] An argument depending upon accent [προσῳδῐ́ᾱ ‎(prosōidíā) the tone or pitch of a word] is not easy to construct in unwritten discussion; in written discussions and in poetry it is easier. Thus (e.g.) some people emend Homer against those who criticize as absurd his expression to men ou katapythetai ombro [τὸ μὲν οὖ καταπύθεται ὄμβρῷ]. For they solve the difficulty by a change of accent, pronouncing the ou with an acute accent. [footnote: They emend οὖ to οὔ, ‘Part of which decays in the rain’ to ‘It does not decay in the rain’ (Iliad, XXIII 328).] Also, in the passage about Agamemnon’s dream, they say that Zeus did not himself say ‘We grant him the fulfilment of his prayer’ [δίδομεν δέ οἱ εὖχος ἀρέσθαι], but that he bade the dream [διδόναι] grant it. Instances such as these, then, turn upon the accentuation.

That's all.

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