Fallacies of ambiguity characteristics in detail

Fallacies of ambiguity

The fallacies of ambiguity are words and expressions that under the same argument have more than one sense or several meanings. The word fallacy comes from the Latin fallacia , which means deception. Fallacies of ambiguity characteristics

In logic, arguments are made up of statements or promises that lead to a conclusion. So, the fallacies are arguments that, although they seem valid at first glance, are not.

However, this does not necessarily imply that your premises or conclusion are true or false. For example:

– Premise 1: If it’s snowing, then it’s cold.

– Premise 2: It’s cold.

– Conclusion: If it’s cold it’s snowing.

In this sense, an argument can have a true conclusion starting from fallacious premises, and vice versa.

The fallacies of ambiguity

Also called clarity or verbal fallacies, they correspond to the classification of non-formal fallacies. These arise when the conclusion is reached through the incorrect use of words, manipulating them in a deceptive way.

The ambiguity of the terms used causes their meanings to change subtly during the course of reasoning, rendering them fallacious.

Types of fallacies of ambiguity and examples

1- The mistake

It is produced by the confusion generated by the different meanings of a word or phrase used in the same context.


– Premise 1: heroin is harmful to health.

– Premise 2: Maria is a heroine.

– Conclusion: Maria is harmful to health.

2- Amphibology

It consists of the argumentation on ambiguous premises due to its grammatical structure. In other words, it refers to the lack of clarity in the statements.


– Premise 1: we will go through the park and the zoo.

– Premise 2: we wait for you there.

– Conclusion: where are they waiting for you, in the park or at the zoo?

3- The composition

In this it is expressed that the whole must also be of the same nature as its parts. That is, what is true for the whole is true for the parts. Fallacies of ambiguity characteristics


– Premise 1: Lemons are very acidic.

– Premise 2: the lemon cake has lemons.

– Conclusion: as the lemon cake has lemons, then it is very acidic.

4- The division

Contrary to the fallacies of composition, those of division assume that what is true in relation to the whole is also true for any of its parts.


– Premise 1: the university of the north is of the first level.

– Premise 2: the students of the northern university are all first level.

– Conclusion: all the students of the north university are first level because the north university is first level.

5- The emphasis or accent

These fallacies are committed the moment the argument is pronounced by its author with an inappropriate accent.

It is also called the fallacy of phonetic ambiguity, and it results from an incorrect intonation or pronunciation that causes the wrong understanding on the part of the interlocutor.


– Physical violence is highly harmful.

When the highest intonation occurs in the word “physical”, the interlocutor may conclude that other means of violence, such as verbal and psychological, are not harmful.

Other examples

Example 1

In the following conversation, an amphibology occurs

-My husband’s pig is sick.

-Who is sick? Your husband or the pig?

Example 2

The following reflection is a fallacy by composition.

If the hummus sauce is delicious. The garlic, paprika, chickpeas, or cumin, which are the ingredients with which the sauce is made, will also be delicious. Fallacies of ambiguity characteristics

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