Definitions

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. An ambiguous grammatical construction.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. Ambiguous discourse; amphibology.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. The use of ambiguities; quibbling.
  • n. In logic, ambiguity in the meaning of a proposition, arising either from an uncertain syntax or from a figure of speech.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • n. an ambiguous grammatical construction; e.g., `they are flying planes' can mean either that someone is flying planes or that something is flying planes

Etymologies

From Old French amphibolie, from Latin amphibolia, from Ancient Greek ἀμφιβολία ("ambiguity"). (Wiktionary)

Examples

  • Without this reflection I should make a very unsafe use of these conceptions, and construct pretended synthetical propositions which critical reason cannot acknowledge and which are based solely upon a transcendental amphiboly, that is, upon a substitution of an object of pure understanding for a phenomenon.

    The Critique of Pure Reason

  • I think that you'll find the average intellectual capacity here to be more than sufficient to see through weak attempts at confusion through amphiboly.

    Innovation I

  • Might I suggest that there would be considerably less bilious acrimony in the comment section in threads such as have been posted in the last few days if people would kindly knock it off with the amphiboly already?

    Intelligent Design and Miracles - The Panda's Thumb

  • The fallacies noted throughout are the standard ones discussed in Aristotle's De Sophisticis Elenchis: the fallacy of equivocation; the fallacy of accident; the fallacy of the composite and divided senses; the fallacy of the consequent; the fallacy of absolute and qualified senses; the fallacy of many causes of truth; amphiboly; improper supposition.

    Richard the Sophister

  • If, on the other hand, one had drawn a distinction, and questioned him on the ambiguous term or the amphiboly, the refutation would not have been a matter of uncertainty.

    On Sophistical Refutations

  • If people never made two questions into one question, the fallacy that turns upon ambiguity and amphiboly would not have existed either, but either genuine refutation or none.

    On Sophistical Refutations

  • This fallacy has also in it an element of amphiboly in the questions, but it really depends upon combination.

    On Sophistical Refutations

  • It often happens, however, that, though they see the amphiboly, people hesitate to draw such distinctions, because of the dense crowd of persons who propose questions of the kind, in order that they may not be thought to be obstructionists at every turn: then, though they would never have supposed that that was the point on which the argument turned, they often find themselves faced by a paradox.

    On Sophistical Refutations

  • Of the refutations, then, that depend upon ambiguity and amphiboly some contain some question with more than one meaning, while others contain a conclusion bearing a number of senses: e.g. in the proof that ‘speaking of the silent’ is possible, the conclusion has a double meaning, while in the proof that

    On Sophistical Refutations

  • Those ways of producing the false appearance of an argument which depend on language are six in number: they are ambiguity, amphiboly, combination, division of words, accent, form of expression.

    On Sophistical Refutations

Comments

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  • JM quibbles over the usage of amphibology and amphiboly.

    October 26, 2010

  • WordNet is fucking crackers.

    September 13, 2009

  • WordNet is flying planes.

    September 13, 2009

  • Bono can help us torture victims by not making music any more.

    January 6, 2009


  • If I understand it correctly, amphiboly refers to ambiguity of meaning that arises as a result of grammatical ambiguity (as opposed to semantic confusion).

    e.g. "Bono pledges to help torture victims"

    but not

    "The bank is right next to the river"

    January 4, 2009