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Women in the History of Linguistics$
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Wendy Ayres-Bennett and Helena Sanson

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9780198754954

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: March 2021

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198754954.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (oxford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use. date: 19 September 2021

Visible and invisible women in ancient linguistic culture

Visible and invisible women in ancient linguistic culture

(p.31) 1 Visible and invisible women in ancient linguistic culture
Women in the History of Linguistics

Anneli Luhtala

Oxford University Press

In Classical Antiquity, the study of language and literature was a crucial part of education. Girls generally only took part of primary education, and women who progressed further did so by private tuition. Women were expected to be married and produce children and to practice their virtue in the traditional role of the wife and mother. Many women were well read in both Latin and Greek literature, and some twenty female poets are known from antiquity. However, women lacked training in formal rhetorical skills, because they were expected to speak and write in a different style. Nor were women supposed to enter into the places where public lectures took place. All the same, we know of women who received higher education and even taught philosophy (probably in private houses) or occupied themselves with philology. The women philosophers were normally born into philosophic households or married to philosophers. When grammar—a discipline dealing with language and literature—gradually became an independent subject in the first century BCE, it was taught in secondary schools. From the first century CE on we can get glimpses of female teachers of letters, but their achievements were not recorded. Thus, we have neither grammatical nor philosophical doctrine attributed to a female scholar, and this article deals with the general conditions of women scholars rather than their individual contributions to scholarship. Many prejudices prevailed concerning the inferiority of women. Aristotle thought that women were weaker than men not only physically but also intellectually. This remained common consensus, even if the Stoics and Platonists argued that women’s souls are not as such inferior to the souls of men. The Christians reinforced these prejudices, although they thought that men and women share a common human nature. Yet the Apostle Paul had said ‘I do not permit a woman to teach’ (I Tim. 2:12). However, Christian women could refuse marriage and follow an ascetic life, which brought about new opportunities for them as prophets, deaconesses, patrons, and occasionally even as teachers.

Keywords:   ancient women philosophers, ancient women philologists, women and rhetoric (in Antiquity), women and teaching of grammar, women’s natural eloquence, women and poetry, women’s intellectual virtues Aristotle on women’s souls

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