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Sexing the WorldGrammatical Gender and Biological Sex in Ancient Rome$
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Anthony Corbeill

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780691163222

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: October 2017

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691163222.001.0001

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Latin Grammatical Gender Is Not Arbitrary

(p.1) Introduction
Sexing the World

Anthony Corbeill

Princeton University Press

This book presents some evidence from ancient Rome to dispute the notion that the grammatical gender of inanimate objects is a convenient linguistic convention, having no correspondence with any sort of imagined sexual characteristics of those objects in the real world. It argues that in the world of Latin grammatical gender, the sex and sexuality behind a given gender was always available for exploitation by the learned speaker. The book provides a historical perspective to the ongoing debate over the extent to which the structure of language affects perception of the world. Using the stable data of the Latin language and Latin literature, it examines the consistent overlap, and even occasional identification, of grammatical gender with biological sex by speakers in ancient Rome, and shows that this overlap finds an analogue in the Latin nouns commonly used to denote “gender” and “sex.”

Keywords:   ancient Rome, grammatical gender, inanimate objects, sex, sexuality, gender, Latin language, Latin literature, biological sex, nouns

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