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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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Roman Scholars on Grammatical Gender and Biological Sex

Roman Scholars on Grammatical Gender and Biological Sex

(p.12) Chapter 1 Roman Scholars on Grammatical Gender and Biological Sex
Sexing the World

Anthony Corbeill

Princeton University Press

This chapter considers how the Romans imagined that the earliest Latin speakers employed grammatical gender. From as early as Varro, scholars and grammarians occupied themselves with cataloguing the peculiarities of grammatical gender—instances, for example, when gender assignment seems counterintuitive, or where one noun can vary between masculine, feminine, and neuter. This scholarly activity, with little extant precedent in Greek tradition, finds Latin grammarians consistently placing great importance upon the identification of grammatical gender with biological sex. The chapter explains this fascination with “sex and gender” by analyzing the reasons posited for the fluid gender of nouns as well as the commonest practitioners of grammatical gender bending (in particular Vergil). It shows that by dividing the world into discrete sexual categories, Latin vocabulary works to encourage the pervasive heterosexualization of Roman culture.

Keywords:   biological sex, Latin speakers, grammatical gender, gender, Latin grammarians, sex, nouns, Latin vocabulary, heterosexualization

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