Women and language in the ‘Secolo delle donne’

Helena Sanson

in Women, Language and Grammar in Italy, 1500-1900

Published by British Academy

Published in print September 2011 | ISBN: 9780197264836
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780191754043 | DOI:

Series: British Academy Postdoctoral Fellowship Monographs

Women and language in the ‘Secolo delle donne’

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This chapter discusses the complex linguistic situation of Italy in the eighteenth century, taking into account its broader implications as well as, specifically, women's relationship with spoken and written language. Throughout the century, Italian continued to be above all a written tool and still had to withstand competition from the dialects and from Latin, both in terms of writing and in the context of schooling. A new front of rivalry opened up with French, which, especially in the highest classes, occupied a privileged role at the expense of Italian, with women in particular often being attacked for indulging in its use. The debates on the education of women that enlivened the Settecento did not overlook the question of language: the Enlightenment re-evaluation of women's role in society, as educators and as citizens, explains the frequent pleas by educationalists and men of letters that the female sex should learn Italian. If, on the one hand, female periodicals and novels allowed women access to written Italian to an unprecedented degree, on the other a large number of female writers, journalists, and translators were able to offer their own direct contribution to language and the literary world.

Keywords: Italy; eighteenth century; Italian; Latin; French; education; female writers

Chapter.  25852 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Historical and Diachronic Linguistics

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