Knowledge and language ‘for the ladies’

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

Knowledge and language ‘for the ladies’

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  • Historical and Diachronic Linguistics


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Across Europe, as early as the seventeenth century (and even more so in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries) women became the target of scientific treatises which aimed to explain new scientific knowledge to an unspecialized audience. Women were the privileged recipients of popularizing works of science and literature, and therefore indirectly contributed to introducing the new philosophers. In view of women's limited education, and their ignorance of Latin, works ‘for the ladies’ became synonymous with something adapted so as to become elementary and easy to grasp. Knowledge ‘for the ladies’ extended also to language, with the production across various countries of grammatical works which claimed to be, according to their titles and prefaces, expressly meant for the female sex. In agreement with the viewpoint that saw women as being incapable of real intellectual efforts, authors of these grammars shunned dry, boring, and taxing ways of learning, in favour of quicker and more pleasant and entertaining ones.

Keywords: women; scientific treatises; scientific knowledge; science; grammatical works

Chapter.  16995 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Historical and Diachronic Linguistics

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