So how does ett barn square with the "double system" mentioned in the notes?
When talking about people, we use the natural gender (he and she) but when we aren't talking about humans, you have to look at the grammatical gender. Swedish words belong either to the en-words [...] or to the ett-words [...]
Is a child not considered human, or is it that simply every noun (whether human or not) belongs to either the en-group or ett-group? Also, would you refer to the child as "det" or as "hon/han"?
The German uses Das Kind -- The (neutral) child as well. I think it has to do with the Medieval concept of children as non-adults, and because of the poor medical condition at the time, they are often too vulnerable to escape death before coming of age. It is thus more emotionally safe to assume in the first place that they are things rather than investing too much an effort and receiving too harsh a result.
In Russian we also have a neutrel gender word for a child - [dit'ja], neither a boy nor a girl. In Slavic culture children wore a same clothes, boys and girls, long shirts, until the iniciation and giving a real name, not a nickname. So they were a neutral gender - it =) Excuse my English - it is not so good as it should (and could) be.
It could also just be that "child" can be both male and female. In Dutch it's the same.
Small comment on your idea that medieval people were emotionally detaching themselves from their children. I studied medieval culture and the daily life of people back then and I must say, they were as devastated by the loss of their children as we are now. It's not because child death rates were higher then that they didn't have the same emotional relation with them as we now do.
Anyway, not in topic :)
- Are you a Dutch speaker? I would love to hear more on the comparison. Another point to counterargue is that German "Madchen (girl)" is also grammatically neutral because of the neutral ending "-chen", not because of girls can be either male or female. And in general Germans seem to be iconoclastic in defining their words' "gender", didn't know if Dutch is the same.
//******// On Medieval
- I must admit that I am as foreign as an "easterner" can be on this subject. I mean, in ancient China, we have similar concepts. For instance, we believe that naming children "cheap" is a good way to trick death gods to leave them alone. Even these days, after all those years of communist revolutionary movements, you still hear names like "second dog", "big hammer" etc. everywhere in the countryside. Maybe it is not totally impossible that this is the case in the europe too?
Same goes to Latvian. We use the word Bērns to indicate a child as a being, but You could add viņš/viņa (he/she) in the sentence to push it in a gender category. BTW in the developement of Latvian language is many centuries Germans and Swedes influenced us because they were ocuppying this region also developing it. I know German from my childhood it's my first language despite being a Latvian. And that's why Swedish is harder than it should be. I constantly try to say something German or Latvian like the word Skola (school) is the same in Swedish as in Latvian but sounds different. (Sorry for my English it's my 4th language)
It's very interesting this "neutrality" of gender children have in different languages and cultures. In Portuguese, since we don't have neutral gender, we use female word "criança" to say child, "a/the child" is "uma/a criança", respectively, independent if is a boy or a girl.
Exactly. BTW, was Vermeer trying to be more affectionate by using meisje? I don't know if the name of the painting is attached by later generations.
En is the common gender indefinite article, while ett is the neuter gender indefinite article. Swedish used to have three grammatical genders, a long time ago (like German still does), but at some point the masculine and feminine genders merged into a "common" one. Mind you, grammatical genders are not necessarily related to natural (biological) genders, so knowing which gender a noun has is often arbitrary and needs to be memorized.
It's the machine being stupid. en unge is a colloquial word for 'ett barn', a bit like 'a kid'. It's an accepted answer. Now, since the machine is stupid, it thinks the easiest way of fixing your mistake when you put "en barn" is to keep the article and change the word into one that goes with that article. I guess we don't need to worry about clever machines taking over the world just yet.