Hijo, Nino and child

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how do you express the idea of "a child" in Spanish? are Hijo and nino meant to convey an asexual tense/

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updated AGO 23, 2008
posted by Bridget

6 Answers

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lazarus1907 said:

Can anyone give me an example where "hijo" and "niño" are used with sexual overtones? I can't think of any... and Spanish is my mother tongue!


I could be wrong but I don´t think that any of the preceding was meant to imply "sexual overtones" (in the sense of referring to "sexual relations"). I suspect the the original poster was troubled by having to use "the masculine" to refer to children of mixed gender.

updated AGO 23, 2008
posted by samdie
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I did it again! I answer without reading things properly! This time I just ignored other people's comments, and managed to misinterpret an obvious question just because it wasn't properly formulated.

OK, let's try again:

Sex is what determines the kind of reproductive features a living being has. Males have male organs, females have female organs, and hermaphrodites have both. In other galaxies there might be other sexes, but for the moment just two. Objects don't have sexes. Asexual means without sexual organs, or without any reference to sex.

Gender is a grammatical classification, according to which words can be masculine, feminine or neutral. Again, there exists the possibility that somewhere someone has created other genders... In Spanish all nouns and adjectives two gender (and German three). In Spanish chair has feminine gender, and ships and boats have masculine gender, but in English a ship can be regarded as feminine (it is a "she"). When a noun refers to a sexual being (i.e. with sexual organs), often the gender matches the sex, but not necessarily: in "Juan es una persona", the word "persona" is feminine (gender), but it is referring to a male (sex).

The use of the word "gender" for "sex" was became fashionable from the 70's because the feminist and anti-macho supporters wanted to include in the same term, not just the biological organs, but also socio-cultural context. This unfortunate choice of word has resulted in a society that can't differentiate between sex and grammatical gender, and sees sexual discrimination where there is only a grammatical mechanism. In "Manuel es una joya/maravilla", you are saying that he is something feminine, and yet, it is a compliment. In "Manuel es una víctima" you are saying that he is a victim, and although "víctima" is a feminine noun, he remains "as straight as ever": he still is a male (sex).

Please, let's separate grammar from sex and discriminations!

updated AGO 23, 2008
posted by lazarus1907
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Can anyone give me an example where "hijo" and "niño" are used with sexual overtones? I can't think of any... and Spanish is my mother tongue!

updated AGO 23, 2008
posted by lazarus1907
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First of all "tense" applies to verbs not nouns. The tense expresses primarily the notion of "when". The easy cases are present/past/future. the slightly more complex are present/past/future perfect which are like the preceding but with reference to some time in the past. "Hijo" and "niño¨¨ are not so much asexual¨as ambiguous (as is "child"¨in English). In languages which don't have a "neuter" (such as English and Spanish [except for pronouns]), the custom (for many hundreds of years) has been to use the masculine form when applied to males and when applied to beings of unknown/irrelevant gender.
Note, especially the "irrelevant". This does _not_ mean that the Spanish (or anyone else) think that all children are male nor that female children are less esteemed; we're talking about grammatical gender not biological gender. So "niña" means a female child and ¨niño¨¨ means a male child or a child of unknown/irrelevant gender. There are only _two_ forms for the noun in Spanish (grammatically masc/fem) so to cover the case of unknown/mixed gender you are forced to choose one or the other.

The same thing happens in English with the pronouns. We have he/she/it and, since we don't use "it" to refer to people, when the sex of the person referred to is unknown/irrelevant, the tradition supports using the grammatical masculine form. This has proved very upsetting to some/many supporters of "Women's Liberation" because they feel they are being slighted. The root of their problem (with this usage) is, I think, that they don't understand the difference between grammatical and natural gender.

updated AGO 23, 2008
posted by samdie
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From what I understand (natives, correct me if I'm wrong!) "hijo" means son, or the child or offspring of a specific person. Like "Martín es el hijo de Juan." (Martín is the son/child of Juan) versus "niño" means more like a child when you want to refer to a young age. Like "Benito es un niño." (Benito is a child.) But in both cases, they can mean "child" but are not really asexual as any feminine child would have to be either "hija" or "niña." I hope this helps!
- Paralee

updated AGO 23, 2008
posted by Paralee
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If you double click those words you will get the definitions.

updated AGO 23, 2008
posted by motley