v49: andra

Here is a list of the first ten cardinal (one, two, three,…) and ordinal (first, second, third,…) numbers in Swedish. Do you notice anything strange?:

1 ett första
2 två andra
3 tre tredje
4 fyra fjärde
5 fem femte
6 sex sjätte
7 sju sjunde
8 åtta åttonde
9 nio nionde
10 tio tionde

It strikes me that andra is the odd one out, don’t you think?

The English other is from Old English oþer, in turn from Proto-Germanic *antharaz, meaning the other one out of two things. In this exact meaning it was replaced in English around the 14th century by second, from the Latin secundus, following. Sequel has the same origin. The unit of time, second, is also directly related, being the result of dividing an hour into sixty equal parts a first time (to get minutes), and then a second time.

In Swedish, however, andra (ultimately the same origin as English other) still means both second and other. Andra, like an adjective, has a number of forms:

annan = indefinite singular common
annat = indefinite singular neuter
andra = indefinite plural
andra = definite

The word annandag (“second day”) is used in connection with a couple of Swedish public holidays, annandag påsk (Easter Monday) and annandag jul (Boxing Day). A third, annandag pingst (Whit Monday), was a public holiday until 2004; in 2005 it was replaced as a public holiday by Sweden’s National Day on 6 June. The latter commemorates the election of Gustav Vasa as King of Sweden on 6 June 1523, marking the effective end of the Kalmar Union, and thus the independence of Sweden. The date did not, however, become Sweden’s official National Day until 1983.

Published in: on February 4, 2011 at 15:48  Comments (1)  
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  1. […] both Swedish and English). Similarity among “basic vocabulary” such as kinship terms, numbers, body parts, and pronouns is more likely explained by a common ancestry. So here are some […]

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