Sunday, May 20, 2007

Vanishing Voices of the Great Andamanese

If you have been following the discussions related to the renaming of the Andaman & Nicobar Islands (see posts below) you will find this new website by Dr. Anvita Abbi of the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) useful and relevant.


Vanishing Voices of the Great Andamanese is a Major Documentation Project directed by Prof. Anvita Abbi, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, India. It is funded and supported by the SOAS, UK under the ELDP program. Readers may view the ongoing research under this project as well as on other tribes of the Andaman in the following pages.

It is generally believed that all Andamanese languages might be the last representative of those languages whose history goes back to pre-Neolithic times in Southeast Asia and possibly the first settlement of the region by modern humans. These isolated Andamanese languages that are spoken by the descendents of the aboriginal population of Southeast Asia are, at present, ‘very critical’ stage (see Map 1).

Living Andamanese tribes can be grouped into four major groups, i.e. the Great Andamanese, the Jarawa, the Onge and the Sentinelese (Map 2). Barring Sentinelese, other tribes have come into contact with the mainlanders. Their history of contact varies from tribe to tribe, chronologically, the first one to come into contact with the mainlanders were the Great Andamanese followed by the Onge and finally the Jarawa. All attempts to establish contact with Sentinelese have failed so far.

Tribals in general have shown better resilience than the non-tribals in facing the Tsunami havoc. The Great Andamanese, who are 50 in number, live in Strait Island, 53 nautical miles away from Port Blair as well as in the city of Port Blair. The Jarawa, approximately 250 in number, live in the thick forests of the Middle Andaman, were totally isolated from the outside world till very late. Onge, who lived in two separate reserves in Little Andaman, i.e. Hut Bay and Dugong Creek (Map 3), have recently moved further interior to the forest after Tsunami killer waves attacked the Island. The fourth, a totally obscure and isolated tribe is Sentinalese who live in Sentinel Island. No human contact has been established with this tribe so far as they resist all outside intervention. For details refer to my book entitled Endangered Languages of the Andaman Islands. 2006. Munich, Lincom-Gmbh.

At present we are trying to document the language of the Great Andamanese.

No comments: