Language documentation in Andamans: Highs and Lows

At the Havelock Island

It is not surprising that language deaths go unnoticed when 10% of world languages are spoken by less than 100 speakers. Great Andamanese, is a highly endangered mixed language spoken by less than ten speakers from a community of 53 aboriginal people in Strait Island, Andaman & Nicobar Islands, India.

Great Andamanese is one of the oldest living languages of the world spoken by the Negrito population who are being identified by modern geneticists to be the initial settlers of the northern coastal areas of the Indian Ocean 50-70 thousand years ago from –out –of-Africa migration. This fact alone makes its documentation very essential for preserving linguistic and cultural characteristics unique to its location, and for opening new insights for linguists, cognitive scientists, geneticists, philosophers, and also for shaping our understanding of population genetics and human migration.

For a community, which is on the verge of losing its language completely, it becomes imperative that it gets urgent attention from people related to language documentation and revitalization.Great Andamanese is a highly endangered language today due to several reasons ranging from external forces such as such as military, economic, religious, cultural or educational subjugation to internal forces such as a community’s negative attitude towards its own language. And often these forces combine to produce disastrous results for an endangered language.

Language documentation not only helps in maintenance, revitalization and motivation for transmission of an endangered language to next generations but also engender a change in attitude towards language by the speech community, which is very vital for turning the tide over.

Though it is difficult to turn the tide back completely, language documentation does provide us with enough ways to slow down the process of language death.


One thought on “Language documentation in Andamans: Highs and Lows

  1. Hi
    It’s a very informative topic. I’ve experience of staying at Port Blair for almost three years between 1995-1998 and I can really find it interesting.

    By the by, I’ve written a Short story book, wholly devoted to Andaman and Nicobar Islands and Mr RUSKIN BOND has written foreword for it.

    Please visit my site to know more about my effort and comment on it.


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