LSASL 64: Endangered Languages of the Andaman Islands

Product no.: ISBN 9783895868665
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Endangered Languages of the Andaman Islands

Anvita Abbi
Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi

The only typological work ever undertaken on the Andamanese languages

This is a book on the languages of one of the world’s most endangered and ancient linguistic groups - the Andamanese. Andamanese, a language isolate, is considered the fifth language family of India. Based on fieldwork conducted in the impregnable jungles of the Andaman Islands, the author brings out a comparative linguistic sketch of Great Andamanese, Jarawa, and Onge. The book provides the first detailed description of phonology, word formation processes, morphophonemic processes, lexicon containing words from various semantic fields, and syntax of the three languages. Similarities and differences between Great Andamanese, Jarawa and Onge are discussed to suggest possible genealogical affiliations and language contact. In addition, the book contains information on the nature of the field work pursued by the author, as well visual materials, which help contextualize the different tribes and their languages, in terms of civilization and environment. This is very relevant in the context of Tsunami-havoc that led to dislocation of some of the Andamanese tribes. The provided CD-Rom contains sound files, which help to provide more detailed phonetic and prosodic information as well as phonetic variation among the speakers of the dying and ‘mixed’ language such as Great Andamanese.

This is an important book as the speakers of these languages [8 Great Andamanese, 250 Jarawa, and 94 Onge] represent the last survivors of the pre-Neolithic population of the Southeast Asia. Latest research by geneticists (Science 2005) indicates that the Andamanese tribes are the remnants of the first migration from Africa that took place 70,000 years before present. These languages are highly endangered, especially Great Andamanese where not more than 6-8 speakers are left. Even these few speakers have stopped speaking the language amongst themselves. Very little work on these languages has been carried out so far. While a cross linguistic study in the present book has generated a good description of typological similarities and differences among languages, the comparative study of the lexicon and word formation processes draw reader’s attention to the genetic similarity between Onge and Jarawa. As Andamanese data have been analyzed against the parameters provided by the most current theoretical research in linguistic typology, the linguistic data and its analysis reported in the current book are of utmost importance theoretically, typologically, and historically. The accompanying CD-Rom exposes, for the first time, the sounds and pictures of the tribes in their natural surroundings that may serve as a rare audiovisual treat to the users of the book. Some important sociohistorical events, which happen to take place during the author’s field trip, are also included in the CD, providing an indispensable insight into the lives and culture of these ancient peoples.

Structure of the book

The book is divided into six chapters followed by bibliographical reference and indices.

[1] Introduction.
[2] A Great Experience: From the Field Diary.
[3] Where Have All the Speakers Gone? The Great Andamanese Language
[4] Touch Me Not. The Jarawa Language
[5] Lost In the Jungle. The Onge Language
[6] Conclusions: A Typology of the Andamanese Language
[7]Two appendices containing demographic figures, maps and pictures follow.
[8] References
[9] Index

Each chapter on grammatical sketch is complete in itself as it deals with all the aspects of grammar from sound system to syntax to a large inventory of lexical items and sociolinguistics. The current book is rich in visual representation. It has thirty one tables and figures, seven maps and substantial number of photographs of tribes taken in their natural surroundings.

Because of the unique and rare nature of the data the book is launched with a CD-Rom containing pictures, first-hand raw linguistic data, sound files of songs and narrations, short video clippings shot in the local habitat.

ISBN 9783895868665. LINCOM Studies in Asian Linguistics 64. 175 pp + CD-ROM. 2006

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