- Andamanese languages
Infobox Language family
name = Andamanese
region = South Asia
family = Andamanese
familycolor = Andamanese
child1 = Great Andamanese
child2 = Ongan
child3 = ? Sentinel (unattested)
Ethnolinguistic map of the precolonial Andaman Islands
The Andamanese languages form a proposed
language familyspoken by the Andamanesepeoples of the Andaman Islands, a union territoryof India. There are two clusters of Andamanese languages, Great Andamanese and Ongan, plus Sentinelese, which is unknown and therefore unclassifiable.
The indigenous Andamanese peoples have lived on the islands for thousands, if not tens of thousands, of years, and for the great majority of this period their societies and languages have remained quite undisturbed by external influences. Although the existence of the islands and their inhabitants was long known to maritime powers and traders of the South– and Southeast–Asia region, contact with these peoples was highly sporadic and very often hostile; as a result, almost nothing is recorded of them or their languages until the mid-18th century. From the 1860s onwards, the setting up of a permanent British
penal colonyand the subsequent arrival of immigrant settlers and indentured labourers mainly from the Indian subcontinentbrought the first sustained impacts upon these societies, particularly among the Great Andamanese groups.
By the turn of the 20th century most of these populations were greatly reduced in numbers, and the various linguistic and tribal divisions among the Great Andamanese effectively ceased to exist, despite a census of the time still classifying the groups as separate. [Radcliffe-Brown, A. R. (1922). "The Andaman Islanders: A study in social anthropology." Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.] Their linguistic diversity also suffered as the surviving populations intermingled with one another, and some also intermarried with Karen (Burmese) and Indian settlers.
By the latter part of the 20th century the majority of Great Andamanese languages had become extinct, as the multi-lingual knowledge of the older generations was not replaced in succeeding ones.
At the start of the 21st century only about 50 or so individuals of Great Andamanese descent remained, resettled to a single small island (Strait I.); about half of these speak what may be considered a modified version (or creole) of Great Andamanese, based mainly on Aka-Jeru [Abbi, Anvita (2008). “Is Great Andamanese genealogically and typologically distinct from Onge and Jarawa?” "Language Sciences", doi:10.1016/j.langsci.2008.02.002] . This modified version has been called "Present Great Andamanese" by some scholarsAbbi, Anvita (2006). "Endangered Languages of the Andaman Islands." Germany: Lincom GmbH.] [http://www.ling.lu.se/disseminations/pdf/45/Burenhult.pdf Burenhult, Niclas (1996). "Deep linguistic prehistory with particular reference to Andamanese." "Working Papers" 45, 5-24. Lund University: Department of Linguistics] ] , but also may be referred to simply as "Jero" or "Great Andamanese". Hindi increasingly serves as their primary language, and is the only language for around half of them. [Abbi, Anvita and Bidisha Som (2007). "Where Have All The Speakers Gone? A Sociolinguistic Study of The Great Andamanese", "Indian Linguistics" 68.3-4:325-343.]
The Ongan languages survive mainly because of the greater isolation of the peoples who speak them. This isolation has been reinforced by an extreme reluctance against outside contact and outright hostility towards outsiders by South Andamanese tribes, particularly the
Sentineleseand Jarawa. The Sentinelese have been so resistant that their language remains entirely unknown to outsiders to this day.
The Andamanese languages are
agglutinativelanguages, with an extensive prefix and suffix system.Abbi, Anvita (2006). "Endangered Languages of the Andaman Islands." Germany: Lincom GmbH.] Temple, Richard C. (1902). "A Grammar of the Andamanese Languages, being Chapter IV of Part I of the Census Report on the Andaman and Nicobar Islands". Superintendent's Printing Press: Port Blair.] Possibly their most distinctive characteristic is a noun classsystem based largely on body parts, in which every nounand adjectivemay take a prefix according to which body part it is associated with (on the basis of shape, or functional association). [http://www.ling.lu.se/disseminations/pdf/45/Burenhult.pdf Burenhult, Niclas (1996). "Deep linguistic prehistory with particular reference to Andamanese." "Working Papers" 45, 5-24. Lund University: Department of Linguistics] ] Thus, for instance, the "aka-" at the beginning of so many Andamanese languages' names is actually the prefix for objects related to the tongue.Temple, Richard C. (1902). "A Grammar of the Andamanese Languages, being Chapter IV of Part I of the Census Report on the Andaman and Nicobar Islands". Superintendent's Printing Press: Port Blair.] An adjectival example can be given by the various forms of "yop", "pliable, soft", in Aka-Bea:Temple, Richard C. (1902). "A Grammar of the Andamanese Languages, being Chapter IV of Part I of the Census Report on the Andaman and Nicobar Islands". Superintendent's Printing Press: Port Blair.]
cushionor spongeis "ot-yop" "round-soft", from the prefix attached to words relating to the head or heart.
caneis "ôto-yop", "pliable", from a prefix for long things.
stickor pencilis "aka-yop", "pointed", from the tongue prefix.
treeis "ar-yop", "rotten", from the prefix for limbs or upright things.Similarly, "beri-nga" "good" yields:
*"Un-beri-nga" "clever" (hand-good).
*"Ig-beri-nga" "sharp-sighted" (eye-good).
*"Aka-beri-nga" "quick language learner" (tongue-good.) Another peculiarity of terms for body parts is that they are inalienably possessed, requiring a
possessive adjectiveprefix to complete them, so one cannot say "head" alone, but only "my, or his, or your, etc. head". [http://www.ling.lu.se/disseminations/pdf/45/Burenhult.pdf Burenhult, Niclas (1996). "Deep linguistic prehistory with particular reference to Andamanese." "Working Papers" 45, 5-24. Lund University: Department of Linguistics] ]
The basic pronouns are almost identical throughout the Great Andamanese languages; Aka-Bea will serve as a representative example (pronouns given in their basic prefixal forms):
The Ongan pronouns are rather different; Önge is cited here:
Judging from the available sources, the Andamanese languages have only two
cardinal numbers: one and two and their entire numerical lexicon is one, two, one more, some more, and all.Temple, Richard C. (1902). "A Grammar of the Andamanese Languages, being Chapter IV of Part I of the Census Report on the Andaman and Nicobar Islands". Superintendent's Printing Press: Port Blair.]
The languages and their classification
The Andaman languages fall into two clear families, Great Andamanese and Ongan, plus one unattested language, Sentinelese. These are generally seen as related. However, the similarities between Great Andamanese and Ongan are so far mainly of morphological nature, with little demonstrated common vocabulary. As a result, researchers such as
Joseph Greenberghave expressed doubts as to the validity of Andamanese as a familyGreenberg, Joseph (1971). "The Indo-Pacific hypothesis." "Current trends in linguistics vol. 8", ed. by Thomas A. Sebeok, 807.71. The Hague: Mouton.] The Andaman languages are:Manoharan, S. (1983). "Subgrouping Andamanese group oflanguages." "International Journal of Dravidian Linguistics"XII(1): 82-95.]
*Great Andamanese (spoken by
***Aka-Bea or Bea (extinct)
***Akar-Bale or Bale (extinct)
***Aka-Kede or Kede (extinct)
***Aka-Kol or Kol (extinct)
***Oko-Juwoi or Juwoi (extinct)
***A-Pucikwar or Pucikwar (extinct)
***Aka-Cari or Chari (extinct)
***Aka-Kora or Kora (extinct)
***Aka-Jeru or Jeru; 36 speakers in 1997, bilingual in Hindi
***Aka-Bo or Bo (extinct)
**Önge or Onge; 96 speakers (Onge) in 1997, mostly monolingual
**Jarawa or Järawa; estimated at 200 speakers (Jarawa) in 1997, monolingual
* Sentinelese; likely at least 50 speakers, and perhaps up towards 250 (the population of the
Joseph Greenberg proposed that these languages, or at least Great Andamanese, are related to western
Papuan languagesas members of a larger phylum he called Indo-PacificGreenberg, Joseph (1971). "The Indo-Pacific hypothesis." "Current trends in linguistics vol. 8", ed. by Thomas A. Sebeok, 807.71. The Hague: Mouton.] , but this is not generally accepted by other linguists. Stephen Wurmstates that the lexical similarities between Great Andamanese and the West Papuan and certain languages of Timor"are quite striking and amount to vitual formal identity […] in a number of instances", but considers this to be due to a linguistic substratumrather than a direct relationship. [ [http://www.papuaweb.org/dlib/bk/pl/C38/_toc.html Wurm, S.A. (1977). "New Guinea Area Languages and Language Study, Volume 1: Papuan Languages and the New Guinea Linguistic Scene". Pacific Linguistics, Research School of Pacific and Asian Studies, Australian National University, Canberra.] ]
poemin Aka-Bea was written by a chief, "Jambu", after he was freed from a six-month jail term for manslaughter. [Man, E.H. (1923). "Dictionary of the South Andaman Language". British India Press: Bombay ]
: "ngô:do kûk l'àrtâ:lagî:ka,": "mō:ro el:ma kâ igbâ:dàla": "mō:ro el:mo lê aden:yarà":: "pō:-tōt läh.": Chorus: "aden:yarà pō:-tōt läh."
: thou heart-sad art,: sky-surface to there looking while,: sky-surface of ripple to looking while,:: bamboo spear on lean-dost.
: Thou art sad at heart,: gazing there at the sky's surface,: gazing at the ripple on the sky's surface,:: leaning on the bamboo spear.
Note, however, that, as seems to be typical of Andamanese
poetry, the words and sentence structure have been somewhat abbreviated or inverted in order to obtain the desired rhythmical effect.
As another example, we give part of a
creation mythin Oko-Juwoi, reminiscent of Prometheus:
: "Kuro-t'on-mik-a Mom Mirit-la, Bilik l'ôkô-ema-t, peakar at-lo top - chike at laiche Lech-lin a, kotik a ôko-kodak-chine at-lo Karat-tatak-emi-in."
:"Kuro-t'on-mik-in Mr. Pigeon, God _-slep-t, wood fire-with stealing - was fire the+late Lech-to he, then he _-fire-make-did fire-with Karat-tatak-emi-at."
Translated (by Portman):
Pigeonstole a firebrand at Kuro-t'on-mika, while Godwas sleeping. He gave the brand to the late Lech, who then made fires at Karat-tatak-emi.
*Abbi, Anvita. "Endangered Languages of the Andaman Islands". Germany: Lincom GmbH 2006.
* Das Gupta, D., and SR Sharma. "A Handbook of the Önge Language". Anthropological Survey of India: Calcutta 1982.
* Blevins, Juliette. 2007. A long lost sister of Proto-Austronesian? Proto-Ongan, Mother of Jarawa and Onge of the Andaman Islands. "Oceanic Linguistics, 46:154-98."
*Burenhult, Niclas. 1996. "Deep linguistic prehistory with particular reference to Andamanese. " Working Papers 45, 5-24. Lund University: Department of Linguistics.
* E. H. Man, "Dictionary of the South Andaman Language", British India Press: Bombay 1923.
* E. H. Man. On the Aboriginal Inhabitants of the Andaman Islands. "The Journal of the Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland", Vol. 12, 1883.
* Manoharan, S. 1997. “Pronominal Prefixes and Formative Affixes in Andamanese Language.” A. Abbi (ed.). "The Languages of Tribal and Indigenous Peoples of India. The Ethnic Space". Delhi: Motilal Benarsidass
* Portmann, M.V. "Manual of the Andamanese Languages." Delhi 1887. Reprint Manas Publications, Delhi 1992.
* Senkuttuvan, R. 2000. "The Language of the Jarawa: Phonology". Calcutta: Anthropological Survey of India, Government of India, Ministry of Culture, Youth Affairs, and Sports, Dept. of Culture.
* Sreenathan, M. 2001. "Jarwa-Language and Culture." Anthropological Survey of India, Ministry of Culture, Government of India, Kolkata
* Richard C. Temple. "A Grammar of the Andamanese Languages, being Chapter IV of Part I of the Census Report on the Andaman and Nicobar Islands", Superintendent's Printing Press:
* Yogendra Yadaav. "Great Andamanese, a Preliminary Study". "Pacific Linguistics" A67, 1985.
* Zide, Norman Herbert & V. Pandya. “A Bibliographical Introduction to Andamanese Linguistics” "JAOS" 109:639-51
* [http://www.ethnologue.com/show_family.asp?subid=92001 Ethnologue entry for Andamanese languages]
* [http://www.southasiabibliography.de/Bibliography/Andamanese/andamanese.html South Asia Bibliography - Andamanese]
* [http://www.andaman.org/BOOK/text.htm Andaman Association]
* [http://www.rosettaproject.org/archive/andamanese/asia/anq/view?searchterm=onge Rosetta Project: Onge]
* [http://www.jnu.ac.in/jero_andamanese/Jero.html Jero in IPA transcription]
* [http://www.freelang.net/dictionary/onge.html Freelang Onge Dictionary]
* [http://www.ling.lu.se/disseminations/pdf/45/Burenhult.pdf Burenhult's Paper on Andamanese]
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