Breathing Life into a Dying Language: Documenting Great Andamanese
Friday June 29, 2012
Thomson Hall, Room 317
Around 70,000 years ago several bands of early humans migrated from Africa to separate parts of the globe. One group came to the Andaman Islands. The latest research by geneticists indicates that the indigenous inhabitants of the Andaman Islands are the descendants of early Paleolithic colonizers of South East Asia. The languages of these colonizers are important repositories of our shared human history and civilization. This talk will discuss recent attempts at documenting some highly endangered languages of the Andaman Islands, namely Jarawa, Onge and Great Andamanese.
This speaker will share her exceptional experiences of compiling a multilingual and multiscriptal interactive dictionary. The ethno-semantic and ornithological account of the local birds and their names in the Great Andamanese language that feature in the dictionary and in the book “Birds of Great Andamanese” in great part reveals the various ecological and archeological signatures of the original communities that maintained close ties with their environments. What is more, the grammar of Great Andamanese becomes a significant piece in the jigsaw of language evolution. This talk will clear some of the mystery that shrouds the origins of languages, especially of this unique language which is in danger of disappearing from the face of this earth.