Ancient language dies in Andaman

The oldest member of the endangered Great Andamanese tribe has died in Andaman & Nicobar Islands.

Zeenews Bureau

Port Blair: The oldest member of the
endangered Great Andamanese tribe died in Andaman and Nicobar Islands, health officials said here today.

"85-year-old Boa Sr, who died on January 28 here, was
suffering from old age health ailments for sometime. She was
the oldest member of the Great Andamanese tribe," Tribal
Health Deputy Director R C Kar told PTI.

With the death of the woman, who lived in the Strait
Island of Andaman, only 53 members of the tribe are now left,
he said.

According to officials, Boa was one of the few speakers
of Bo, one of the 10 Great Andamanese dialectical groups.

"Most of the Great Andamanese have forgotten their mother
tongue and speak in Hindi now. They have been rehabilitated in
Strait Island, located north-east of Port Blair, since 1978,"
B N Sarkar, an anthropologist of Anthropological Survey of
India, said.

Before colonisation by the British, Great Andamanese were
solely inhabiting the whole of Great Andaman Islands, he said. The islands are one of the most linguistically diverse areas of the world.

Professor Anvita Abbi, who runs the Vanishing Voices of the Great Andamanese (Voga) website, told the BBC that Boa was the last Bo speaker for 30 to 40 years. She also added that her death was a loss to intellectuals wanting to study the very roots of language.

"It is generally believed that all Andamanese languages might be the last representatives of those languages which go back to pre-Neolithic times," Professor Abbi said.

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