Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Andaman Islands linguistic treasures, documented just before extinction

The BBC recently reported that Professor Anvita Abbi at the School of Oriental and African Studies, London, managed to compile a dictionary of 4 endangered languages spoken in the Andaman Islands. Most parts of Andaman Islands politically belong to India, while a small part belongs to Myanmar. Although it only captures a small angle of language, dictionaries are a good way to document the lexis (vocabulary) of an endangered language. Apparently, Andaman Islands are one of the most linguistically diverse spots in the world although many of these languages are critically endangered according to the UNESCO website. 

It took Professor Abbi 6 years to compile the dictionary of the 4 endangered languages in the Island which are the Bo, Khora, Jeru and Sare languages. While working on her research, Bo and Khora became extinct. Bo, an ancient language of a culture that is more than 65,000 years old died with its last speaker early in 2010. The rapid rate at which languages are dying is compelling enough to try and avoid such a loss in some of the minority languages spoken in Oman. 

Professor Abbi with Boa Sr, the last speaker of the Bo language.

Professor Abbi’s words, "This was my way of documenting ancient and traditional knowledge as words are cultural, archaeological, and environmental signatures of a community” should be indeed a motivation so save the left signatures of the endangered languages in Oman. 

The original article about Professor Abbi's great achievement can be accessed here.

No comments:

Post a Comment