Saturday, February 6, 2010

Ancient Tribal Language Becomes Extinct As Last Speaker Dies

The last speaker of an ancient tribal language has died in the Andaman Islands, breaking a 65,000-year link to one of the world’s oldest cultures.

Boa-Sr 1234 
Boa Sr, who lived through the 2004 tsunami, the Japanese occupation and diseases brought by British settlers, was the last native of the island chain who was fluent in Bo.
Taking its name from a now-extinct tribe, Bo is one of the 10 Great Andamanese languages, which are thought to date back to pre-Neolithic human settlement of south-east Asia.
Though the language has been closely studied by researchers of linguistic history, Boa Sr spent the last few years of her life unable to converse with anyone in her mother tongue. Even members of inter-related tribes were unable to comprehend the repertoire of Bo songs and stories uttered by the woman in her 80s, who also spoke Hindi and another local language.
“Her loss is not just the loss of the Great Andamanese community, it is a loss of several disciplines of studies put together, including anthropology, linguistics, history, psychology, and biology,” Narayan Choudhary, a linguist of Jawaharlal Nehru University who was part of an Andaman research team, wrote on his webpage. “To me, Boa Sr epitomised a totality of humanity in all its hues and with a richness that is not to be found anywhere else.”

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