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The death of an ancient language

According to the BBC, the last speaker of the ancient language “BO” has died. Boa Sr who died at age 85, lived in India’s Andaman Islands.  BO was one of the worlds oldest languages by one its oldest peoples. It was one of several languages spoken by the various Andaman tribes who are believed to have originally left Africa perhaps 70,000 years old. 

According to Professor Abbi, a leading linguist, "It is generally believed that all Andaman’s languages might be the last representatives of those languages which go back to pre-Neolithic times.”  1  The CNN website has Boa Sr singing BO songs prior to her death. 

The Andaman people arrived about 60,000 years ago as part of the great migration of humanity out of Africa that began 100,000 years ago. It is thought that they came to the islands over a land bridge during a glacial period. With minimal contact with external societies, or each other, the various Andaman tribes retained their unique languages.

The Andaman tribes successfully maintained their isolation by killing all shipwrecked foreigners until the arrival of the British. Soon the British had established penal colonies and in time British and Indian settlers began taking over the Andaman's tibal lands. 2

With the arrival of civilization, disease and armed conflicts the Amdamen tribes rapidly declined.  There were believed to be 5,000 of them when the British colonized the archipelago in 1858.  Some international experts believe their are only 52 members of various Andaman tribes left. 3 

Now the BO language is gone after 70,000 years.  RIP.


1 http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/8498534.stm
2 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Andamanese#cite_note-venkateswar2004-2
3 http://www.cnn.com/2010/WORLD/asiapcf/02/05/india.extinct.tribe/index.html?hpt=T21

Books on the Andaman culture and history

Aparna Vaidik, Imperial Andamans: Colonial Encounter and Island History, Palgrave Macmillan (May 11, 2010)

Comments

  • t.mccray 4 years ago

    The Andaman tribes survived the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, one of the deadliest natural disasters in recorded history. They did so despite being near the region of the epicentre of the earthquake and without modern tsunami warning systems. The tsunami killed nearly 230,000 people in fourteen countries.

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