Posted on February 5th, 2010by Michelle
In Culture, Events, Hindi, Indigenous languages | Leave a Comment »
Boa Sr, the last person fluent in the Bo language of the Andaman Islands, died and took with her an ancient tribal language. The Andaman Islands are a union territory of India in the Bay of Bengal.
The Bo language was one of the ten Great Andamanese languages, and took its name from a now-extinct tribe. The languages are thought to date back to pre-Neolithic human settlement of south-east Asia. Many of the indigenous languages survived unchanged for years, before the modern world encroached on the tribes that spoke them.
Linguists now hope that they can preserve other tribal languages, after Boa Sr spent her last years unable to converse with anyone in her mother tongue. She sounds like an incredible woman – speaking Hindi and another local language as well as songs and stories in Bo. She lived through the 2004 tsunami, reportedly climbing a tree to escape the water.
“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.” (Source: The Guardian)
Listen to a clip of the Bo language at the BBC website.