Andaman Dictionary Published: Minority Languages Preserved!

Here at Lingua Translations we aim to provide professional translation services for the myriad of languages the world has to offer.

We’re passionate about minority languages, and we’re always excited to hear about steps being made towards their preservation and documentation.

This week’s minority language news comes from the publication of the first ever Andaman Dictionary by linguist Dr Anivita Abbi.

Dr Abbi compiled her data and made recordings over a number of years. Data came from the tribesmen and women living on the Andaman Islands. These are a small group of islands around 700 miles to the East of India. These are home to one of the most ancient cultures on Earth.

Dr Abbi’s published research is also interactive. It contains details on, and recordings from the four Andamanese languages: Bo, Khora, Jeru and Sare.

Here’s the sad news:

The Khora language has actually been extinct since November 2009. Bo also became extinct when its last remaining speaker, Boa Sr, died last year at the age of 85. Jeru and Sare now have only a handful of speakers left on the island. Dr Abbi hopes that her dictionary will help preserve these languages for as long as humanly possible.

So what caused these languages to disappear in the first place? The main factor in their downfall was British colonisation in the 19th Century. This, followed by death and disease brought by the settlers led to an ever-shrinking pool of speakers. Ultimately the extinction of both Bo and Khora was inevitable.

Luckily though, Dr Abbi’s dictionary contains 2500 words from the four languages so that linguists can learn from a language which has since disappeared. Dr Abbi said that her motivation behind compiling this dictionary was the cultural heritage. Stating that: “This was my way of documenting ancient and traditional knowledge, as words are cultural, archaeological and environmental signatures of a community.”

Firm belief in language

We too are firm believers in the idea that languages and heritages (no matter how big or small) should be respected and preserved. Future generations can benefit from their richness and vibrancy. There’s nothing more heartbreaking than hearing about another minority language becoming extinct. That being said, we’re thrilled to see Dr Abbi’s dictionary published.

What we find most exciting about the Andaman dictionary is its interactive aspect. With this dictionary, readers are not only able to read about the languages, but they can also access recordings of speech from native speakers made during Dr. Abbi’s work in the field. The dictionary includes recordings from Boa Sr herself. So even if the language and culture within which it was spoken dies, its memory now has the chance to live on in Dr Abbi’s dictionary.

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