Past Events

The Department of African, Middle Eastern and South Asian Languages and Literatures

 is pleased to announce a lecture:

 “The Last Words: Documenting the Language of a Pre-Neolithic Tribe”


Anvita Abbi

Professor of Linguistics

Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, India


October 6, 2009



Room 314, Lucy Stone Hall, Wing B


The origin of Andamanese tribes and its relationship with Southeast population have been the subject of speculation for centuries. Latest research by geneticists indicates that Andamanese are the descendants of early Paleolithic colonizers of South East Asia and are the survivors of the first migration from Africa that took place 70,000 years before present. The present talk details the first ever attempt to compile a multilingual dictionary of a highly endangered language of the Andaman Islands, i.e. the Great Andamanese language, spoken by seven speakers in a population base of 53. Great Andamanese is a very significant language of India as it has helped linguists to trace the antiquity of the world’s languages. Each language has unique lexical stock and unique signification. Various manifestations of language are ecological and archeological signatures of the communities that maintain close ties to their environments. The present talk show cases the multilingual and multiscriptal interactive dictionary of the Great Andamanese language complete with color pictures and sound recordings of the native speakers of the language.