Indigenous languages and identity crises: Study among the Indigenous communities of Andaman and Nicobar Islands of India


Author: Dr. Piyusa Ranjan Sahoo (Anthropological Survey of India, Government of India)
Speaker: Piyusa Ranjan Sahoo
Topic: Ethnographical Language Work
The CALA 2022 General Session


Abstract

Presently, six indigenous communities are the native to Andaman and Nicobar Islands of India. Great Andamanies, Onge, Ang (Jarawa) and Sentineles indigenous people are with negrito physical attributes residing on the Andaman group of Islands where as Nicobarese and Shompen are with mongoloid physical attributes residing on the Nicobar group of Islands of India. Except Nicobasese, rest five indigenous communities are considered “Particularly vulnerable tribes” by the Government of India and still continuing hunting and gathering in the dense forest of Andaman and Nicobar Islands. The study suggest that 22 dialects previously prevailed among the tribes of Andaman and Nicobar Islands, but at present only 12 dialects exist, the other ten now presenting a mystery. Till date nobody has the knowledge about the Sentinele dialect of Sentinele Island. At present Great Andamanies, Onge and Ang (Jarawa) have their respective dialects but Nicobarese has six linguistic groups where as Shompens have four different linguistic groups. Very interesting is that the Great Andamanese language have no affinity with other languages and Ang (Jarawa) dialects, have no affinity with other Indian languages, but shows considerable resemblance to other dialects of the Onge people. This present study focuses on the present scenario of the indigenous languages and dialects of the indigenous communities of Andaman and Nicobar Islands, the cause and effect of the extinct dialects and communities, sociolinguistic elements and values of the dialects and its future. The Great Andamanese language had 10 different dialects spoken in early 18th century but right now only one linguistic group is exists among Great Andamanese which few can speak the language of  Great Andamanese. Dying of the older generation, the Indigenous language of the indigenous people of Andaman and Nicobar Islands is dying fast. A corrupted form of hindi called Andaman Hindi has been rapidly replacing the indigenous languages of the communities those who come contact with the non-native (Andaman hindi speakers) of Andaman and Nicobar Islands. On the other hand, the population and the number of speakers are very less. The study probes that the indigenous languages of the indigenous communities of Andaman and Nicobar Islands are dying faster and in identity crises which will later may disappear. Therefore this study suggests to take utmost care to preserve these valuable indigenous languages of the indigenous people of Andaman and Nicobar Islands of India.

Keywords: Indigenous people, language, dialects, Andaman hindi, Identity crises, Preserve