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Style, Mediation, and Change

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Book Information


Title: Endangered Languages of the Andaman Islands
Written By: Kay Williamson
Series Title: LINCOM Studies in Asian Linguistics 64

This is a book on the languages of one of the world's most endangered and
ancient linguistic groups - the Andamanese. Andamanese, a language isolate,
is considered the fifth language family of India. Based on fieldwork
conducted in the impregnable jungles of the Andaman Islands, the author
brings out a comparative linguistic sketch of Great Andamanese, Jarawa, and
Onge. The book provides the first detailed description of phonology, word
formation processes, morphophonemic processes, lexicon containing words
from various semantic fields, and syntax of the three languages.

Similarities and differences between Great Andamanese, Jarawa and Onge are
discussed to suggest possible genealogical affiliations and language
contact. In addition, the book contains information on the nature of the
field work pursued by the author, as well visual materials, which help
contextualize the different tribes and their languages, in terms of
civilization and environment. This is very relevant in the context of
Tsunami-havoc that led to dislocation of some of the Andamanese tribes. The
provided CD-Rom contains sound files, which help to provide more detailed
phonetic and prosodic information as well as phonetic variation among the
speakers of the dying and ‘mixed’ language such as Great Andamanese.

This is an important book as the speakers of these languages [8 Great
Andamanese, 250 Jarawa, and 94 Onge] represent the last survivors of the
pre-Neolithic population of the Southeast Asia. Latest research by
geneticists (Science 2005) indicates that the Andamanese tribes are the
remnants of the first migration from Africa that took place 70,000 years
before present. These languages are highly endangered, especially Great
Andamanese where not more than 6-8 speakers are left. Even these few
speakers have stopped speaking the language amongst themselves. Very little
work on these languages has been carried out so far. While a cross
linguistic study in the present book has generated a good description of
typological similarities and differences among languages, the comparative
study of the lexicon and word formation processes draw reader’s attention
to the genetic similarity between Onge and Jarawa. As Andamanese data have
been analyzed against the parameters provided by the most current
theoretical research in linguistic typology, the linguistic data and its
analysis reported in the current book are of utmost importance
theoretically, typologically, and historically.

The accompanying CD-Rom exposes, for the first time, the sounds and
pictures of the tribes in their natural surroundings that may serve as a
rare audiovisual treat to the users of the book. Some important
sociohistorical events, which happen to take place during the author’s
field trip, are also included in the CD, providing an indispensable insight
into the lives and culture of these ancient peoples.

Each grammatical sketch is complete in itself as it deals with all the
aspects of grammar from sound system to syntax to a large inventory of
lexical items and sociolinguistics. The current book is rich in visual
representation. It has thirty one tables and figures, seven maps and
substantial number of photographs of tribes taken in their natural

Because of the unique and rare nature of the data the book is launched with
a CD-Rom containing pictures, first-hand raw linguistic data, sound files
of songs and narrations, short video clippings shot in the local habitat.

For more information, please see

Publication Year: 2006
Publisher: Lincom GmbH
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BibTex: View BibTex record
Linguistic Field(s): General Linguistics
Asian languages
Subject Language(s): Jarawa
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Format: Paperback
ISBN: 3895868663
ISBN-13: N/A
Pages: 175
Prices: Europe EURO 64.00
U.S. $ 78.08
U.K. £ 44.89