Book of Letters
The Andamanese language is one of the oldest languages of the world and it is our national heritage. It is very unfortunate that there are not more than four members in the community who can speak some words and phrases in this language. The present form of this language which is commonly known as Jeru, is a mixed variety of some of the languages of the Andaman Islands that were spoken in the past but are extinct now. During the work of the project Vanishing Voices of the Great Andamanese (2005-2009), we had a chance to meet many Andamanese children and felt that they should get an opportunity to learn their ancestral language. This was also the time when we met ten members who knew their heritage language. This is a small and modest attempt to familiarize the Andamanese children with the letters of their language. Since most of them are already learning Hindi in school, we decided to use the Devanagri script in this book. Each Andamanese word is also given in Roman script to make it accessible to a larger audience. We hope that the children will love this first Book of Letters. Nao Jr, the only member of the community who knew his language well helped us to prepare this Book of Letters.
A multicoloured ‘Book of Letters of Great Andamanese’ was released today, the 28th of March 2008, by Deputy Commissioner Mr. Jha in the Vivekanand School, Port Blair. The book is written by Prof. Anvita Abbi, an eminent linguist from the Jawaharlal Nehru University assisted by Mr. Nao Jr., the Andamanese speaker who was fluent in his language, and Mr. Abhishek Avatans, of the Jawaharlal Nehru University. A CD of folk songs of the Great Andamanese was also released which is a compilation of songs rendered in the voices of the Great Andamanese people. This was the first-ever attempt to document the folk songs of the tribe. As the language is on the verge of extinction because inter-generational transfer no longer exists, collection and documentation of oral tradition have far-reaching impacts on our knowledge of the ancient civilization. She has incorporated highly sophisticated technology to undertake the documentation work.