The tsunami disaster of
the 26th December 2004 has suddenly drawn the attention
of the world to the six endangered Negrito and Mongoloid tribes of
Andaman and Nicobar islands in the Bay of Bengal. It is indeed a matter of great concern
world over particularly for the Andamanese who are too few in
It is also a matter
of great relief that the Jarawas, the Onges, the Sentinelese, and
the Great Andamanese are safe / have been spotted in their
respective islands. The extent of loss in terms of human lives in
the case of the Nicobarese can only be, very roughly estimated. With
the scale of disaster that was Tsunami 2004, no one can tell.
This website on the
Great Andamanese, primarily the Jero tribe was due to be launched
in the middle of December 2004 but got delayed due to some
unavoidable reasons, and then in the meantime Tsunami waves played
havoc in the region. Since the day of the disaster, I have been
getting mails from friends, colleagues from all over the world
wanting to know about this tribe. So here it is, with a changed
introduction, as you can see.
This is a report of
the documentation project on the Great Andamanese which was jointly
sponsored and funded by Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi and
the Department of Culture, MHRD, Govt of India, in the years
1994-96 and 1998-99.
While the complete
report of the project is under publication, I would like to share
some of the important features, data and analysis, some pictures and
some video clips with those who wish to know more about our people,
our heritage, our culture through studies of different tribes of
India. In order to understand people, a tribe, a race, a
civilization, it is important to share information on various
aspects of human life, across disciplines. As a linguist I wish to
put my part of the study on record, on web and wait for the other
pieces of the jig-saw puzzle to come from the archeologists,
historians, anthropologists, geneticists and others to have a
comprehensive account of the object of investigation so that the
data could then be interpreted to make sense.
The data was
collected during this period (1994-96) and (1998-2000), on several visits
to the Strait island and consists of audio and video recordings of
the speech and language of the Jero people, and phonetic/ phonemic
transcriptions of the speech and language of some of the senior
members of the tribe collected through interviews.
For the historical
accounts we rely on the travel diaries and notes of people who came
in contact with these tribes as early as 1669, for a comprehensive
report and distribution of the tribes in the Andaman islands, one
relies on the 1901 Census report which was written by Sir Richard
C.Temple (1903), and for anthropological insights
Radcliffe-Brown,1948 is the most reliable source.
As far as the
linguistic descriptions are concerned, Manoharanís descriptive
grammar of Andamanese, 1989 is probably the first study with
extensive data in IPA, collected by the author using the field
techniques of structural linguistics, while Chakraborty,1990 gives
an anthropological description and the present day profile of the
surviving members/ families of the tribe. These two studies are
important because when these two authors collected data for their
respective studies, there was Loka I, who knew his language well, who also knew the local language of communication with the mainland people (Port Blair Hindi) who was very active, very versatile, well informed and was an excellent source of data on language and culture of all the ten tribes called the Great Andamanese. Loka I died in
1986 at the age of 100 (approximately).
In addition to these
and several other studies ( Dass 1937, Basu 1952, Mathur 1968, Lal
1976Ö.and others) there are reports of the Census 1901 to 2001 on population details
and some more descriptive accounts.
The website introduces Jero, the language and culture of the tribe called Jero, the Great Andamanese. The home page introduces the tribe, includes some details about their nomadic nature, culture and history, important sources of information and some observations on speech and language which make it different and distinct from any other known language families of the world. Different links lead us to the Sounds of Jero, for the time being articulatory descriptions, acoustics of vowels and prosodic features to be included later; Jero in IPA transcription links you to the data - words, phrases and sentences in IPA transcriptions with glosses in English; Photo album & video clips give glimpses of their life and more data on their language; and Jero voices includes clips of audio recordings, primarily from the oldest couple Nao (who died three years ago) and Bowa who should now be around 75 years old. These voices are being studied in detail. The section will be upgraded as soon as the spectral analysis of the vowels and acoustic analysis of these two voices is complete. Readings on Jero gives a select bibliography on the subject.