The tribes of the Little Andaman are the Onges, the Jarawas from the interior of the South Andaman, (the outer group as they are referred to sometimes) and the Sentinalese of the North Sentinel island, not to be confused with the Great Andamanese tribes. Ten in number, Aka-Cari, Aka-Kora, Aka-Bo and Aka-Jero and Aka-Kede form the Yerewa group from the northern parts of Andamans, and the Bojigngiji group consisting of Aka- Juwai, Aka-Kol, Aka-Bojigyab, Aka Balawa and Aka Bea from the South Andamans (Temple, 1903).
Most of these names of the tribes/ languages are words from common day-to day life of the people, like for instance, Jero means 'canoe', Bea means 'fresh water', Bojigyab means 'speech-language', Juwai is 'pattern on arrows', while Kol means'bitter/ salty' and all these words signify roughly the same sense in all these ten dialects/ languages. Aka- means 'tribe/ language' while -da is a suffix which is added to a noun when in isolation.
1901 Census figures indicate a total of 625 Great Andamanese with the largest number, 218 from the Jero tribe. In 1921 these figures came down to 209 out of a total of 786, and 460 in all reported in 1931, out of which 90 were the great Andamanese. In 1949 the Forest Department tried to bring them together and settle them at the Bluff island, but because of their nomadic nature and different habits, these tribes did not stay together for long. In 1969 the A & N Administration offered to help them if they stayed in Strait island. By this time, they were too few, only 23 in all, and probably thought it wise to accept the offer and stay together.
The Great Andamanese in Strait Island (1970)
Very soon they all spoke one language which is Jero, with some words from the languages of the other tribes completely assimilated in Jero language. Since then their numbers have increased from 26 (1961 census), 23 (1971), 42 (21 males and 21 females) in the year 1981. The 1991 census shows their population as 47 and in 2001 census the figure is 43 (24 males and 19 females). Pst- tsunami, all 43 have been reported safe. The numbers have mostly increased as a result of mixed marriages, since these people are free to mix with the people of the mainland, and have adapted to their way of life, speak Port Blair Hindi, dress like them, eat their kind of food, some of them have contractual jobs with the A&N administration, and it is not surprising at all that the younger generation does not know more than a few words of their language. Some of them do not know any Jero at all since most often they also communicate with each other in Port Blair Hindi. The younger people like to spend maximum time in Port Blair at Adi Basera which is the base camp for the tribals provided by the A&N administartion.
In 1989 when I first started working on their language, and on subsequent visits to the Strait island in 1995 and 2000 for this project I realized that there was a complete change in their lifestyle, their culture and traditions completely lost, and the only source of data was the older generation. Nao I and Bowa, (age approx 75 and 65 years in 1995, the time of data elicitation), the oldest couple gave us the maximum data and Lecho who was younger but very good at both the languages and was very social, outspoken, much more forthcoming than others interpreted the data we obtained from the older couples. The other informants included Ilfe (68) and his wife Boro ( 55), Kota (65) and his wife Ile (52). Ilfe and Kota both retired from Police, while Jirake (48-50) still worked for the police, and also did some private electrical repairs. Jirake's wife Surmai (35) could give words but otherwise mostly spoke Hindi.
Manoharan (1989) and Chakraborty(1990) give interesting life sketches of these people.