32. The Andamanese Languages


 

 

 

Table of Contents

 

1. Phonetics

2. Sign language

3. Vocabulary

4. Grammar

5. Classifiers

6. The Languages  

 

 

1. Phonetics

In January 2002 the Andaman Association received the following comment to this chapter from Dale Chock at hurmata@onebox.com. We are grateful for this input and are happy to publish Dale's detailed correction and argument here.

"Your essay on the Andaman languages contains a careless contradiction.

After claiming that "there are no 'hissing' sounds", you list at least one hissing sound, [s]. (see text below)

Arguably, 'ch' and 'j', being affricates with an 'sh' component, also qualify as "hissing sounds". You don't indicate whether you understand a hissing sound to be a sibilant (traditionally, "sibilant" and "hissing sound" are equivalent) or, more broadly, any fricative or affricate (fricatives include [h] and 'th'). It is true, there are many languages whose only sibilant ("hissing sound") is [s] (voiceless = stimmlos). Languages that lack sibilants altogether are very rare. There are some in Oceania, e.g. Hawaiian, of the Austronesian language family, and Rotokas (spoken on Bougainville Island), of the East Papuan language family. These two languages in particular stand out in that they have so few consonants of any type. Rotokas with six is apparently the record holder for language with the fewest consonants (p, t, k, w, r, g; the 'w' pronounced as in German, or as the Greek 'beta', and 'r' pronounced as in Spanish). Hawaiian has only eight consonants and is sometimes wrongly acclaimed as the record holder.

I have seen sound inventories for other consonant poor languages (10-15 consonants) and they all have at least one sibilant, [s] (e.g, Huichol (Uto-Aztecan), Fijian (Austronesian), Finnish (Uralic), Cheyenne Algonquian). (Most of these have 12-13 consonants; Fijian has 17-20.) You list more than 15 consonants for Andamanese, among them explicitly [s].

As just alluded to, cross linguistically speaking, it would be a shocker for a language with 12 or more consonants to have no hissing sounds.

Andamanese pronunciation and phonetics are difficult fields. The problem started with the very first word list ever assembled on an Andamanese language: naval surveyor Colebrooke in 1790 jotted down what he heard exactly how he heard it. His list remained something of a mystery for a century; it did not seem to correspond to any known language, Andamanese or otherwise. It was Portman who discovered, a full century later, that the list produced, of all things, Jarawa words - if pronounced with an intensely nasal Scottish accent...

The post-Colebrooke researchers of the British period until 1947 were not much more professional than surveyor and non-linguist Colebrooke - but all thought it necessary to concoct their own system of phonetic notation while deprecating earlier systems. As a result, we are left with a number of incompatible notations. We have left out the multitude of accents and characters used by the various sources here as more confusing than helpful and hope that few readers will need to know the supposedly precise pronunciation of the Andamanese words given here.

Since Indian Independence in 1947 with very few exceptions only Indian scientists have investigated the Andamanese languages. They, too, have not adopted the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) but have also made up their own phonetic system - yet another one.

Because of the over-abundance of phonetic notations, it is almost impossible to compare the phonetic notes made before 1947 with those of today. At the very least it would be a major and possibly rather tiresome task for someone to bring all these systems into line.

The simplest and easiest to use with very few diacritical marks (which we are leaving out here, in any case) is that of E.H. Man. It gives a good idea of the phonetic range of the Andamanese languages. Note that there are no sibillant or hissing sounds (but see introductory correction at the head of this chapter). As the Indian Cyclopaedia of 1885 put it:

... when they speak to one another, their pronunciation is so indistinct as to resemble a chatter but they are sharp at catching words and sounds.

E.H. Man's system for Andamanese spelling (much simplified) based on the Victorian English upper class pronunciation looks as follows: 

a

like English "idea" and "cut"

j

like English "judge"

e

like English "bed"

k

like English "king"

i

like English "lid"

l

like English "lap"

o

like English "indolent"

m

like English "man"

u

like English "influence"

n

like English "nun"

ai

like English "bite"

ñ

like French "gagner"

au

like English "house"

ng

like English "bring"

oi

like English "boil"

p

like English "pap"

b

like English "bed"

r

like English "rest"

ch

like English "church"

s

like English "sad"

d

like English "dip"

t

like English "ten"

g

like English "gap"

w

like English "wet"

h

like English "hay"

y

like English "yolk"

 

2. Sign Language

The Andamanese made wide use of sign-language. Some of this may have reflected attempts to make themselves understood to outsiders who did not speak their own language. However, there also seems to have been a tradition of play acting among traditional Andamanese that had nothing to do with the outside intrusions

There was a sort of sign language in Andamanese using fingers to denote numerals up to ten (the spoken numerals with precise meanings were only "1" and "2", see below). E.H. Man has described this odd system as follows:

When anxious to express a certain small number with exactness, as, for example, nine, the nose is tapped with the tips of the fingers in successive order, and commencing with the little finger of either hand, uba-tul ("one") is said; with the next finger ik-por- ("two"), after which with each successive finger an-ka ("and this") is uttered. When the forefinger of the second hand is reached both are held up, and, the thumb of the second hand being clenched, the necessary number of digits is exposed to view, whereupon the word arduru-ru- ("all") is pronounced.

Play-acting often took the place of conventional verbal communications, an aspect of Andamanese that could be of interest to those concerned with the origins of language. There is a good description in Portman's book of how two Aka-Bea guides gave warning of nearby Jarawa to a British explorer in 1863, thereby providing the earliest known reference to that tribe:

Jacko pointed at my heart and represented the act of a savage aiming at me with his bow and arrow piercing my heart and my falling wounded, closing my eyes and expiring. Topsy also pathetically enacted the death scene, and both waved their hands deprecatingly in the direction disapproved of, and entreated me not to proceed further but to return...

No doubt in this case inability to understand each other's language forced the two guides to use play-acting in order to make their point. Among Andamanese, returning successful hunters often told their tale not in words but by acting out the scenes of the hunt for the delectation of the spectators.

 

3. Vocabulary

The Andamanese languages have only two cardinal numbers: in Aka-Bea this was uba-tul ("one") and ikpor ("two"). Beyond that they had arduru ("several"), jegchau ("many"/human), jibaba ("very many"/human), ubaba ("very many"/non-human), atubaba ("countless"/human) and otubaba ("countless"/non-human). This is correct as far as it goes but it is not the whole story. The daily life of a simple hunter-gatherer society rarely needed counting beyond two, but if necessary, the Andamanese could express higher numbers by using sign language as we have briefly mentioned above. Portman lists numerals up to "five" in four southern languages but clearly limits their meaning by saying that "three" really meant "one more", "four" meant "some more" and "five" meant "all." These expressions of Andamanese higher mathematics have nevertheless found their way into some otherwise reliable works of reference as genuine numerals. 

English

Aka-Bea

Akar-Bale

Pucikwar

Oko-Juwoi

five ("all")

ar-duru

ar-pulia

ar-dire

a-chapar

five ("all")

ar-duru

ar-pulia

ar-dire

a-chapar

five ("all")

ar-duru

ar-pulia

ar-dire

a-chapar

five ("all")

ar-duru

ar-pulia

ar-dire

a-chapar

five ("all")

ar-duru

ar-pulia

ar-dire

a-chapar

An oddity of the Andamanese numeric system was the fact, as E.H. Man has pointed out, that while there were only two precise numerals ("one" and "two"), ordinals went up to six. Perhaps this is a hint hint at the existence of a more extensive Andamanese numerical system that has since been lost.

A peculiar aspect of the Andamanese languages is the treatment of the words for "mother" and "father." They do not exist, at least not in the way we would expect them to exist. In traditional Andamanese society, relative age was the most important single factor determining status. Children were dearly beloved but many were almost routinely adopted away by their biological parents between the age 5 to 7. They went to couples in other friendly groups while the original parents in turn adopted other parents' children. Some social contact between biological parents and their children was usually kept through visits and the exchange of presents but few children ever returned to their original parents. Blood ties did not interest the Andamanese much and there was no clan system. The adoptive system encouraged close links between local groups but reduced the role of the biological parents. That this is reflected in the language speaks for the antiquity of the system. In the place of specific words for "mother" and "father," general honorifics were used. In Aka-Jeru t'a-mimi ("my mother") or aka-mimi ("his mother") as well as t'a-mai ("my father") or aka-mai ("his father") show how the honorifics mimi ("Lady" or "Madam") and maia ("Sir") were used. T'a-mimi aka-mai meant "my mother's father." Other Andamanese languages used different honorific terms but the system behind it was the same everywhere. Mimi Oka simply meant "Mrs. Oka" and it tells us that Oka was older than the person addressing her. Oka aka-mai meant "Oka's father," aka-mai Oka "his father Oka."

However, Prof. Ebert of Zürich University has drawn attention to a possibility that none of the main sources on the Andamanese languages seems to have considered: it is indeed conceivable that it is not honorifics that were being used for "mother" and "father" in Andamanese but the original words for "mother" and "father" that have instead been turned into general honorifics. According to Prof. Ebert, this has happened widely in south and southeast Asia. If so, the Andamanese would only have gone a little further in the process than their neighbours.

The Andamanese languages have very limited vocabularies and there are very few words indeed for abstract concepts and ideas. On the other hand, however, there are some highly specialised vocabularies. For example, there is an extensive vocabulary for those items in life that are of vital interest: there are a dozen words covering fruit from its earliest unripe stage through peak ripeness to rottenness which in translation can only hint at their specialized meaning:

1) ot-dereka ("small"),
2) chimiti ("sour"),
3) putungaij ("black"),
4) cheba-da ("hard"),
5) telebich ("seed not formed"),
6) gad and
7) gama (both without English equivalent),
8) tela ("half ripe"),
9) munukel ("ripe"),
10) roicha-da ("riper"),
11) ot-yob-da ("soft") and
12) chauru-re ("rotten").

The following is a sample vocabulary that reflects the closeness, resp. distance, between the languages fairly accurately: 

English

Aka-Bea

Akar-Bale

Pucikwar

Oko-Juwoi

Aka-Kol

Jarawa

Onge

head

ot-cheta-da

aut-chekta

ote-ta-da

auto-ta-lekile

aute-toi-che

-

ng-aticu

finger

kauro-da

kauro-da

kauro-da

korau-lekile

on-kaure-che

ano-ma

ano-me

knee

ab-lo-da

ab-lo-da

ab-lu-da

a-lu-lekile

e-lu-che

ano-laga

ono-lage

path

tinga-da

tenga-da

taieng-da

taieng-lekile

ratin-che

icchala

icchele

to die

oko-li-

auko-li-

om-pil-

am-pil-

om-pil-

be-chame-bu

bei-cam-be

to cry

teki-

teki-

war-

yar-

-war-

wana

wanai

to finish

ar-lu-

ar-lika-

ar-liwe-

ra-liwe-

-a-liwa-

hi-pu-hi-ba

aqi-bo-ki-be

There was also - how could it be otherwise - a rich abusive vocabulary. The sample set given here is from Aka-Bea:

ngab-tedinga typaya! - you liar!
ngun-bamaya! - you duffer!
ngun-jabagya! - you fool!
ngi-chona! - you long-head!
ngig-choronga-lanta! - you long-nose!
ngig-panamaya! - you sunken-eyed one!
ngid-kinabya! - you skin-and-bone!

 

4. Grammar

Andamanese grammar reflects the aboriginal view that the universe is subordinate to and created for the benefit of humanity, i.e. the Negritos. The parts of the human body reflect the world which world-view is in turn is reflected in the grammar. A remarkable system of nominal classification based on parts of the human body is indeed one of the few clear points of contact between the Great Andamanese and the Onge-Jarawa languages, speaking for its antiquity. The word order follows the Subject-Object-Verb (SOV) pattern. All members of the family are of the agglutinative type which means, in this case, that root words are modulated by adding affixes

M.V. Portman distinguished five groups of roots in five Great Andamanese languages (Aka-Bea, Akar-Bale, Puchikwar, Oko-Juwoi and Aka-Kol): Human (names of parts of the human body), non-human (names of non-human animate and inanimate objects), functional, pronominal and miscellaneous (post-positions, adverbs, conjunctions, exclamations, proper names).

At the centre of the Andamanese language is a complex system of affixes that are added to the root words in front, the middle or the back:

1. prefixes to indicate physical properties such as gender, length, flexibility, roundness, etc
2. infixes (only in Onge and Aka-Jeru) to mark singular/plural
3. suffixes to mark grammatical functions and relationships.

There is no other language in Asia with a system like this. Much of its detailed working remains unclear to this day. As one linguist noted, despairingly

the process of agglutinating remains unaccountable.

The choice of category depends on the properties of the root in question as perceived by the Andamanese - and their perception is often utterly impenetrable to modern linguists. Portman asked the Andamanese themselves about their ways of classifying nouns. The answers he received were less than satisfying. He reports one case:

The man had some difficulty in explaining himself, and it is evident that the reasons for the Gender classification have been lost.

Before we judge the poor man harshly for his ignorance, we should remember that we, too, would not know, for example, why in French "fork" and "spoon" are feminine, while "knife" is masculine, or why the same words in German are feminine, masculine and neutral, respectively. In most languages, the principles behind their noun classification are lost in the mists of prehistory. described.

Aka-Bea 

ab- (pl. at-)

Used for the body, back, spine, thighs, lap, shins, calves, groin, elbows, forearms, upper arms, knees, hollow of knees, ribs, navel, belly.

ar- (pl. arat-)

Used for legs, hip, loin, tailbone, rectum, urine, bladder, mesentery, large intestine, testicles, buttocks.

aka- (pl. akat-)

Used for the mouth, palate, chin, lips, lip-hairs, tongue, gullet, throat, windpipe, uvula, jaw-bone, beard, collar-bones, sides, saliva, breath.

ig-/i- (pl. i-/iti-)

Used for the eyes, eyelashes, eyelids, eyebrows, gums, face, forehead, ears, nose, cheeks, whiskers, temples, teeth, shoulders, arms, upper arms, forearms, biceps of upper arms, breasts, nipples, tears.

ong- (pl. oiot-)

Used for the hands, the various fingers, palms, soles of foot, wrists, knuckles, finger and toe nails, the various toes, feet, heels, ankles, kidneys, peritoneum, small intestine.
This prefix was also involved in counting and numbering (fingers!) which we discuss elsewhere in this article.

ot- (otot-)

Used for the heart, head, neck, chest, brain, back part of the head, nape, scalp, lung, phlegm, prostate, the seat of affections and passions (for the Andamanese: bosom and heart)

Why the prefix (also known as akar-, a-, aukau- or oko- in other Great Andamanese languages) among many other things also came to mean "language" is fairly obvious from the list of root words it attaches to. The Great Andamanese tribes were groups of people united by a common language rather than organised units in the conventional sense of the word "tribe." The use of this prefix does indeed point out a fact of Great Andamanese tribal life: Aka-Bea-da means nothing more than "people who speak the Bea language."

Aka-Jeru

thot- Used for the back

thi- Used for the navel

tha- Used for the mouth, throat, tongue, breath, belly

ther- Used for the head, lips, shoulders, eyes, nose, teeth, face, cheeks, forehead

the- Used for hands, elbows, forearms, legs, thighs, knees, waist, skin, bones, veins

thon- Used for the palms, fingers, feet, toes, wrists, heels

Jarawa

ano- Used for the knees, feet, nails, forearms, fingers, cheeks, head, hair

ani- Used for the eyes, eyebrows, ears, chin, facial hair, armpit, back, backbone, bones, buttocks, thighs, calves

ana- Used for the teeth, chests, collarbones, neck, elbows, hands, stomach

Onge

ono- Used for the head, hair, neck, skull, spine, fingers, fists, wrists

ena- Used for the mouth, lip, tongue, teeth, belly, buttocks

eni- Used for the chin, cheeks, elbows, forelegs, calves, thighs

enei- Used for the eyes, eye-lashes, brows, forehead

enu- Used for legs, feet, toes, ankles 

The are a large number of other prefixes conveying a wide variety of meaning. Here are just a few samples:

In Aka-Bea the prefix en- intensifies or alters the meaning of the root: yabnga ("to speak") turns into en-yabnga ("to make someone acquainted").

In Aka-Jeru the prefixes era-/e- add distance, literally and figuratively: e-lobun ("long"), era-lobun ("distant"), era-meo ("anchor"), e-tire ("offspring"), era-tire ("young offshoots of a tree"), e-tomo ("flesh, muscle") and era-tomo ("buttock").

In Onge the prefix i- denotes the part, quality, state or action of a dependent object, person or thing while ono- stands for the head or its associated parts: i-dane ("the bone of any part"), ono-dane ("skull"), en-i-bi-le (a stretched part of the body, "arm"), ono-bi (the 'head' of the arm, "hand"), ono-bo-tabe (the 'head' of the hand, "fingers"), ono-lage (the 'head' of the leg, "knee").

Independent personal pronouns also exist:

Aka-Jeru

1st person singular th-/t-: thiobi ("I am"); plural m- (+an, en, oin, etc): maniobe ("we are")

2nd person singular n-: niobe ("you are"); plural n- (+ol, al, el, il, etc): nol-e-mae toopholo ("you have not made")

Onge

1st person singular ma-/e-: ma-omo-kabe ("I sleep"); plural e-ti-gira-be ("Ieat") equi-: equi omo-kabe ("we sleep")

2nd person singular ni-: ni-omo-kabe ("you sleep"); plural ni-yoga: ni-yoga omo-kabe ("you sleep")

3rd person singular none or gi-: gi-omo-kabe ("he sleeps"), enai jabe ("he is good"); plural gi-yoga/ono-: gi-yoga omo-kabe ("they sleep"), ono-tot-ai-jabe ("they are good") 

Pronominal prefixes can also be attached as possessive personal pronouns to noun roots as in Aka-Jeru th-amai ("my father"), n-amai ("your father"), men-amai ("our father").

In their stand-alone form personal pronouns look as follows: 

Person

Aka-Bea

Akar-Bale

Pucikwar

Oko-Juwoi

Aka-Kol

Onge

1st pers. sing.

dol-la

dol

tu-le

tu-le

la-tu-le

mi

2nd pers. sing.

ngol-la

ngol

ngu-le

nga-kile

la-ngu-le

eti

3rd pers. sing.

ol-la

ol

u-le

a-kile

laka-u-le

ngi

1st pers. plural

moloi-chik

maulo-chit

mu-le

me-kile

la-mu-le

ni

2nd pers. plural

ngoloi-chik

ngaulo-chit

ngu-wel

ngel-kile

la-ngu-wel

gi

3rd pers. plural

oloi-chik

aulo-chit

nu-le

ne-kile

kuch-la-nu-le

ekwi

There are also a number of neutral affixes. Oddly enough, the two mutually hostile Aka-Bea and Jarawa in southern Great Andaman with their only distantly related languages are the two tribes most particular about neutral affixes: Aka-Bea used the prefix aka- and the suffix -da with every noun while Jarawa begins every sentence with the prefix ya-. Jarawa also has a neutral noun suffix -wa and an adjectival suffix -ga. These have no known meaning. Neither Onge nor the north Andamanese languages have these linguistic flourishes.

We have already mentioned that functional infixes are known only from Onge and Aka-Jeru where they mark either plurals (along with suffixes that do the same) or negatives. It is noticeable that Onge is stricter about the use of infixes, not always providing suffix alternatives. 

form

Aka-Jeru

Onge

plural infix

- alternative suffix

-ne, -nun

-ne, -ukhe

-og-

(none)

infix denoting negative

- alternative suffix

-phu-, -pho-


-phu

-ebogil-, -egi- (negative)

-otot- (plural)

So-called euphonic or integrative infixes are known from all Andamanese languages. They are not known to have a meaning and merely seem to facilitate pronunciation. In Aka-Jeru bokhori ("she-goat") + uthire ("child") gives bokhori-th-uthire ("kid"). In Aka-Bea kuk-l-ar-beringa (heart+place+good, "happy") and in Onge ebo-t-ati (eye+skin, "eyelids") are similarly formed. In northern Andamanese -t-/-th- is used exclusively, in Aka-Bea -l- is commonly and -t- rarely and in Onge -t- commonly and -l- rarely used in this function. 

Most suffixes fulfil relatively well-defined grammatical functions and so are less difficult to understand than the prefixes.

Portman in his linguistic work gives a very brief and somewhat confused description of noun and verbal suffixes limited to Aka-Bea "for convenience sake" in one place and a detailed list of suffixes in five southern Great Andamanese languages but without any attached commentary in another. It looks as if the printer's devil has been at work. Basu on the other hand gives a list of suffixes only for Aka-Jeru, Jarawa and Onge. The two lists are not easily reconciled which is why we present them separately here. 

form

Aka-Bea

Akar-Bale

Pucikwar

Oko-Juwoi

Aka-Kol

Neg. imperative

-kok

-ton

-k

-chik

-k

Neg. imperative

-kok

-ton

-k

-chik

-k

Neg. imperative

-kok

-ton

-k

-chik

-k

Neg. imperative

-kok

-ton

-k

-chik

-k

Neg. imperative

-kok

-ton

-k

-chik

-k

Neg. imperative

-kok

-ton

-k

-chik

-k

Neg. imperative

-kok

-ton

-k

-chik

-k

Neg. imperative

-kok

-ton

-k

-chik

-k

Neg. imperative

-kok

-ton

-k

-chik

-k

 

form

Aka-Jeru

Jarawa

Onge

Genitive (whose)

-du

-gi

Genitive (whose)

-du

-gi

Genitive (whose)

-ico

-du

-li, -gai

Genitive (whose)

-ico

-du

Genitive (whose)

-ico

-ga, -ba

Genitive (whose)

-ico

Genitive (whose)

-ico

-ijai, -ko

Genitive (whose)

-ico

-dya

-ijai, -ko

The genitive often dispenses with the suffix altogether, making it recognisable only through word order. Bloch and Basu also noted that personal pronouns in Aka-Jeru sometimes take -io to form the pronominal adjectives but Basu adds testily that "their syntactical uses are sometimes very peculiar." The Andamanese suffixes are easier to understand than the prefixes but they are not plain sailing.

Verbal suffixes with noun roots produce denominative verbs such as the Onge equ-qwe-be ("we go hunting pigs") or inge-ce-be ("drink water"). In Onge and Jarawa the use of verbal suffixes is anything but clear. To express the present continuous a suffix -jo or -njo is used in positive and -otatek in negative verbs. To denote other senses, Onge uses words like -aki-bo-ki for completed actions, kate-kataote for past happenings before the final suffix -be. Jarawa positive verbs take the suffixes -ago (present), -ba (perfect) and -aka (future) while negative verbs always take the final suffix -ma or -ama.

Word cumulation and compounding is common in all Andamanese languages. One example from Onge has to suffice: a blind man is called rulu-tot-bat from therulu ("eyes") and bat ("night").

Syntax expresses both nexus and junction by the use of affixes, compounding and word order. Subject-Object-Verb (SOV) dominates in all Andamanese languages but Andamanese would not be Andamanese if there were no inexplicable deviations from the standard to show how many gaps there still are in the knowledge of these languages.

The Onge sentence ekwakobelatellebegi ("they came running") in Onge is composed as follows: 

ekw-

-akobela

-te

-lle

-be

-gi

"they"

"run"

direction

plural

competitive aspect

indicative

prefix

verbal root

suffix

suffix
(only used
in plural)

suffix
(indicates tense,
aspect, mode)

indicator or interrogative

 5. Classifiers

Classifiers based on body parts are one of the characteristic features of the Andamanese languages. Jesse Tauber, a linguist and one of our readers. has thought about this and has sent us the following summary of his ideas on the subject of Andamanese classifiers as follows:

The classifiers are dividing the human body into four internal, and four external zones each maximally (at least theoretically), with all the languages having undergone some mergers (leading to usage ambiguities).

The odd thing about the divisions are that they fly in the face of Western prejudices about where the cuts "should" be made (Cartesian-like) (which is a geographical cardinal-point conceit). Instead, the Andamanese languages make NATURAL cuts in the body, along the lines of the evolution of the innervation, musculature, and bone structures, which in vertically standing Man are severely distorted because of accommodations we have made to gravititational facts.

All you would need to do to see the naturalness of the Andamanese body cuts would be to go to your physician and ask to see a chart of the body in terms of muscle groups! Internally, there are four gross cavities with their contents, which are covered in the AKA-BEA system. One for the internal lower front head and neck, one for the brain, lungs, heart, one for the kidneys, small intestine, peritoneum, and one for the large intestine, bladder, mesentery, rectum, testes. Note that in the latter case the testes hang inside the hernial outpocketing from the lower front of the body cavity!

In all the cases of the internal cavities, instead of horizontal cuts, there are curved ones roughly diagonal sloping down from the back of the body towards the front (the way the ribs of the chest curve down from the spine before arching back up in front when seen from the sides). This is why the brain is included with the heart and lungs. The kidneys, high in the lower back, form the root area for that cavity, which is otherwise lower down towards the front of the inner belly. And so on. The highest internal cavity is rooted in the upper skull, and slopes downward from there, while the lowest starts with the large intestinal arch and slopes down, with the lowest part being the scrotal sack.

Externally, one sees similar developments, but the mapping is not diametrically matched to the inner cavities (i.e. the idea is the same, but the delineations between zones is in functionally different places. On the outer body, the upper back of the head seems generally to be the anchor point for the back zone, which diagonally arches down and includes the back of the shoulders and arms, as well as a good portion of the waist, thighs, and legs. The front of the upper body doesn't reach so far down, but includes the face, outer front of the neck, front of the arms, chest, and belly. Maybe there is some leg front involvement (don't know). The distal hands, feet form a different zone. There may be a fourth zone, but it is hard to see from the data.

The various languages have many forms obviously cognate (if difficult to reconstruct). Interestingly, it seems that the system itself may be relatable to the pronominal and deictic forms in the languages. In Yahgan, there are hints of such relations as well in their terminology.

Beyond this, a comparison of body zone terminology in a variety of American languages that may also be relatable here (Chumashan, from the channel islands off Santa Barbara in California, Salishan, from Coastal and near inland British Columbia in Canada as well as Oregon, Idaho, and Washington states in the US). In all these languages major body parts (the primary, major ones (versus the nitpicky details)) form coherent sets related by the sounds making them up, as if they were constructed by a formula (which they appear to be). Andamanese languages seem to partake in this kind of system. It will be interesting if the ultimate reconstructions can be etymologically related (which is doubtful, but one never knows!).

As far as the personal pronouns, the Andamanese type seems to be something along the lines of *nd/nt for 1st sg, *ng for 2nd sg. Note that if the reconstructed initial n was an affix, that would leave a dental for 1st, velar for 2nd. Such a dichotomy can be found in many Native American and Papuan languages (and Basque, which I'm just throwing in for sport).

In any case, now the details of the body-zone prefix system need to be "fleshed out", as it were (forgive me!). But I thought you might be interested. It is rather curious, though. It would be interesting to know what cultural factors lead people to switch from systems which follow natural contours when making up bodypart/zone names or geographical orientational ones, letting those contours define the "cardinal directions", to ones where they give primacy to orthogonal cardinal directions, and force their anatomical or geographical cuts to conform to these. I think it was my own Western prejudices and expectations that prevented me from seeing the truth about the Andamanese system for so long.

Now I have to see if the non-anatomical usages conform to the anatomical ones in definitions in the dictionaries.

Jess Tauber
phonosemantics@earthlink.net

 6. The Languages

We have seen in chapter 8 that the Andamanese tribes were in reality linguistic units, groups of people speaking the same language. We can, therefore, use the same diagram again that we have already used to illustration toe relationships of the tribes.

We are best informed about the southern Great Andamanese languages because of the efforts of Portman and Man in the second half of the 19th century. At that time neither the northern Great Andamanese nor the Onge were sufficiently known. In 1906 Radcliffe-Brown, later a famous anthropologist, did research for two years that included the northern Great Andamanese . This resulted in a book that is still regarded as one of the few standard works on the subject. Although Radcliffe-Brown was not a linguist and although he was suspiciously coy about how much he had studied and understood the local languages, he nevertheless published an article in 1914, Notes on the Languages of the Andaman Islanders. This text, if properly researched and written up could have been our major source on the languages of the northern Great Andamanese - it fact, it is our only source even so. Unfortunately the article loses most of its value because Radcliffe-Brown assigned most of his linguistic observations irritatingly not to specific tribes but generally to "northern Andamanese." He was the only researcher to come in close contact with the northern tribes before they dissolved and then died out. The result is that we cannot today say, with very few exceptions, how much the northern languages differed among each other nor how much or in what way they differed from the languages of the south. 

We do not really know to what degree the various languages were mutually intelligible. It is certain that there was no intelligibility between the Onge-Jarawa on the one and the Great Andamanese group on the other hand. Indeed, very strict linguistic taxonomists of the 'splitting' persuasion say that they cannot even be sure that the two groups do not represent separate language families! Within the Onge-Jarawa group (the virtually unknown Sentineli and Jangil languages apart) there is no mutual intelligibility, although the linguistic relationship is not in question. The sea must have kept the Onge and Jarawa separated and without contact long enough for their languages to have evolved apart.

The mutual intelligibility among the Great Andamanese is an open question. Certain is only that Aka-Bea and Akar-Bale were extent mutually intelligible dialects of one language. As for the others, we will never know.

The southern and middle Great Andamanese tribes had a common legend that points to a site called Wota-Emi on the north-eastern corner of Baratang island (the largest island between South and Middle Great Andaman) as the place where humans were created and fire was later brought to them by the god Biliku. It is interesting to note that this spot was in the territory of the A-Pucikwar tribe whose name (in Akar-Bea, Akar-Bale, Oko-Juwoi, Aka-Kol as well as their own language) means "they speak Andamanese." Whether this points to a myth of great antiquity relating to the origin of all Andamanese Negrito or is merely the residue of a splitting up of an originally much larger tribe centred on the A-Pucikwar in less remote times, we have no way of knowing. It is also not clear whether the northern tribes without contiguous territories with the A-Pucikwar (the Aka-Kede, Aka-Jeru, Aka-Bo, Aka-Kora and Aka-Cari) subscribed to the same myth. Pointing in the direction of the second, more recent, possibility is that the northern Andamanese languages have some features in common with Onge: only Onge and Aka-Jeru are known to use infixes and while Aka-Bea is strict about prefixes and some neutral suffixes, Onge and Aka-Jeru are much more relaxed on this feature of their language.

M.V. Portman has thoughtfully preserved the "Legend of first Introduction of Fire" of five tribes for us, with the comment that he thought it showed well the jerky manner of Andamanese story telling. The legend (here in Aka-Bea) will give readers a suitably enigmatic ending to this exposition of one of the world's most enigmatic people and languages: 

Taul-l'oko-tima
(name of a place)

-len
in

Puluga-la
God

mami-ka.
was sleeping.

Luratut-la
(A certain bird)

chapa
fire

tap-nga
stealing

omo-re.
brought.

Chapa-la
Fire

Puluga-la
God

pugat-ka.
burnt.

Puluga-la
God

boi-ka.
woke up.

Puluga-la
God

chapa
fire

eni-ka.
seized.

A
He

ik
taking

chapa-lik
fire by

Luratut
(the bird)

l'ot-pugari-re.
burnt.

Jek
At once

Luratut-la
(the bird)

eni-ka.
took.

A
He

i-Tar-cheker
Kingfisher bird

l'ot-pugari-re
burnt

Wota-Emi
(a place)

bara-ij-len.
village in.

Chaoga-tabanga
The ancestors

oko-dal-re.
lit fires.

Tomo-lola.
The Tomo-la.

Freely translated by M.V. Portman in 1898:

God was sleeping at Taul-l'oko-tima. The bird Luratut came, stealing the fire. The fire burnt God. God woke up. God seized the fire. He took the fire and burnt Luratut with it. The Luratut took (the fire). He burnt Tar-cheker in Wota-Emi village (where then) the Ancestors lit fires. The Tomo-la.

Portman added following notes to this tale (for the cataclysm referred to, see Chapter 23 "Myths and Legends".

The way in which the honorific -la is invariably used.

With regard to Luratut and Tar-cheker, birds may be meant, or men bearing the names of birds, for the Andamanese believe that, after the cataclysm (of the "big flood") when fresh fire had to be brought from somewhere, many of the Andamanese, who were of course really drowned, had been changed into birds and fishes.

Chaoga-tabanga means "the Andamanese who lived in former ages.” i.e. "Ancestors;" and when an Andamanese is asked why he follows a certain custom, or how that custom originated, he would answer "Because the Chao-tabanga used to do it," or, "Because the Chao-tabanga ordered it so."

Tomo-lola means "the sons of the Tomo-la," who was the chief of all the Andamanese at the time of the cataclysm. Observe how this word is in apposition to Chao-tabanga, a very common Andamanese form of speech.


  

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