Ancient dialect extinct after last speaker dies

Fri Feb 5, 2010 9:51am EST
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By Sanjib Kumar Roy

PORT BLAIR, India (Reuters Life!) - One of the world's oldest dialects, which traces its origins to tens of thousands of years ago, has become extinct after the last person to speak it died on a remote Indian island.

Boa Sr, the 85-year-old last speaker of "Bo," was the oldest member of the Great Andamanese tribe, R.C. Kar, deputy director of Tribal Health in Andaman, told Reuters on Friday.

She died last week in Port Blair, the capital of Andaman and Nicobar Islands, which were hit by a devastating tsunami in 2004.

"With the death of Boa Sr and the extinction of the Bo language, a unique part of human society is now just a memory," said Stephen Corry, director of Survival International, an organization that supports tribes worldwide.

"Boa's loss is a bleak reminder that we must not allow this to happen to the other tribes of the Andaman Islands," he said in a statement.

Kar said Bo was one of the ten dialects used by the Great Andamanese tribe.

According to Survival International, there are now only 52 members surviving members of the tribe, which is thought to have lived on the Andaman Islands for as many as 65,000 years, making them descendants of one of the oldest cultures in the world.

The Great Andamanese had the biggest population of all the island tribes until the early 20th century.   Continued...