Lecture: Professor Anvita Abbi

March 31, 2016

Breathing Life into a Dying Language: Experiencing Great Andamanese

A public lecture by Prof. Anvita Abbi, India Chair, Indian Council for Cultural Relations (held in March 2016)

Around 70,000 years ago several bands of early humans migrated from Africa to separate parts of the globe. One group came to the Andaman Islands in the Bay of Bengal. The research by geneticists (Thangaraj et al. 2005) indicates that the indigenous inhabitants of the Andaman Islands are the descendants of early Paleolithic colonizers of South East Asia. This talk will discuss the first-hand experiences of a linguist who spent a number of years in the Andaman Islands living with the tribes, documenting for the first time the highly endangered languages of the Andaman Islands: Jarawa, Onge and Great Andamanese.

Dr. Anvita Abbi is the Honorary Director of the Centre for Oral and Tribal Literature, Sahitya Akademi (National Academy of Letters), New Delhi, and President of the Linguistic Society of India. She was formerly Professor of Linguistics at Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, where she taught linguistics for 38 years. Currently she holds the position of Visiting Professor in the Linguistics Department at Simon Fraser University and the India Chair of the Indian Council for Cultural Relations.

Professor Anvita Abbi is a distinguished Indian linguist and scholar. Widely published in the fields of typology, tribal and endangered languages, language contact and mulitlingualism, and language documentation, Abbi's extensive research on the six language families in India has earned her international acclaim and multiple awards, including the prestigious Padma ShriAbbi has taught as a visiting professor and has delivered lectures at universities worldwide and in the Spring 2016 semester taught a combined undergraduate/graduate course LING 408/804 - Field Linguistics.

Undergraduate and graduate students were encouraged to take advantage of the opportunity to learn field methodology from one of the field's highly recognized scholars. This unique offering was participatory in nature and required energy and enthusiasm as the group explored the phonology, morphology, syntax, and semantics of a lesser-known and understudied language with the help of a native speaker.

Learn more about Professor Anvita Abbi's work:
Those unheard VOICES 
Vanishing Voices of the Great Andamanese.