The Great Andamanese people included 10 tribes that each had its own language. The tribes were decimated after European colonization brought diseases and conflict, leaving the tribes with few inhabitants.
By 1994, only three of the ten tribes remained (Jeru, Bo, and Cari), with just 38 known people remaining. With the recent extinction of Aka-Cari (or Sare), Aka-Jeru is now the only remaining language of the 10 Great Andamanese tribes – and it is believed only three native speakers remain as of 2020.
This means the entire language family will soon perish, as will the ability to deeply study the language. In recent times, the few remaining tribes lived together and, thus, Present Great Andamanese (PGA) language is a mixture of various tribes’ languages.
What we do know is the language family is unlike any other known language family. It is also anthropocentric, meaning “the human body is the primary model for expressing concepts of spatial orientation, categories and relations between objects and actions and events” (Source).
“The demographic scale of these islanders is inversely related to their degree of contact with mainlanders: the longer the contact, the smaller the population.”
“Some experts believe the female-only language dates to the Song dynasty (960-1279) or even the Shang Dynasty more than 3,000 years ago.”
Nüshu script (“women’s script in Chinese”) was used exclusively among women in Jiangyong County in the Hunan province of southern China. The syllabic script is phonetic, with 600 to 700 characters each representing a syllable. It was a way for women to use a coded script to speak freely among their own sex while defying the patriarchal society.
Interestingly, the origin of the script is unknown. It is believed to have been used by peasant women and passed down generationally. The script was not even known outside of the region until the 1980s. Eventually, the last known proficient user of the script, Yang Huanyi, died, and it is now considered a dead language.
But there are major efforts to revitalize the script. The first Nüshu dictionary was published in 2003, and there is now a museum in the village of Puwei dedicated to the script’s history.