PL | EN

Great Andamanese language and bird names in isiZulu

The language spoken by the Andamans, the indigenous inhabitants of the Indian Andaman archipelago, was unique among the world’s languages regarding anthropocentrism. Called Great Andamanese in English, this language used categories derived from the human body to describe abstract concepts such as spatial orientation and object relationships. For example, blood flowing from the feet or legs is othei; blood for internal bleeding is etei; and blood as a clot on the skin is ertei. Such an essential part of speech as the noun changed form depending on the location. Even in the mid-nineteenth century, Great Andamanese was spoken by about 5,000 people. Currently, only three people speak the language of the Great Andamanese family, and it is doomed to extinction.

The 10-year project of naming all 878 South African bird species in isiZulu highlights the culture and importance of indigenous communities there. “Language and culture encode and express our engagement with the world. In the case of isiZulu, words can carry both a deep knowledge of a place and a strong connection to ancestry and cultural identity”, says Karen Park, a linguist at the University of Cambridge. Therefore, the black cuckoo is undodosibona (“man who sees us”), the golden cuckoo is ubanwanyana, which means “the bird that sings “Little children do not marry!”, and the white-bellied cuckoo is umazalashiye, which means “the bird that lays eggs and then leaves them.” The project was developed with scientists from the University of KwaZulu-Natal and BirdLife South Africa.

Read also
Why Orcs speak cockney and the fight against English in India
Why Orcs speak cockney and the fight against English in India
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government has opened a medical college in Hindi  in the state of Madhya Pradesh as part of the marginalisation of English, treated as a remnant of colonial times. This has required, among other measures, the translation of course textbooks, although studies in English will still be possible. In October this year, […]
How does language shape the human brain?
How does language shape the human brain?
Language is not just about the words  we speak but also about who we are – literally. A study based on 94 brain scans of native speakers of German and Arabic showed that they have different strengths of connections in specific parts of the linguistic circuitry. Therefore, according to researchers at the Max Planck Institute […]
Oxford Dictionary of African American English and New Mexican Spanish
Oxford Dictionary of African American English and New Mexican Spanish
After a three-year research process, the Oxford Dictionary of African American English is created – the first dictionary of African American English. The project aims to emphasise this language’s importance and create a resource for future research into black speech, history and culture. Researchers and editors from Oxford Languages and the Harvard University Hutchins Center […]
Curses, illiteracy in Bolivia and languages in Great Britain
Curses, illiteracy in Bolivia and languages in Great Britain
According to researchers at the University of London, when we try to make a curse less offensive, we introduce what is known as approximation, meaning that consonants pronounced more harshly are replaced by consonants pronounced in a softer way. A classic example is the English word darn being replaced by the word damn. This pattern […]
Previous issues