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The Death of a Language – Bo

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Yesterday, 4th February 2010, saw the passing of the language Bo. The passing of a lady called Boa Sr marked this moment, as she had been the last person alive to speak the language.

The ancient tribal language of the Andaman Islands was a 65,000-year link to one of the world’s oldest cultures. Boa Sr was the last native of the island chain who was fluent in Bo and spent the last few years of her life unable to talk to anyone in her mother tongue.

Taking its name from a now-extinct tribe, Bo is one of the 10 Great Andamanese languages, which are thought to date back to a pre-Neolithic human settlement of south-east Asia.

Even members of inter-related tribes were unable to comprehend the repertoire of Bo songs and stories uttered by the woman in her 80s, who also spoke Hindi and another local language.

The Andaman Islands, in the Bay of Bengal, are governed by India. Tribes on some islands retained their culture by living deep in the forests and repelling colonisers, missionaries and documentary makers with volleys of arrows.

Languages come and go as the world develops; Latin, for example, is still used but no longer develops. To see a language become extinct is very sad, especially because Bo is one of the human race’s connections to its past. It’s a real pity that no one took enough time to ensure that the language could at least be preserved.

Language is part of everyone’s culture, which is why we should celebrate it more rather than forcing everyone to speak or write in too restricted a way. We should love our language and embrace it as it develops.

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