Jarawas live in the jungles of Middle Andaman on the west side of the Andaman Islands (Map 2). The construction of Andaman Trunk road (ATR) has pushed Jarawas on one side of the island and constant poaching of their game and honey by the city dwellers often leaves them without basic subsistence.  Jarawa language had been an isolate for very a long time and hence without any conceivable interference due to language contact. The animosity between the Jarawa and the Great Andamanese had been known especially in the 19th century, without any social contact whatsoever. However, this period of long feud does not reflect in any language intervention or perhaps it is safer to say that it escaped our attention. The name “jarawa” is given to this tribe by the Great Andamanese which means ‘strangers’ in one of the ten languages once spoken. Some young Jarawa boys do frequent the Andaman Grand Trunk road now and have picked up a few Hindi words such as /do/ ‘give’, /jana/ ‘to go’ etc. Almost the entire community of Jarawa is monolingual. This is the only tribe which has remained a hunter and gatherer in the true sense as the Jarawas are not dependent on government subsidy of any kind, and hunt in the sea or in the jungle and do not wear city clothes unless they are provided by the government officials for bringing them into Port Blair. Clothes by the Indian government are distributed also when the officials/social workers visit the forest.

Jarawa is an SOV language which is essentially suffixal in nature. It is characterized by nine-vowel system and twenty six consonants at the phonemic level. Subject clitics are recorded in the language though traces of object clitics are not confirmed. The language had been considered a branch of the Andamanese family. However, our recent research (Abbi 2006, Kumar ongoing research) establishes no genealogical or typological similarity between Great Andamanese and Jarawa. Linguistically, Jarawa seems to be related to Onge.

At present, my student, Pramod Kumar from Jawaharlal Nehru University has been working on the grammar of Jarawa for last three years. This work is first of its kind as such detailed aspects of grammar were never attempted before.

Jarawa girls making flower necklaces                                          Jarawa woman showing her catch           

Jarawa sounds 


back of neck




Jarawa boat song

Jarawa bus song


Jarawa Video

Recorded by Mr. Pramod Kumar