Sentinelese language

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Native to India
Region North Sentinel Island; southeast Andaman Islands, Sentinel Island.
Ethnicity perhaps 100–250 Sentinelese people (2007)[1][2]
Native speakers
(presumably the same) 
unknown, possibly Ongan
Language codes
ISO 639-3 std
Glottolog sent1241[3]
Schematic Map of Andamanese Languages & Tribes.png

Sentinelese is the presumed language of the Sentinelese people of North Sentinel Island in the Andaman Islands, India. Due to the lack of contact between the Sentinelese people and the rest of the world for the past three centuries, nothing is known of their language.[4] There is no way to know the vitality of Sentinel as the people do not allow outsiders onto the island, and are very hostile towards them.[5]


It is presumed that the islanders speak a single language, and that it is a member of one of the Andamanese language families.[4] Based on what little is known about similarities in culture and technology and their geographical proximity, it is supposed that their language is related to the Ongan languages rather than to Great Andamanese.[6] On page 10 of Anvita Abbi's book, A Grammar of the Great Andamanese Language: An Ethnolinguistic Study, there is an Andamanese Language Family chart that helps to clarify how Sentinelese relates to other Andamanese languages.[7] On the two documented occasions when Onge individuals were taken to North Sentinel Island in order to attempt communication, they were unable to recognise any of the language spoken by the inhabitants in the brief and hostile exchanges that resulted.[8][9]


Sentinelese is classified as endangered due to the small number of speakers, which is unknown but has been estimated at anywhere from 100 to 250.[1][2] A rough estimate by the Government of India lists them as a population of 100. [10] But according to Gregory Anderson, (2012) "No data and people are uncontacted. Language should be considered vulnerable. The speaker numbers are pure fantasy–no count has ever been done." [11]


  1. ^ a b Matthias Brenzinger, "Language diversity endangered," p. 40, (Walter de Gruyter, 2007) ISBN 3-11-017049-3, ISBN 978-3-11-017049-8, found at Google Books. Accessed 2009-10-07.
  2. ^ a b Christopher Moseley, "Encyclopedia of the world's endangered languages," p. 289, 342 (Routledge, 2007) ISBN 978-0-7007-1197-0, found at [1]. Accessed 2009-10-07.
  3. ^ Nordhoff, Sebastian; Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2013). "Sentinel". Glottolog. Leipzig: Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. 
  4. ^ a b "The most isolated tribe in the world?" found at Survival International website. Accessed 2009-10-07.
  5. ^ Van Driem, G. (2007). Endangered Languages of South Asia. In Handbook of Endangered Languages (pp. 303–341). Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.
  6. ^ Ethnologue report for Sentinel. Accessed 2009-10-07.
  7. ^ Endangered Languages of the Andaman Islands . Anvita Abbi (2006) · LINCOM Studies in Asian Linguistics · Vol. 64 · München: Lincom
  8. ^ Vishvajit Pandya, "In the Forest: Visual and Material Worlds of Andamanese History (1858–2006)," p. 361, (University Press of America, 2008) ISBN 0-7618-4153-9, ISBN 978-0-7618-4153-1, found at Google Books. Accessed 2009-10-07.
  9. ^ Dan McDougall, "Survival comes first for the last Stone Age tribe world: Two poachers lie in shallow graves beside the Indian Ocean after they trespassed on an endangered tribe's island. Now even relatives of the victims' want the killers left alone." The Observer, 12 February 2006. Found at Article from The Guardian. Accessed 2009-10-07.
  10. ^ Endangered Languages of the Andaman Islands . Anvita Abbi (2006) · LINCOM Studies in Asian Linguistics · Vol. 64 · München: Lincom
  11. ^ Personal Communication . Gregory Anderson (2012)

Further reading[edit]

Abbi, A. (2013). A Grammar of the Great Andamanese Language: An Ethnolinguistic Study. Brill.
Annamalai, E., & Gnanasundaram, V. (2001). Andamanese: biological challenge for language reversal. MULTILINGUAL MATTERS, 309–322.
Asher, R. E. (2008). 1 Language in historical context. Language in South Asia, 31.
Endicott, P., Gilbert, M. T. P., Stringer, C., Lalueza-Fox, C., Willerslev, E., Hansen, A. J., & Cooper, A. (2003). The genetic origins of the Andaman Islanders. The American Journal of Human Genetics, 72(1), 178–184.
Lawson, A. (2010). Last speaker of ancient language of Bo dies in India. BBC News, 4.
Logan, W. S. (2007). Closing Pandora's box: human rights conundrums in cultural heritage protection (pp. 33–52). Springer New York.
Mahapatra, B. P. (1989). The problems in learning minority languages with special reference to tribal languages.
Manoharan, S. (1997). Pronominal prefixes and formative affixes in Andamanese language. Languages of tribal and indigenous peoples of India: The ethnic space, 457-73.
Ravi Velloor, I. C. (2005, January 7). Fears for survival of age-old Andaman tribes; Six groups, especially the Sentinelese, are threatened as they lack technology to adapt. Straits Times, The (Singapore)
Sarkar, J. K. (1989). Breakthrough in Sentinelese contact: some emerging issues. Journal Of The Indian Anthropological Society, 24(3), 294–296.
Through Lens and Text: Constructions of a 'Stone Age' Tribe in the Andaman Islands. (2009). History Workshop Journal, (67), 173.
van Driem, G. (2007). Endangered Languages of South Asia. Language Diversity Endangered, B. Matthias, ed. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter, 303–341.
(2005, January 6). Indian Express:; Govt will not ‘get to know' Sentinelese. Indian Express (India).