South Andamanese
Andaman Islands
Linguistic classificationOne of the world's primary language families
Ongan languages.png
Distribution of the Ongan languages prior to 1850 (Fig. 1) and in 2005 (Fig. 2)

Ongan, also called Angan,[1] South Andamanese or Jarawa–Onge, is a phylum of two Andamanese languages, Önge and Jarawa, spoken in the southern Andaman Islands.

The two known extant languages are:

External relationships

The Andamanese languages fall into two clear families, Great Andamanese and Ongan, plus one presumed but unattested language, Sentinelese. The similarities between Great Andamanese and Ongan are mainly of a typological and morphological nature, with little demonstrated common vocabulary. Linguists, including long-range researchers such as Joseph Greenberg, have expressed doubts as to the validity of Andamanese as a family.[2]

It has since been proposed (by Juliette Blevins 2007) that Ongan (but not Great Andamanese) is distantly related to Austronesian in a family called Austronesian–Ongan.[3] However, the proposal of a genealogical connection between Austronesian and Ongan has not been well-received by other linguists. George Van Driem (2011) considers Blevins' evidence as "not compelling", although he leaves the possibility open that some resemblances could be the result of contact/borrowing, a position also held by Hoogervorst (2012).[4][5] Robert Blust (2014) argues that Blevins' conclusions are not supported by her data, and that of her first 25 reconstructions, none are reproducible using the comparative method. Blust concludes that the grammatical comparison does not hold up, and also cites non-linguistic (such as cultural, archaeological, and biological) evidence against Blevins' hypothesis.[6]


See also: Wiktionary:Appendix:List of Proto-Ongan reconstructions

The two attested Ongan languages are relatively close, and the historical sound reconstruction mostly straightforward:

Proto-Ongan consonant correspondences[7]
Proto-Ongan *p *b *t *d *kʷ *k *j *w *c *m *n *l *r
Jarawa p, b b t d hʷ, h h ɡ, j j w c ɟ m n ɲ ŋ l r
Onge b b t, d d, r kʷ, h k, ɡ ɡ, Ø j w c, ɟ ɟ m n ɲ ŋ l, j r/j/l, Ø
Proto-Ongan vowel correspondences in open nonfinal syllables[7]
Proto-Ongan *i *u *a *e *o (*ə)
Jarawa i u a e, ə, o o (ə)
Onge i u a e, ə, o o (ə)

*ə appears to be allophonic for *e before a nasal coda.


The Ongan languages are agglutinative, with an extensive prefix and suffix system.[8][9] They have a noun class system based largely on body parts, in which every noun and adjective may take a prefix according to which body part it is associated with (on the basis of shape, or functional association).[10] Another peculiarity of terms for body parts is that they are inalienably possessed, requiring a possessive adjective prefix to complete them, so one cannot say "head" alone, but only "my, or his, or your, etc. head".[10]

The Ongan pronouns are here represented by Önge:

I, my m- we, our et-, ot-
thou, thy ŋ- you, your n-
he, his, she, her, it, its g- they, their ekw-, ek-, ok-

There is also an indefinite prefix ən-, on- "someone's". Jarawa does not have the plural series, but the singular is very close: m-, ŋ- or n-, w-, ən-. From this, Blevins reconstructs Proto-Ongan *m-, *ŋ-, *gw-, *en-.

Judging from the available sources, the Andamanese languages have only two cardinal numbers: one and two and their entire numerical lexicon is one, two, one more, some more, and all.[9]

See also


  1. ^ Abbi, Anvita. 2013. A Grammar of the Great Andamanese Language. Brill's Studies in South and Southwest Asian Languages, Volume 4.
  2. ^ Greenberg, Joseph (1971). "The Indo-Pacific Hypothesis." Current Trends in Linguistics Vol. 8, ed. by Thomas A. Sebeok, 807.71. The Hague: Mouton.
  3. ^ Blevins, Juliette (2007), "A Long Lost Sister of Proto-Austronesian? Proto-Ongan, Mother of Jarawa and Onge of the Andaman Islands" (PDF), Oceanic Linguistics, 46 (1): 154–198, doi:10.1353/ol.2007.0015, S2CID 143141296
  4. ^ van Driem, George (2011). "Rice and the Austroasiatic and Hmong-Mien homelands". In N.J Enfield (ed.). Dynamics of human diversity: the case of mainland Southeast Asia. Canberra: Pacific Linguistics. Retrieved 13 November 2021.
  5. ^ Hoogervorst, Tom (2012). Southeast Asia in the ancient Indian Ocean world: combining historical linguistic and archaeological approaches (PhD thesis). University of Oxford. Retrieved 13 November 2021. Nevertheless, it is conceivable that some of the given forms are genuinely related, though better explained as loans than common inheritance (p. 91).
  6. ^ Blust, Robert (2014). "Some Recent Proposals Concerning the Classification of the Austronesian Languages", Oceanic Linguistics 53:2:300–391. "To put it bluntly, the AON hypothesis is a castle built on sand, an elaborate illusion fostered by the misplaced hope that a major discovery has been made that somehow eluded the investigations of all other scholars."
  7. ^ a b Blevins (2007), pp. 163–164.
  8. ^ Abbi, Anvita (2006). Endangered Languages of the Andaman Islands. Lincom Europa. ISBN 978-3-89586-866-5.
  9. ^ a b Temple, Richard C. (1902). A Grammar of the Andamanese Languages, Being Chapter IV of Part I of the Census Report on the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. Port Blair: Superintendent's Printing Press.
  10. ^ a b Burenhult, Niclas (1996). "Deep Linguistic Prehistory with Particular Reference to Andamanese". Working Papers, Lund University, Dept. Of Linguistics. 45: 5–24.

Further reading