Top 5 Oldest Languages in the World – 2021 Updated Edition
Estimated reading time: 7 minutes
As long as humans have existed, language has been the primal tool of communication. Slowly evolving from rudimentary signs to complex grammar, language has surely evolved a long way. In this post we will explore not only the oldest languages in history, but also the most relevant ones.
Table of Contents
- How many languages are there in the world?
- What is the basis of all languages?
- Which is the mother of all languages?
- What language did the Pharaohs speak?
- What is the language of judaism?
- What was the first language in the world?
How many languages are there in the world?
Today, over 7000 languages are spoken across the world. These are the the most widely spoken languages in the world in 2021. All of these languages belong to several different families. These families are built from languages that were all born thousands of years ago. Even though researchers have still not determined the language which can be surely labeled as the oldest language, there are a handful of languages that are narrowed down to be the oldest languages in the world.
For centuries, humans relied on basis primitive signals and gestured in order to communicate with each other. The form of structured language that is observed today was only written around 10,000 years ago. The best way to measure a language’s age according to leading linguists is to evaluate the first written use in texts.
The oldest written manuscript found is from the 3rd Millennium BC and it was written in Sumerian language. The writing is in a cuneiform script and was discovered in Mesopotamia. Based on the current research, the purpose of the writing was the concern of the Sumerians for their afterlife.
Since there are a number of languages that are more than thousands of years old, quite a few languages can be included in the list of the oldest languages.
In this article we will focus on 5 of the Oldest Languages in the world based on their importance. Some of them are extinct languages while others are only used for specific purposes. All these languages have as a common element: A long existence in the history of civilizations.
What is the basis of all languages?
1. Latin Language
Latin is one of the oldest languages in the world. The oldest version of a Latin script has been dated in the year 75 BC. However, some manuscripts contain references to conquerors of the Italian Peninsula speaking Latin before the year 75 BC, which suggest that Old Latin was in use even before that year, but no manuscripts have been found yet that can prove this fact. Latin was rapidly spread thanks to the Roman empire choosing it to be the formal language of the empire.
Latin lies as the core of many of the world languages today. Among the most notable ones we can find French, Spanish, Italian, Catalan, Portuguese, Romanian and many other languages.
A major influence of Latin can also be found in modern-day English with a vast number of words being present. Latin is still actively used and learnt by millions of people across the globe. It is still the official language of the holy Vatican and is actively being studied in the field of education.
Which is the mother of all languages?
2. Sanskrit Language
Sanskrit, also known as Devbhasha, is one of the oldest languages in the world. It is widely believed to be influential in the creation of hundreds of other modern-day languages. The language originated from the Indian area of Tamil and is estimated to be 4,000 years old. Some estimates even go as far as to suggest that the language is up to 6,000 years old. Sanskirt language lies at the core of several of the most important literature and music in India.
It is the official language in the Subcontinent and despite its use being limited, it is still widely used in official documentation. In the Indian region, Sanskrit language is believed to be the language of the Gods. The major rules of the language were used in the construction of the major languages in computing. The language combined complex vibrations and is used in different meditations across the world.
What language did the Pharaohs speak?
3. Coptic Language
Egyptian Coptic was the language used in the Egypt of the past. At the time, Egypt was one of the biggest civilizations in the world. With a history spanning back thousands of years, Egypt is widely agreed to be the oldest civilizations in the world. Coptic was the most spoken language in Egypt until the 17th Century when it was replaced by Arabic after the Muslim invasion.
The language is estimated to be up to 5000 years old with its first use being traced back to 3400 BC. It is still used as a literary language amongst Egyptian Coptic churches. The language has only a few native speakers left due to the difficulty of learning a language from such a different and old culture. However, it is truly one of the world’s most ancient languages.
What is the language of judaism?
4. Hebrew Language
Commonly known as the holy language of the Jews, Hebrew is also one of the oldest languages in the world. The language lost usage amongst common folk around 400 CE and today is only used as a literature-oriented language for Jewish people around the world.
Hebrew had a major revival in the 19th, 20th century. Hebrew language as we know it today is slightly different from its ancient biblical version and is still one of the biggest religious languages in the world.
What was the first language in the world?
The truth is there is no consensus present on which is the oldest language in the world. Most relevant theories support that Sanskirt Language is the first language in the world, dating back to the years 2000 to 4000 BC. Other theories support Sumerian language as the most ancient one, since it was the first written language attested in the world in the year 3100 BC.
There is also a more controversial and recent theory that supports a even more ancient language, called the Nostratic Language and dated around the year 15000 B.C.
5. Nostratic Language
A new theory has recently arised, bringing a new hypothetical language family which is claimed to be even older than the previously stated ones. This theory is called the Nostratic Hypothesis, and introduces a new language called the Nostratic Language.
It is believed to be spoken approximately 17,000 years earlier and, if the theory is correct, this language would be the ancestor of all Indo-European, Kartvelian, Dravidian, Uralic, Altaic and Afro-Asiatic languages, although there is no exact agreement if all of these groups fall under Nostratic.
One thing can widely be agreed: These languages are all globally important and must be presented as a global cultural heritage so they do not go extinct across the globe.
Thanks for staying until the end, we hope you enjoyed this article and that you learned something new about the most ancient languages in the world. Make sure you check our Blog for more free articles on this and other topics related with Languages, Language Learning and Translations.