Which languages are the oldest
The 10 oldest languages still spoken in the world
Hebrew is a fun case as it was generally out of use by 400 CE and remained as a liturgical language for Jews around the world. However, with the rise of Zionism in the 19th and 20th centuries, Hebrew experienced a process of revival as the official language of Israel. While the modern version is different from the biblical version, native speakers of Hebrew can fully understand what is written in the Old Testament and its related texts. Since the earliest speakers of modern Hebrew often had Yiddish as their mother tongue, modern Hebrew was influenced in many ways by this other Jewish language.
© Michaela Pointon
The Basque language is the ultimate linguistic conundrum. It is originally spoken by some of the Basque people living in Spain and France, but it has no relation to any Romance language (which is French and Spanish) or any other language in the world. Linguists have postulated what might be associated with this over the decades, but none of the theories could hold water. The only thing that is clear is that it existed in this area before the arrival of the Romance languages - that is, before the Romans came there with the Latin that would eventually evolve into French and Spanish.
Tamil, a language spoken by approximately 78 million people and recognized as the official language in Sri Lanka and Singapore, is the only classical language that has survived into the modern world. As part of the Dravidian language family, which includes a number of languages primarily native to southern and eastern India, it is also the official language of the state of Tamil Nadu. Researchers have inscriptions from the 3rd century BC. Found in Tamil and has been in continuous use ever since. In contrast to Sanskrit, another ancient Indian language that dates back to around 600 BC. It was no longer in use and primarily became a liturgical language, but Tamil has continued to develop and is today the most widely spoken language in the world on the 20th.
© Michaela Pointon
The language family to which most of the European languages belong is Indo-European, but they probably began around 3500 BC. To separate from each other. They evolved into dozens of other languages such as German, Italian, and English and gradually lost the traits they all had in common. One language, however, in the Baltic branch of the Indo-European family, retained more of what linguists call Proto-Indo-European (PIE), which is the language they postulated around 3500 BC. Whatever the reason, Lithuanian has retained more of PIE's tones and grammar rules than any of its linguistic relatives and can therefore be considered one of the oldest languages in the world.
If not heard of Farsi, it is a language spoken in modern-day Iran, Afghanistan and Tajikistan, among others. You've probably heard of Persian, and it's actually the same language, by a different name. Farsi is the direct descendant of Old Persian, the language of the Persian Empire. Modern Persian took shape around AD 800, and one of the things that sets it apart from many modern languages is that it has changed relatively little since then. Persian speakers today could pick up a piece of script from 900 CE and read it with far less difficulty than an English speaker could read Shakespeare.
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Icelandic is another Indo-European language, this time from the North Germanic branch (for comparison, English is also a Germanic language, but from the West Germanic branch). Many Germanic languages have tightened up and lost some of the features that other Indo-European languages have (you've probably never heard of a case unless you've studied Latin or a Slavic language), but Icelandic has evolved much more conservatively and retained many of these properties. The Danish governance of the country from the 14th to the 20th centuries also had little influence on the Icelandic language, so it has largely remained unchanged since Nordic settlers first brought it there when they first came into the country, and Icelandic speakers can write the Say easy to read centuries ago.
The Slavic language family, which includes Russian, Polish, Czech and Croatian, is relatively young when it comes to languages. They only began to separate from their common ancestor, Slavic (or Proto-Slavic), when Cyril and Method unified the language, which now created the Old Church Slavonic and created an alphabet for it. They then took the language north with them in the 9th century when they converted the Slavs to Christianity. They came from somewhere north of Greece, probably what is now Macedonia (or Macedonia, or Macedonia after Macedonian naming conflicts), and Macedonian (along with its very close relative Bulgarian) is the most closely related language, according to the comments on the intricate historical relationships between Macedonia and Bulgaria we would like to show on The Culture Trip that despite the complexity of the prevailing academic consensus outside the region, Bulgarian and the language known as Macedonian are different. If you don't believe us, read on
our article on the history of the Macedonian language. © Michaela Pointon
Finnish may not have been written down until the 16th century, but as with any language, it has a history that goes back far earlier. It is a member of the Finno-Ugric language family, which also includes Estonian, Hungarian, and some minor languages spoken by minorities across Siberia. Nevertheless, Finnish contains many loan words that have been adopted into Finnish from other language families over the centuries. In many cases, Finnish has kept these loanwords closer to their original form than the language they came from. The word for mother
aiti , for example, comes from Gothic, which is of course no longer spoken. The word for king kuningas , comes from the old Germanic word * kuningaz that no longer exists in any Germanic language. Georgian
The Caucasus region is a real breeding ground for linguists looking for difficult world languages. The main languages of the three South Caucasian countries, Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia, come from three completely different language families - Indo-European, Turkish and Kartvelian. Georgian is the largest Kartvelian language, and it is the only Caucasian language with an ancient literary tradition. Its beautiful and unique alphabet is also quite ancient - it is believed to have been adopted from Aramaic as early as the third century AD. While it is not a language island in the same sense as Basque, there are only four Kartveli languages, all spoken by minorities within Georgia, and none of them are related to any other language in the world.
© Michaela Pointon
Although Irish Gaelic is now only spoken by a small majority of Irish as a mother tongue, it has a long history behind it. It is a member of the Celtic branch of the Indo-European languages, and it existed on the islands that are now Great Britain and Ireland long before the Germanic influences arrived. Irish Gaelic was the language out of Scottish Gaelic and Manx (which was previously spoken on the Isle of Man), but the fact that it really makes it on this list is that it is the oldest popular literature of any language in Western Europe Has. While the rest of Europe spoke their own languages and wrote Latin, the Irish decided that they wanted to write in their own language instead.
If you enjoyed this article, check out the great pieces in our Explore Your World Through Language campaign. Or check out our article on other languages spoken in Russia or the endangered languages of Thailand.
Author: Bonnie Summers
Bonnie Summers is a 21 year old journalist. Furiously humble Twitter pioneers. Total beer expert. Lifelong zombie nerd. Web ninja.
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