History of the Oldest Languages in the World

What is the oldest language? Did you know that around 6,500 languages will be spoken worldwide in 2023? But facts can differ from one source to another. In 2022, around 7,000+ languages were spoken across the world. Among them, some are ancient and have older roots. To be more specific, approximately 23 languages have popularity across the globe. Each language belongs to different language families. Researchers are working but are still finding it challenging to pick the world’s oldest single language. 

Did you know the most primitive texts on record were written in the cuneiform script? It was discovered during the Mesopotamian civilization, dating to the 8th millennium BC. Some more facts about some of the oldest languages in the world are as follows:

  • The ancient Sumerian script was used during the 3rd millennium BC.
  • The original purpose of developing the Sumerian script was for funerary inscriptions. The reason behind it is the fact that the Sumerians were concerned about the afterlife.
  • For decades, human beings have been using sounds and gestures for communication.
  • The oldest texts were found in the form of scriptures 10,000 years ago.
  • According to linguists, it is only possible to determine the age of a language from the time it appears first in the text form.

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Top 10 Oldest Languages in the World

We will now explore some of the widest-used oldest languages in the world. Also, it is essential to realize that these languages have survived the test of time. The following languages  stun our minds often, even in 2023.

Egyptian 2690 BC (circa 4,700 years old)

Egyptian Language

The timeline of the Egyptian language is 2690 BC. The proto-language on the African continent was the first language in the world. Naturally, it was pretty popular in Egypt. On the walls of Egyptian tombs, linguists have found autobiographical writings created between 2000 BC to 2600 BC. 

A post was found on one of the temple gates of Philae. Experts have recently discovered it to have hieroglyphics from 396 CE. 

Greek 1450 BC (circa 3,500 years old)

Greek Language

Greek, an oldest language still spoken, is considered to be one of the day-to-day languages. Today, people consider Greek the definitive descendant of Homer’s language. You can categorize it in two ways: one is ancient Greek, and the other one is the modern Greek language.

Homer’s works were believed to be composed between the 7th and 8th centuries BC. The first attested Greek iteration, Mycenaean Greek, was discovered in 1450 BCE.

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Hebrew 1000 BC (circa 3,000 years old)

Hebrew Language

The first Hebrew alphabet was discovered in 1000 BC, around 100 years after the ancient Aramaic language. Thus, there is no doubt that Hebrew is considered one of the oldest languages across the globe.

Initially, Hebrew was observed and used in religious texts. Later in the 19th century, the activists revived the same spoken language. It was through Hebrew that the Jewish people used to communicate and correspond with one another. 

Tamil 300 BC (circa 2,300 years old)

Tamil is considered one of the formal and official languages of countries like Sri Lanka, Singapore, and India. The language is directly linked with the people staying in India and has classical roots. It also has some long stories from history. Surprisingly, the language has more than 75 million native speakers. 

Some Tamil enthusiasts would also say that it is one of the old languages in the world. We cannot deny the fact after knowing a fact from the Russian linguist, Dr. Mikhail S. Andronov. He said Tamil is a Proto-Dravidian language reconstruction used in the 4th millennium BCE.

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Italian 100 BC (circa 2,100 years old)

Early Latin was used during the Roman Republic, certainly by 75 BCE. The formation of the Roman Republic was way back in 509 BC. Over time, there was some deliberation. As a result, Italian has managed to make it to the list of Latin’s most direct modern descendants. 

Some facts say Italian is one of the most romantic languages globally.

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Sanskrit 1500 BC (circa 3,500 years old)

Sanskrit possesses one of the oldest texts dating to around 1500 BCE. Specifically, it is the second oldest language in the world. Even today, Sanskrit scripts are used in several religious books. There are several ceremonies in Jainism, Buddhism, Hinduism, etc., where Sanskrit is used. 

It is one of the languages used in bureaucratic institutions and spoken in Nepal, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, etc.

Korean 57 BC (circa 2,100 years old)

You will be able to find around 77 million native language speakers in Korea. Only by including Korean is it possible to complete the list of the oldest languages in the world. According to some linguists, there are some Proto-Koreanic language transitions in old Korean. 

The older Korean writing system is known as Hanja. The most interesting fact is that the language is written with Chinese characters.

Aramaic 1100 BC (circa 3,100 years old)

Aramaic is one of the most ancient languages in history. It was spoken by the Arameans residing in ancient Syria. First attested in 1100 BC, the language has survived into its 4th millennium. 

However, those unfamiliar with the culture of Syria, Iran, Iraq, Turkey, etc., will least expect Aramaic to be on this list.

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Chinese 1250 BC (circa 3,300 years old)

The oldest spoken language in the southeastern part of the world is Chinese. The language, first attested in 1250 BCE, has a rich history. One can get several dialects of Chinese: some of them are Cantonese, Mandarin, Sino Tibetian, etc.

Farsi 522 BC (circa 2,500 years old)

It might not be the earliest known language among the Indo-Iranian language family. But linguists say it is the longest surviving spoken of the Iranian family of languages. The language was attested between 522 and 486 BCE.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Q1. What Are Some of the Ancient Endangered Languages Around the World?

According to the information in Ethnologue, some of the endangered languages from several countries across the globe are:

  • Korandje from Algeria
  • Cherokee from the United States 
  • Parsi from India

Q2. Which Is the Oldest Language in the World, According to Wondrium Daily?

According to Wondrium Daily, the oldest language in the world is the Proto-Human language. Also, it is fascinating to know that this language is the predecessor to all known languages.

Q3. What Is a Dead Language?

One of the categories of the oldest languages is called the dead language. Such dead languages are no longer the native language of any community.

Q4. What Is the First Language of the World?

According to the information on Mondly, Sumerian is considered the world’s first language. One can see the oldest proof of written Sumerian on the Kish tablet of Iraq, dating to approximately 3500 BC. 

Q5. What Are the Oldest and the Most Extinct Languages in the World?

As per the information in Mondly, the oldest and extinct languages of the world are:

  • Palaic
  • Hurrian
  • Elamite
  • Hittite
  • Akkadian

Q6. What Is the Oldest Language in the World?

The answer to this question varies from one group of people to another. However, according to  Mondly, the oldest language in the world is Sumerian. 

Q7. What Are the Top 3 Popular Oldest Languages in the World?

 The world’s top 3 popular and oldest languages are Egyptian, Sanskrit, and Greek.

Q8. What Is the Third Language of the USA?

According to Wikipedia, Chinese is the third most popular language in the USA after English and Spanish.

Maria Hernandez