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Languages of the World

It’s estimated that up to 7,000 different languages are spoken around the world. 90% of these languages are used by less than 100,000 people. Over a million people converse in 150-200 languages and 46 languages have just a single speaker!


Ancient Languages of the World

At least 12 distinct languages are known to be over 3000 years old. Many of these languages are now extinct in that there are no more native speakers left.


    Anchient Languages

  • Akkadian - The language that dominated the writing of ancient Iraq for 2,500 years. It was the language of the empires of Babylonia and Assyria and the Epic of Gilgamesh.
  • Albanian - The first written records of it date back to the 13th century.
  • Aramaic - For at least a millennium, from the sixth century BCE to the Arab conquest, Aramaic was the international language of diplomacy and commerce in the Near East. Material drawn from old Aramaic inscriptions, the Dead Sea Scrolls, the letters from Elephantine, and the Targums.
  • Armenian - Armenian is considered to be mainly an offshoot of the Indo-Hittite group of languages.
  • Avesta - Old Iranian language. The Avestan alphabet was created in the 3rd and 4th centuries AD for writing the hymns of Zarathustra (a.k.a Zoroaster), the Avesta. Many of the letters are derived from the old Pahlavi alphabet of Persia, which itself was derived from the Aramaic alphabet.
  • Basque - Basque language, spoken in the border area between France and Spain, has no relatives and cannot be categorized into any language family.
  • Baltic - Baltic languages, group of Indo-European languages that includes modern Latvian and Lithuanian, spoken on the eastern shores of the Baltic Sea, and the extinct Old Prussian, Yotvingian, Curonian, Selonian, and Semigallian languages.
  • Breton - An Endangered Language of Europe. It's a Celtic language. There are five others: Irish Gaelic and Scottish Gaelic, Manx, Welsh, and Cornish. Celts were being distinguished as a separate people by historians in the 8th through 1st centuries BC based on social organization, dress, warfare methods, and especially language. Ancient Celts spread westward from the Danube Valley and a presence in Brittany was noted by the La Tene period in 500 BC. The Gauls of this period (the Latin name for people called Keltoi in Greek) were a set of various peoples. Ceasar named five different Celtic nations in Brittany - then called "Armorica".
  • Chinese - In linguistic terms, the word ‘Chinese’ actually refers to a group of languages of Sino-Tibetan origin. The standard form – Mandarin – is the official language of China and is spoken by more than 1.4 billion people – by far the largest number of speakers of an ancient language. As such, it is also the most spoken language in the world. Although scholars tend to date its origin to circa 2000 BCE, many strongly believe that it is at least 10,000 years old putting it at circa 8,000 BCE and making it one of the oldest languages known to man.
  • Dutch - The Dutch language is considered to have originated in about AD 700 (a rather arbitrary date) from the various Germanic dialects spoken in the Netherlands region, mostly of (Low) Frankian origin. A process of standardization started in the Middle Ages, especially under the influence of the Burgundian Ducal Court in Dijon. All birds have started making nests, except me and you, what are we waiting for. The word Dutch comes from the old Germanic word theodisk, meaning 'of the people'.
  • Egyptian - Egyptian is the oldest known indigenous language of Egypt and a branch of the Afroasiatic language family. Written records of the Egyptian language have been dated from about 3400 BC, making it one of the oldest recorded languages known, outside of Sumerian. Egyptian was spoken until the late 17th century AD in the form of Coptic.
  • Estonian - The ancestors of the Estonians arrived at the Baltic Sea 13,000 years ago when the mainland glaciers of the last Ice Age had retreated from the area now designated as Estonia. The first settlers who followed the reindeer herds came here from south, from Central Europe. Although the vocabulary and grammar of the language used by people in those days have changed beyond recognition, the mentality of the tundra hunters of thousands of years ago can be still perceived in modern Estonian.

    Of the ancient European languages, once so widespread throughout the continent, Basque in the Pyrenees, the Finno-Ugric languages in the North and Central Europe, and Caucasian languages (e.g. Georgian) in the southeastern corner of Europe have managed to survive. The Estonian language belongs to the Finnic branch of Finno- Ugric group of languages. It is not therefore related to the neighbouring Indo-European languages such as Russian, Latvian and Swedish. Finnish, Hungarian and Estonian are the best known of the Finno-Ugric languages; rather less known are the following smaller languages of the same language group: South Estonian, Votic, Livonian, Ingrian, Veps, Karelian, Sami, Erzya, Moksha, Mari, Udmurt and Komi, spoken from Scandinavia to Siberia.
  • Hebrew - Dating from circa 1000 BCE, it is grouped under the Afro-Asiatic languages that include modern Arabic, Ancient Egyptian and Aramaic (the language spoken during the time of Jesus Christ.) The Old Testament in the Bible has been written in Hebrew, as have several other key documents discovered subsequently. it is one of the most influential languages in West Asian culture and continues to be spoken by more than 7 million people in what is now Israel.
  • Hieroglyphic Egyptian - Introduction to Middle Egyptian Hieroglyphs for over two thousand years, from the Middle Kingdom (ca. 2100 BCE) into the Roman era, Egyptian monuments were inscribed with hieroglyphs of the Middle Egyptian writing system.
  • Hittite - The Hittites were one of the many nations that spoke the Anatolian branch of the Indo-European family of languages. The Hittite language was related to Luwian and Palaic, and possibly to later languages such as Lydian, Lycian, and Carian. Unlike Luwian, which had an indigenous writing system, Hittite adopted the Akkadian cuneiform to write their language. Approximately 375 cuneiform signs were adopted from Akkadian cuneiform.
  • Irish. Irish and her sister languages, Welsh and Breton, are among the oldest living languages in Europe.

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  • Hungarian - It is unique, for that Hungarian is an isolated language, having no relatives in Europe. Where are the roots of this weird and wonderful language then? Hungarian belongs to the Finno-Ugric branch of the Uralic language family. Finnish and Estonian are also members of this group. Hungarian is much more strongly related to the Mansi and Khanty languages, which originate from Siberia and the Ural Mountains.

    Predictions are that Hungarian broke its bonds with these Ob-Ural languages about 2500-3000 years ago when Hungary’s ancestors settled down in the Carpathian Basin. Even before this, Hungarian was influenced by Iranian and Turkic as a result of the ancestors’ interaction with these nations during their quest for a homeland.
  • Indo-European - Most of the languages of Europe belong to the Indo-European family of languages and are therefore at least distantly related to one another. The only major exceptions are Basque, Turkish, the closely related languages Finnish and Estonian, and their distant relative Hungarian. Within the Indo-European family are subfamilies of more closely related languages.

    One of these is the Germanic family of languages, one branch of which includes English, German, and Dutch. Another branch, the North Germanic family, consists of all of the languages of Scandinavia except Finnish and its distant relative Sami, the language of the people formerly called Lapps. These North Germanic languages are all descended from a common ancestor, Common Scandinavian, that is first attested in runic inscriptions from the middle of the sixth century C.E.
  • Khoisan - The most important thing is the language. This is a "click language" in which clicks are like consonants. Linguists believe that the more clicks you have the older the language is, and this one has five, the most of any. Watch the Gods must be crazy to hear this fantasitc click language. The oldest language in the world and that's why the gods are still crazy about this dolphin language.
  • Old English. Neatly, divided into three periods usually called Old English (or Anglo-Saxon), Middle English, and Modern English. The earliest period begins with the migration of certain Germanic tribes from the continent to Britain in the fifth century A.D., though no records of their language survive from before the seventh century, and it continues until the end of the eleventh century or a bit later.

    By that time Latin, Old Norse (the language of the Viking invaders), and especially the Anglo-Norman French of the dominant class after the Norman Conquest in 1066 had begun to have a substantial impact on the lexicon, and the well-developed inflectional system that typifies the grammar of Old English had begun to break down.
  • Old French - The history of the French language begins with the invasion of Gaul by Julius Caesar's armies in 59 B.C. The land was then inhabited by a multitude of different tribes who spoke various related Celtic languages. Subsequent to the conquest of the territory by 51 A.D., however, the language of the Romans was gradually adopted by most Gauls over the next few centuries.
  • Finnish - Ancestors of present day Finns were hunters, trappers, agriculturists who came to Finland by way of the Baltic regions during the first centuries AD, spreading slowly from south and west to east and north. Swedish control over Finnish territory was established gradually beginning in the 12th century in a number of religious crusades. Around the year 3,000 B.C., a new Stone Age culture, known as the Comb-Ceramic culture, spread throughout Finland.

    Finnish, I think, was invented by an ancient king who commanded the people in his dominion to speak like him upon the penalty of death. Finnish is a notoriously difficult language to learn. This common ancestral language is posited to have originated in the Ural Mountains between 7,000 to 10,000 years ago.
  • Gothic - Gothic language is a dead language belonging to the now extinct East Germanic group of the Germanic subfamily of the Indo-European family of languages. Gothic has special value for the linguist because it was recorded several hundred years before the oldest surviving texts of all the other Germanic languages (except for a handful of earlier runic inscriptions in Old Norse).
  • Greek - (Classical) - Original Greek is thought to date from circa 1400 BCE but some experts put it at more than 5000 years old. Scientific language in English today contains more than 100,000 words that were “borrowed” from the Greek language. There are at least 14 documented dialects of this language.
  • Old Irish - Promoted by the ancient Romans, this unique language dates from circa 1000 BCE. Although it is considered a “dead” language in that it is only spoken in the Vatican, there are innumerable words that have made their way into fields of study such as zoology and botany; in fact, 70% of all books written before the year 1501 – collectively called ‘incunabula’ – have been written in Latin. Vulgar Latin and Classical Latin. Vulgar, in this instance, does not mean objectionable – rather, it refers to the word ‘common’; this is because it was spoken by the larger population, and differed from the Classical – and more formal – dialect in which books were typically written.
  • Old East Slavic - Old Russian. Sometime around 3500 to 2500 BC the people who spoke the language known as Indo-European began gradually to form dialect communities and separate from each other. As the Indo-European tribes moved "to the West and to the East. the Slavic tribes became separated from the mass of other tribes and developed their own language, which is called Common-Slavonic or Proto-Slavonic".

    These tribes settled in the heart of present-day eastern Europe and continued to use mutually intelligible dialectal forms for centuries. In approximately 500 AD the Common-Slavonic speaking peoples separated into Western, Eastern, and Southern groups, with the Eastern Slavs eventually finding their home near the Dnieper River in the area of present-day Ukraine.
  • Old Norse - Old Norse was the language spoken by the Vikings, and the language in which the Eddas, Sagas, and most of the other primary sources for our current knowledge of Norse mythology were written. Old Norse is a member of the Germanic family of languages, which also includes English, German, and several other languages.
  • Persian - Parsi. Parsi or Persian was the language of the Parsa people who ruled Iran between 550 - 330 BCE. It belongs to what scholars call the Indo-Iranian group of languages. It became the language of the Persian Empire and was widely spoken in the ancient days ranging from the borders of India in the east, Russian in the north, the southern shores of the Persian Gulf to Egypt and the Mediterranean in the west.
  • Old Church Slavonic - Old Church Slavonic or Church Slavonic is a literary language which developed from the language used by St Cyril and St Methodius, 9th century missionaries from Byzantium, to translate the bible and other religious works.
  • Ottoman - Old Turkish. The Turkic languages are spoken over a large geographical area in Europe and Asia. It is spoken in the Azeri, the Türkmen, the Tartar, the Uzbek, the Baskurti, the Nogay, the Kyrgyz, the Kazakh, the Yakuti, the Cuvas and other dialects. Turkish belongs to the Altaic branch of the Ural-Altaic family of languages, and thus is closely related to Mongolian, Manchu-Tungus, Korean, and perhaps Japanese. Turkish is a very ancient language going back 5500 to 8500 years.
  • Sanskrit - The earliest written form of this language is the Rig Veda, penned circa 3000 BCE; Sanskrit has the privilege of being known as the mother of all European languages. There are two very rare villages in India where this ancient tongue is still spoken today as a regional language.

    Mattur and Hosahalli in the Southern state of Karnataka are two of the few scattered villages across the vast Indian Subcontinent where this language is still used colloquially. However, it still continues to be used by Vedic teachers and Hindu scholars, known as Brahmins. Tamils/Dravidians are original inhabitants of India.
  • Sami - Lapp. The Sámi languages are Uralic languages with about 24,500 speakers in Norway, Sweden, Finland and Russia. The area traditionally inhabited by the Sámi people is known as Sápmi in North Sámi, Saemie in South Sámi and Sameland in Norwegian and Swedish.
  • Sumerian - Four periods of Sumerian can be distinguished: Archaic Sumerian, Old or Classical Sumerian, New Sumerian, and Post-Sumerian. Archaic Sumerian covered a period from about 3100 BC, when the first Sumerian records make their appearance, down to about 2500 BC. The earliest Sumerian writing is almost exclusively represented by texts of business and administrative character. The Old, or Classical, period of Sumerian lasted from about 2500 to 2300 BC and is represented mainly by records of the early rulers of Lagash.
  • Tamil - Another, completely indigenous language from India is Tamil. Though most scholars agree that the language originated circa 300 BCE, some contend that it is actually 17 centuries older than that. As a living language, it has far more speakers than any other ancient tongue barring Mandarin – more than 77 million people across the world still speak it, albeit in its many newer forms that include words based on urban slang usage.

    Tamil currently enjoys official status in 4 or more countries and territories around Asia. 200,000 to 100,00 BC - Beginning of Tamil Language. 7th Century BC. Tolkappiyam "the Earliest extant Tamil Grammar". Tamil is Mother to All Languages of the world.
  • Tocharian - Tocharian was an Indo-European language spoken in Chinese Turkestan. Interestingly, it does not belong to any known Indo-European branch, but instead represents it own group. There were two major Tocharian dialects, namely Kuchean and Turfanian. 6 to 8th Century CE.
  • Ugaritic - Ancient Ugarit, an important site in northern Canaan.
  • Welsh - Welsh is an Indo-European language and so has much of the deep structure of its grammar shared with other Indo-European languages, as well as much vocabulary cognate with that of other members of the family - including English. Welsh is less closely related to English than are languages like French and German and the Scandinavian languages.

    A form of the ancient Welsh probably came to Britain with the early miners around eight thousand years ago, they seem to have settled mainly the rockier places to the west of Britain where the veins of ore were close to the surface and where the relative warming of the Gulf Stream would have been most pronounced.

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