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The Oldest Languages In The World

Discussion in 'Interesting Shares' started by Cheeniya, Feb 21, 2023.

  1. Cheeniya

    Cheeniya Super Moderator Staff Member IL Hall of Fame

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    10 oldest living languages in the world
    The same as everything else in the world, languages have a life cycle. They are born, then grow, sometimes mutate and eventually die. Still, there are languages on Earth that have been on people’s lips for thousands of years and continue to exist to this day.

    Here are some of the oldest languages in the world still spoken today.

    Sanskrit (cc. 3500 years old)
    First attested: 2nd millennium BC

    Spoken in: India

    Current number of speakers: 5 million

    Sanskrit was the lingua franca of ancient and medieval India and the first written record of it can be found in Rigveda, a collection of Vedic Sanskrit hymns.

    Although many believe Sanskrit to be an extinct language, 24,800 people have registered Sanskrit as their mother tongue at the 2011 census. Additionally, it continues to be used as a ceremonial and ritual language in Hinduism and some Buddhist practices.

    Greek (cc. 3400 years old)
    First attested: 1450 BC.

    Spoken in: Greece, southern Italy

    Current number of speakers: 13 million

    Greek was also mentioned in the “extinct languages” category because Mycenaean Greek is the precursor of Modern Greek. Thus, it’s debatable whether the Greek language we speak today is indeed 3400 years old or not. However, since its roots lie in Mycenaean Greek, we can all agree that Greek is indeed one of the oldest living languages in the world.

    The Greek language holds an important place in history thanks to its rich literature that includes epic poems such as Iliad and Odyssey. Additionally, Greek is also the language in which many of the fundamental works in astronomy, mathematics, logic and philosophy (the Platonic dialogues and the works of Aristotle) are composed.

    “Hercules furens” by Seneca
    Coptic Egyptian (cc. 2200 years old)
    First attested: 2nd century BC

    Spoken in: Egypt

    Current number of speakers: unknown

    Sometime in the 2nd century BC, Egyptian began to be written in the Coptic alphabet (an adaptation of the Greek alphabet), so the Coptic language can be considered the latest stage of the Egyptian language.

    Unfortunately, the language will probably soon become extinct since there are only a few people left in the world who continue to use Coptic as their day-to-day vernacular.

    Hebrew (cc. 3000 years old)
    First attested: 10th century BCE

    Spoken in: Israel

    Current number of speakers: 9.3 million

    The earliest known precursor to Hebrew is the Khirbet Qeiyafa inscription in Ancient Hebrew discovered in 2007, near the Israeli city of Beit Shemesh, 30 km from Jerusalem.

    The fascinating thing about Hebrew is that it had ceased to be an everyday spoken language somewhere between 200 and 400 AD. Then, it continued to be used throughout the medieval period as the language of Jewish liturgy, rabbinic literature and poetry. Nevertheless, with the rise of Zionism in the 19th century, it was revived as a spoken and literary language, becoming the main language of the Jewish community and subsequently of the State of Israel.

    Chinese (cc. 3200 years old)
    First attested: 1250 BC

    Spoken in: mainly China, but also other countries around the world

    Current number of speakers: 1.3 billion

    Old Chinese is the oldest attested stage of Chinese and the ancestor of all modern varieties of Chinese. The earliest examples of Chinese are divinatory inscriptions on oracle bones from around 1250 BC, during the late Shang dynasty.

    “Hebrew” by Mick Haupt©
    Aramaic (cc. 3100 years old)
    First attested: 11th century BC

    Spoken in: the Middle East and Western Asia

    Current number of speakers: cc. 2 million

    During its approximately 3,100 years of history, Aramaic has served as a language of divine worship and religious study, administration of empires and as the mother tongue of a number of Semitic people from the Near East.

    Historically, Aramaic was the language of the Arameans, the Semitic-speaking people from the region between the northern Levant and the northern Tigris valley.

    Arabic (cc. 2800 years old)
    First attested: 1st century BC

    Spoken in: there are 25 countries that have Arabic as an official or co-official language

    Current number of speakers: 335 million

    Old Arabic is the ancestor of the Arabic language and it is believed that its earliest inscription is a prayer to the three gods of the Transjordanian Canaanite kingdoms dated to the early 1st millennium BC.

    Persian (Farsi) (cc. 2500 years old)
    First attested: 522 – 486 BC

    Spoken in: Iran, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Iraq, Russia, Azerbaijan and Afghanistan

    Current number of speakers: 65 million

    The ancestor of Farsi or Persian is Old Persian, a language that is first attested in the inscriptions of Darius I who ruled between 522 and 486 BC.

    Examples of Old Persian have been found in what is now Iran, Romania, Armenia, Bahrain, Iraq, Turkey and Egypt. However, the most important attestation by far is the Behistun Inscription which is a multilingual inscription that was crucial to the decipherment of cuneiform script because it includes three versions of the same text, written in Old Persian, Elamite, and Babylonian (a variety of Akkadian).

    “The Holy Book” by T Foz©
    Tamil – the oldest language in the world?
    First attested: widely debated; proposals range between 5320 BC and the 8th century CE

    Spoken in: India

    Current number of speakers: 83 million

    The earliest Tamil writing is attested in inscriptions and potsherds from the 5th century BC. However, with the discovery of Tolkāppiyam, the most ancient Tamil grammar text and the oldest surviving work of Tamil literature, scholars began to debate the true age of Tamil. The author of Tolkāppiyam often mentions “they say so” (or something similar) indicating a rich grammar and literature tradition even before him. Naturally, linguists began to wonder whether we should be dating the Tamil language at least a couple of thousand years before Tolkāppiyam.
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  2. Thyagarajan

    Thyagarajan IL Hall of Fame

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    Sanskrit is living today in an indian village and in a gurukul where every one speaks or communicates only in sanskrit. The age of this living language could be considered over 7000 years if one goes goes by reports of NASA who studied the ramasethu rocks and determined the age of rocks to be over 7000 years old.

    During bridge construction at site Lord & others must have spoken in sanskrit. I am not saying monkey that helped Rama In construction were communicating in Sanskrit. Rama reported to h lived for over 11000 years and in that case he too must hv spoken in sanskrit. If that is true age of spoken sanskrit language must be over 11000 years.
    Thanks & Regards.
    Last edited: Feb 21, 2023
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