Can you guess how many languages are there in the world? The answer to this question is not easy. The number goes on constantly changing. The list keeps on adding the number of languages. At present, there are around 7117 languages in the world. 34 languages have more than 45 million speakers. It is a complex task for the researchers to find out which one is the oldest language in the world. Some languages have become endangered, while some have become extinct. Only a few of them continued to exist and are spoken worldwide.
Languages belong to varied families, and they have been originated for long years back. Cuneiform script discovered in Mesopotamia was regarded as the earliest written language with its origin around the 8th millennium BC. Similarly, the Sumerian script was explored in the 3rd millennium BC as funerary inscriptions.
Initially, humans used sounds and body language as a source of communication. But, when the languages were seen in sculptures, they began using them as a mode of communication about 10,000 years ago.
Are you aware of the oldest language in the world? Through this guide, you will come to know about ancient languages and also the oldest language in the world.
Oldest Languages in the World
Given below is the list of oldest languages in the world:
- Year: 10th century BCE
- Country/Area of Origin: Israel
Amongst one of the ancient languages, this language is the existing Canaanite language. The very first writings of this language were explored 3,000 years ago. Between the period of 200 and 400 CE, it started declining as it was stopped being used by many people. But, with the evolution of Zionism in the 19th century, it was again used as a modern language by the people. There are around 9 million speakers of this language worldwide, with 5 million native speakers.
- Year: Unknown
- Country/Area of Origin: Basque country
Amongst the extinct pre-Indo-European Languages, Basque is one of the living languages in the world. Researchers found it hard to discover its origin as this language is a hidden mystery of facts. It was found that this language originated a few years back in prehistoric Europe. The Basque language is spoken by the residents of France and Spain and is regarded as one of Western Europe’s oldest languages. The number of speakers of this language goes over 750,000 across the world.
- Year: 300 BCE
- Country/Area of Origin: India and Sri Lanka
It is one of the ancient languages with around 80 million speakers worldwide. This language is more than 5000 years old. It is considered a Dravidian language. It is the official language of countries like Sri Lanka, Singapore, and India. It is regarded as a minority language of Malaysia, Mauritius, and South Africa. Many newspapers are published in this language, and the literary sources also exist in the Tamil language.
This language ranks fifth in the list of the oldest languages in the world. It has around 274 million native speakers around the globe. The Arabic language is considered the liturgical language of Islam and the official language of 26 states. Its origin place is Arabian Peninsula. Gradually, this language started spreading over the Middle East and North Africa. It has inspired many European languages, and so it has been included in the vocabulary of European languages. It has also influenced many other languages like Hindi, Bengali, Urdu, and Spanish.
- Year: 600 BCE
- Country/Area of Origin: Iran
One of the oldest languages in the world which is used by the Achaemenid Empire is Persian. It is also known as Farsi and is spoken in areas like Iran, Afghanistan, and Tajikistan. This language originated from Old Persian language around 800 CE without any modifications. The Urdu language was the most influenced language through Persian. This language has different names in different countries. It is called Dari in Afghanistan and Tajiki in Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.
- Year: the oldest written language dates back to 1450-1350 BCE.
- Country/Area of Origin: Greece
This language comprises 13 million people, like speakers across the globe. It belongs to the family of Indo-European language. It is widely spoken in Greece, Cyprus, and other parts of the Eastern Mediterranean. But, it is officially spoken in Greece and Cyprus and the European Union. In areas like Italy, Albania, Armenia, Romania, Hungary, and Ukraine, it is considered a minority language. This language was adopted by other languages like Hebrew, Arabic, Turkish, etc. to write. It has its relevance in the field of Mathematics, Physics, and scientific fields.
- Year: 1250 BCE
- Country/Area of Origin: China and parts of Southeast Asia.
This language is based on the family of Sino-Tibetan languages, with around 1.2 billion speakers worldwide. It is the official language of China, Taiwan, and Singapore. The records and facts were explored since 1200 BCE at the time of the Shang dynasty era. But, according to some researchers, this language existed in the Yangshao culture. The remains of the pottery from Yangshao were listed in the Guinness World Record for the oldest written language since 5000-4000 BCE.
This language is also the official language of the United Nations.
- Year: Assumed to be 1500 AD.
- Country/Area of Origin: Baltic region
This language has around 3 million speakers worldwide. It is an Indo-European language. The written records of this language are 16th century old. This language is related to ancient languages like Sanskrit, Latin, and Ancient Greek. It is also regarded as the oldest Baltic language. It is widely spoken in areas like Lithuania and the European Union.
- Year: Oldest preserved texts were written around 1100 AD.
- Country/Area of Origin: Iceland
This language has the hidden features of Indo-European languages. It is a North Germanic language belonging to the Indo-European family. Norse settlers introduced this language in Iceland. Under the leadership of Danish, this language started losing its relevance in the 14th -20th century. Still, it remains constant and can be easily readable by Icelandic speakers. It is considered the official language of Iceland, with around 358,000 speakers worldwide. It is also spoken by some people living in countries like Denmark, the United States, and Canada.
Irish Gaelic language
- Year: 4 century AD
- Country/Area of Origin: Ireland
This language is also regarded as the oldest language in the world. It belongs to the Indo-European language family. With around 1.2 million speakers across the globe, this language is regarded as Goidelic language. The Irish language is considered the minority language in Northern Ireland and the official language of the Republic of Ireland.
It is also an official language of the European Union. It is declared as “Definitely Endangered” by UNESCO.
- Year: 450 BC
- Country/Area of Origin: Armenia
This language is spoken by the Armenians and belongs to the Indo-European family. It is Armenia’s official language and is also spoken by the people residing in Mesopotamia and the South Eastern region of the Black Sea. Around 5 % of people speak this language.
- Year: 600 BC
- Country/Area of Origin: Korea
Around 80 million speakers speak this language across the globe. It includes the script written in Hangul. The Chinese language greatly influences this language. It is one of the ancient languages.
- Year: 2600-2000 BC
- Country/Area of Origin: Egypt
This one is the oldest language in the world and is widely spoken in Egypt. It belongs to the Afro-Asian family and is 2600-2000 years old from Christ. It is still gaining popularity in the world.
- Year: 5,000 BC
- Country/Area of Origin: India
Sanskrit is the oldest language in the world and the official language of India. It is written in Devnagri Script and also known as Devbhasha. It has influenced all the European languages strongly. It is the oldest written language which is used by all the universities and educational institutions worldwide. All the languages originated from this language. It is considered the official language of India. Currently, it has become the language of worship and culture instead of speech only. All the rituals in Hinduism are performed by Veda Mantra, which uses the Sanskrit language.
- Year: 75 BC
- Country/Area of Origin: Poland, Vatican.
Latin is also one of the oldest written languages, which originated in 75 BC. Latin appeared as a formal language of the Roman Empire. It influenced many other Romance languages like Spanish, French, Italian, Portuguese, Catalan, and Romanian. It is considered the official language of the Vatican and Poland. It is also taught in higher education classes and is learned by millions of people across the world.
Various languages are existing in the world. Amongst these, we have compiled the list of the oldest written languages, but still, it is hard to determine which one is the oldest language. It is so due to the scarce resources, evidence, and facts available. Many scholars and researchers also fail to provide information about the oldest language in the world.
But, still, we have tried to cover the most significant ones so that you can go through these.