Have you ever wondered what the oldest living languages are? That question is harder to answer than it might seem at first. The origins of many languages are lost in time, and it’s hard to say which is the oldest.
That said, some languages are older than others. So, let’s take a look at 10 of the oldest living languages in the world today:
How old is the Hebrew language? Over 3000 years old
Where is it spoken? Primarily in Israel
Number of speakers: Over 9 million people worldwide, including 5 million speakers in Israel
Hebrew is the only living language remaining in the Canaanite family. The oldest Hebrew inscriptions date back to 3,000 years ago.
But by 400 CE, it was hardly ever spoken. People still studied the language. It was used in Jewish religious ceremonies and in literature and poetry. But they didn’t use it in their everyday lives.
Languages die when people don’t speak them. So, how did Hebrew come back from the dead?
The change began in the late 19th century, as Jews began to return to Israel. Some began using it at home, with their families. Then, it moved to a language of instruction in some schools. And finally, it became the language of everyday life, with Jewish immigrants to Israel from around the world obliged to learn it and speak it.
How old is the Tamil language? Over 2,200 years old
Where is Tamil spoken? Mainly India, Sri Lanka, Singapore, and Malaysia
Number of speakers: 70 million native speakers
The language of the Tamil people has been called the “the only language of contemporary India which is recognizably continuous with a classical past.”
In 2004, archaeologists unearthed earthenware burial urns inscribed with a “rudimentary” Tamil Brahmi script carbon-dated to 500 BCE. So far, this is the oldest example of Tamil. By 300 BCE, Tamil already had a thriving literary tradition. Read more