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The 5 Oldest Languages in the World

Edited By: Violet Tar

Language is man's greatest creation. Our ancestors, the Neanderthals, showed us the first glimpses of language, using grunting and pointing to communicate with one another.

Over the next few millenniums, the spoken word began to rise. As early as 3 BC, the first languages began to be spoken, and it is from these ancient art forms (because make no mistake, language is an art form), that the spoken word we enjoy today in many different countries, has been derived. With that in mind, here are the 5 oldest languages known to civilization. 

 

5. Greek

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The first appearance of written Greek has been traced back to over 3000 years ago. Since then it has been used continuously, and is currently the official language of Greece and the Republic of Cyprus, an Eastern Mediterranean island country. It is the oldest Indo-European language still used today.

However, the Modern Greek spoken today is not quite the same as the Ancient Greek used in 9th century  BC. The language developed to what we now call Medieval Greek, by around 4th century AD, around 1700 years ago, the age of Alexander the Great, before progressing to the Modern Greek commonly spoken nowadays. 

 

4. Hebrew

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Historically, the earliest uses of the language Hebrew was more than 3000 years ago, but became a dead language in the 4th century.

Yet, today, it is spoken by more than 9 million people across the world. This is thanks to the spread of Zionism, the Jewish Nationalist Movement, over the last 2 centuries. While Modern Hebrew is quite different than Ancient Hebrew when spoken, the written forms of both are quite similar.

 

3. Egyptian

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Egypt, being one of the oldest civilizations of humankind, was naturally the birthplace of one of the oldest languages, Egyptian. This Ancient language, along with Egyptian Coptic are the oldest languages native to Egypt. The first usage of this language in text has been dated back to 3400 BC, approximately 5000 years ago.

Ancient Egyptian was eventually lost to time and Coptic was largely spoken until the 18th century. Today, only few know these languages, and the commonly spoken language is Arabic, or Saidi Arabic.

 

2. Sanskrit

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Sanskrit is older still than Egyptian, and it's usage dates back to earlier than 2000 BC, more than 4000 years ago. Numerous Vedic texts as well as the scriptures of Jainism, Hinduism and Buddhism, which emerged at this time, heavily feature the use of Sanskrit.

Sanskrit has also been the basis of a number of other languages (both the modern and ancient forms). While it is not very widely known and even less frequently spoken, Sanskrit continues to remain one of India's official languages and is even taught in many schools.

 

1. Tamil 

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(By AntanO, Wikimedia Commons)  

This language emerged slightly before Sanskrit, but unlike it's more religiously used counterpart, Tamil is still a commonly spoken language, especially so in Tamil Nadu, a South Indian state. Tamil is also an official language in both Singapore and Sri Lanka as well as India.

As a widely spoken language, there are currently over a dozen different dialects of Tamil spoken all across the states. However, forms of ancient Tamil are also still alive and well in many circles of these localities. 

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