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Linguaholic

What is the World's Oldest Language?


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All languages evolve and change overtime. So while languages like Chinese may be older than English - ancient Chinese was very different in terms of pronunciation and grammar from modern Chinese dialects including Mandarin.

If you mean the oldest recorded language, then Sumerian would win the prize. I definitely agree with the Aramaic. The modern dialects are still in use (although many are dying out) and the written forms survive as a liturgical language among some Christians in the Middle East.

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The question should be more precise.

The oldest written language? Or the oldest surviving written language that is still spoken?

The oldest is the Sumerian. Aramaic is the oldest written language that is still in use.

I meant to say the oldest written language-- Aramaic? pretty interesting fact- which part of the world still use this language?

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I meant to say the oldest written language-- Aramaic? pretty interesting fact- which part of the world still use this language?

This link explains the oldest written languages known. As you can see, the oldest is Sumerian. But not that with languages like Chinese and Greek ,the ancient forms are very different from the modern languages and the oldest script used to write Greek, Linear B, is now extinct. So in many languages there is a break rather than a continuum in the written languages.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_languages_by_first_written_accounts

Old Chinese writing for example looks more like hieroglyphics than modern Chinese. Vedic Sanskrit was attested from about 1500 BC, but it is now extinct and its descendant Classical Sanskrit is now used as a liturgical language by Hindus all over India but Classical Sanskrit also went extinct as a spoken language and evolved into the modern languages of Northern India and Sri Lanka today (Hindi, Urdu, Bengali, Punjabi, Sinhalese etc)

Aramaic and Hebrew date to about the same time period. Aramaic is still spoken by various Christian and Jewish groups in the Middle East (all small communities and the language is in danger of extinction). The main group are the Assyrian Christians of Northern Iraq, Northwest Iran, Northeast Syria and Southeast Turkey.

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No one really knows what the first human language was like, it either went extinct or had evolved into the present day languages on Earth. The oldest language with written materials (cuneiform tablets, etc) that archaeologists have found so far is Sumerian.

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The oldest logographic languages (languages that use predetermined images/written elements to portray semi-specific meanings) probably developed around 3300 BCE...no coincidence, I think, that this is when the first 'great civilizations' formed (Egypt, Babylonia, Sumeria, etc.) So those would be things like hieroglyphs...but what would you classify as written language? Technically those hieroglyphs were just organized and codified version so the kind of neolithic art we see on cave walls.

Alphabetic language didn't come until a few millennia after that. The Ancient Greek of the Iliad/Odyssey (c.700 BCE) is probably the oldest example of a language that contains organized syntax and the kind of precise communication we associate with language today. The original manuscripts of the old testament (none of which survive today) and sacred Sumerian/Babylonian documents were probably among the first long form examples of organized syntax out of Asia minor.

The oldest extant language though, is probably Aramaic. Though it's debatable whether we could really call Aramaic 'extant.' It's been majorly outmoded by Arabic and Persian over the centuries, but remains in use in some places simply because of it's historical relevance. If not Aramaic though, i would definitely say it's one of the other Semitic languages like Hebrew or something similar.

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I don't really think it's possible to answer this question accurately. If language is defined as a medium of communicating then I'm sure there were languages long before we learned to write and it's pretty much impossible to tell which they were.

But if we're including certain criterias such as first written etc, then most people already answered it.

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  • 2 weeks later...

It had to have started from primitive grunting and signing.

I suppose you could get more technical as already mentioned and I'll just sit back and read.

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We all have our beginnings in the Middle East. It's from this Central point that the people's of the world dispersed to the places they now reside. Using that as the basis of my argument I'd say that the oldest language must Hebrew which has to be the language initially spoken by everyone who dwelt in the middle East. The Jews still use and it's over 5000 years old.

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There are several languages that make the list of the world's oldest languages,and according to be they are:

Egyptian,

Sanskrit,

Chinese

What do you guys think?

I wonder about this sometimes. If we disregard the evolution theory and subsribe to the history of man's diverse languages originating from the Tower of Babel, then it bids us to wonder what these people used to speak before that universal language was divided up into French, Spanish, Chinese, etc.

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There is an ancient tribe in Africa that is allegedly supposed to be still connected to the origin of the human race, the tribe is known as the San tribe. They still use click consonants to communicate with each other - but does this count as a language? If yes, then it is probably the oldest language in the world.

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Unquestionably the oldest language would be an African language and it probably was spoken by an earlier hominid. Certainly Sumerian is probably the oldest language with known written records. We know that verbal records suggest that civilization is at least 14,000 years old. Verbal records rather strongly suggests language. Many mythologies suggest language existed for at least 40,000+ years. If you can find the book "Hamlet's Mill" and make your way through it you will understand that human knowledge requiring language is many tens of thousands of years old. I seem to recall etymological evidence pointing to a single primitive language dating hundreds of thousands of years ago.

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