Which is the Oldest Language in the World?

How many languages are there in the world? The answer is not easy. The language list is growing with time. According to SIL International’s Ethnologue, there are around 7139 to 7164 languages globally. The interesting fact is that 34 languages have more than 45 million speakers. Researchers are constantly working to determine which one is the oldest language in the world. Some languages have become endangered, while some have become extinct. Only a few of them continue to exist and are spoken.

Languages belong to varied families from where they originated many years ago. Cuneiform script, discovered in Mesopotamia, was regarded as the earliest written language, and its origin was around the 8th millennium BCE. Similarly, the Sumerian script was explored as funerary inscriptions in the 3rd millennium BCE.

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? This guide will help you learn about it.

The oldest language in the world
Image source: Depositphotos

Oldest Languages in the World

Below is the list of the oldest languages in the world:

Tamil language

  • 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 a Dravidian language. It is the official language of countries like Sri Lanka, Singapore, and India. It is a minority language of Malaysia, Mauritius, and South Africa. Many newspapers are published in this language, and the literary sources also exist in Tamil.

Sanskrit language

  • Year: 5,000 BCE
  • Country/Area of Origin: India

Sanskrit is one of the oldest languages in the world. It originated in India and is written in Devnagri Script, also known as Devbhasha. It has strongly influenced all European languages and is the oldest written language used by universities and educational institutions worldwide. All Indian languages are believed to have originated from it. Sanskrit has become the language of worship and culture instead of speech only. Sanskrit Veda Mantras perform all the rituals in Hinduism.

Egyptian language

  • Year: 2600-2000 BCE
  • Country/Area of Origin: Egypt

This 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, dating back to Christ. It is still gaining popularity worldwide.

Armenian language

  • Year: 450 BCE
  • Country/Area of Origin: Armenia

Armenians speak this language, which belongs to the Indo-European family. It is Armenia’s official language, and around 5% of the population speaks it. People residing in Mesopotamia and the southeastern region of the Black Sea also speak it.

Korean language

  • Year: 600 BCE
  • 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.

Latin language

  • Year: 75 BCE
  • Country/Area of Origin: Poland, Vatican.

Latin is also one of the oldest written languages, dating from 75 BC. Latin appeared as a formal language of the Roman Empire and influenced many other Romance languages, such as Spanish, French, Italian, Portuguese, Catalan, and Romanian. It is the official language of the Vatican and Poland. It is also taught in higher education classes and learned by millions worldwide.

Hebrew language

  • Year: 10th century BCE
  • Country/Area of Origin: Israel

This language is the existing Canaanite language among the ancient languages. The very first writings of this language were explored 3,000 years ago. Between 200 and 400 CE, it started declining as it 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.

Basque language

  • 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. 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 is over 750,000 across the world.

Farsi/Persian language

  • Year: 600 BCE
  • Country/Area of Origin: Iran

One of the oldest languages in the world 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 around 800 CE without any modifications. Persian most influenced the Urdu (Rekhta) language. This language has different names in different countries. It is called Dari in Afghanistan and Tajiki in Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.

Greek language

  • 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 Indo-European language family. It is widely spoken in Greece, Cyprus, and other parts of the Eastern Mediterranean. However, it is officially spoken in Greece, 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., for writing. Its terms are found in the ancient and modern Mathematics, Physics, and scientific fields.

Chinese language

  • 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. Records and facts have been explored since 1200 BCE during the Shang dynasty era. However, some researchers say this language existed in the Yangshao culture. The pottery remains from Yangshao were listed in the Guinness World Record as the oldest written language from 5000-4000 BCE.

This language is also the official language of the United Nations. Therefore, it is one of the most important languages to learn.

Lithuanian language

  • Year: Assumed to be 1500 CE
  • 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.

Icelandic language

  • Year: The oldest preserved texts were written around 1100 CE
  • 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. Some people also speak it in countries like Denmark, the United States, and Canada.

Irish Gaelic language

  • Year: 4th Century CE
  • Country/Area of Origin: Ireland

This language is also regarded as the oldest in the world. It belongs to the Indo-European language family. With around 1.2 million speakers worldwide, it is viewed as a 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 and has been declared “Definitely Endangered” by UNESCO.

Arabic language

This language has around 274 million native speakers around the globe. Arabic is Islam’s liturgical language and the official language of 26 states. Its origin place is the 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.

It is one of the hardest languages for English speakers to learn.

Final thoughts

Various languages exist in the world. We have compiled a list of the oldest written languages, but it is still hard to determine which one is the oldest. This is 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.

However, we have tried to cover the most significant ones so you can go through them.

1 thought on “Which is the Oldest Language in the World?”

  1. Avatar photo
    Alina Taylor

    In August 2019, the Tamil Nadu State Council for Educational Research and Training (TNSCERT) scrapped a chapter ‘The Status of Tamil as a Classical Language’ from the 12th standard English textbook, after a reported statement that Tamil was younger than Sanskrit. According to Edex, the chapter mapped the origin of the Tamil language to 300 BCE, while Sanskrit’s origin was mentioned as 2,000 BCE, raising criticism from political leaders.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top