What are the Top 5 Oldest Languages in the World? History and Origin

picture of Old writing in stone tablet

Language is a medium of communication that brought a revolution for humankind. As we all know in the past, humans started to communicate using hand signs and sounds which they learned from animals and birds. With time, humans evolved and languages were introduced to them about 10000 years ago.

Can you believe, now 7117 languages are known to us? Many of them are still spoken and few have gone extinct.

Out of all these languages, we will get to know about the top 5 of them, their history and origin.

1. Tamil : World’s Oldest Spoken Language

Tamil is the oldest language in the world. The Tamil language has 247 letters in total. While primarily spoken in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu and the Union Territory of Puducherry, Tamil is also an official language in Sri Lanka and Singapore. It also has a significant number of speakers in Malaysia, Mauritius, Fiji, and South Africa. It has an unbroken literary tradition, making it unique among the major living languages of the world.

Tamil is also recognized as one of the longest-surviving classical languages in the world.

  • History – 5000 years old
  • Origin – India (Southern part of India)
Tamil Language on a stone tablet

2. Sanskrit : World’s Oldest Language

Sanskrit is the second oldest language in the world with 51 alphabets. This also comes from India. This is the foundation language of many religions. Scriptures such as The VedasThe Upanishads & Bhagavad Gita were written in Sanskrit. Many of the modern Indian languages such as Hindi, Bengali, Marathi, and a few more are infused with Sanskrit. Studies have shown that Sanskrit forms the base for many European languages and is still one of India’s official languages.

It is also known as “The Language of The Vedas“.

  • History – 5000 years old
  • Origin – India
Sanskrit language in old book

3. Egyptian

Egyptian Coptic is the official language of Egypt. The Egyptian civilization had Hieroglyphs engraved in the walls of their Tombs and Temples which were generally a combination of symbols and human figures. This helped us to learn about their culture and their way of living.

Egyptian language roughly contains 29 alphabets in their hieroglyphs.

As discovered by archeologists it was found that the Egyptian language has evolved during time which are  Old Egyptian, Middle Egyptian, Late Egyptian, Demotic, and and last was the Egyptian Coptic.

  • History – 4000 years old
  • Origin – Egypt
Egyptian Hieroglyph

4. Sumerian

Sumerian is the language of ancient Sumer. Mesopotamia civilization which is modern-day Iraq also used Sumerian as their mother tongue. It is considered to be a Cuneiform script which is a combination of logo and symbols.

With time, Sumerian was replaced by Semitic Akkadian as their spoken language. Writing was still in practice. But it is believed that around the beginning of the Christian era, the language came to an end.

The Cuneiform Script contains more than a 1000 characters.

  • History – 3000-3500 years old
  • Origin – Sumer (modern-day ‘Iraq’)
Sumerian Language carved into stone tablets

5. Chinese

Chinese language which is also known as ‘Mandarin’ is the official language of present China. The ethnic Han Chinese speak this language. Turtle shells with Chinese Inscriptions written on them were found by archeologists dating back to the Shang Dynasty proving the written language has existed for more than 3,000 years.

The Chinese language contains more than 50,000 characters in it. It generally has the same amount of alphabets in English i.e. 26 alphabets.

  • History – 3000-3200 years old
  • Origin – China
Chinese Language

Along with these languages, Akkadian, Greek, Hebrew, Aramaic, Persian, and Arabic are around 2500- 1500 years old and are still used by a major population. Their inscriptions helped the modern people a lot to know about their rich culture and lifestyle.

Out of all the world’s many languages, these five are just a small sample. Each one has its special history. By learning these old languages, we can better understand human history, and culture, and how people have always overcome challenges.

So next time when you see a word with an old history, remember its origins and remember this article.

By Sahil