Just like biological evolution and cultural changes are inevitable, the oldest languages also evolve and develop. By time and influence, they mold into shapes. Societies could not have developed without them. Hence, they are the great need of humankind to keep going and progress. It has been the force that has paved the way for civilization. They have evolved into better speech systems and written forms, generation by generation. Some of them have gone extinct, while some branched out into different forms. They disappear and reappear even today into different and new forms.
Reasons why languages die
While some of the languages have stood the test to time and survived overages. But which are the oldest languages of Europe? It is not an easy task to explain this question. However, they are as old as humanity itself. So it is not possible to say that one language is older than the other. We determine the age of language by its earliest written form. But sadly, languages have been in long use before they were written down. So, it’s a bit difficult to answer this question. Each of the languages has its key characteristics. Each one has something special, something ancient, and tells a story of our ancestors, our society. However, these traits differentiate them from one another, and how they have shaped today’s world.
Here we are going to discuss these mysterious languages. Let’s explore the marvelous world of linguistics.
What is the Indo-European language family?
Most of the modern languages of today’s world and Europe belong to the Indo-European language family. Just as French, Spanish, and many other languages have descended from Latin. Similarly, the Indo-European family of languages is believed to derive from Proto Indo-European languages. The speakers of the Proto Indo-European language did not develop a writing system. Hence, it is no longer spoken and we have no physical evidence of it. Indo-European languages have evolved into a large number of branches: Celtic, Anatolian, Italic, Albanian, Indo-Iranian, Germanic, Balto Slavic, Greek, Italic, Tocharian, and Armenian.
What are the oldest languages of Europe?
The Euskara or Basque language is one of the oldest languages of Western Europe. It is the only living language of the old Indo-European languages, having survived for centuries on its own. While all others have gone extinct. Hence, it holds many mysteries and its origin is still unknown. It was declared as a co-official language of the Basque country of Spain, 1979. However, the Basque country is the home for Basque people and it sits in both France and Spain. Around 750,000 native speakers of Basque country speak this lingo. They are the last remnants of ancient old Europe. Here are some of the facts about Basque:
Baque is Pre-Indo European
Most linguists believe that early forms of Basque date back to prehistoric Europe.
Basque is a language Isolate
The Basque language does not relate to any other European language. It does not either relate to Spanis or French or any other Romance languages. Basque borrows some words from these languages. However, It is a language isolate.
Lithuanian belongs to the Baltic languages branch of the Indo-European language family. Due to the presence of archaic features of Proto-Indo European languages, it is believed to be one of the ancient languages. Hence, its written records date back to the 16th century. It shares common characteristics with Sanskrit, Latin, and the ancient Greek languages. Danish governance from the 14th-20th century has very little influence on the Icelandic language. Modern Lithuanian was declared as an official language of Lithuania in 1918. Lithuanian alphabet that is in usage has 32 letters. However, in 2014 it became the official language of the European Union. It has about 3 million speakers around the world.
It is the Celtic language of Ireland and it also arises from Indo-European languages. When the word Gaelic is used alone it refers to the Celtic language group of Scotland and Ireland. Cornish, Welsh, Scottish Gaelic, Manx, and Breton share similar Celtic roots as Irish Gaelic. The written form of Irish Gaelic dates back to the 4th century. The earliest example of literary works of the Irish language is written in the native language instead of using Latin characters. Hence, it is the oldest vernacular literature in Western Europe. Due to suppression of education, immigration, and famine its usage has been shocking declining science 19th century. However, out of 1.76 million Irish-speaking people, only 1.7% of them use it on daily basis. If you’re to translate Gaelic into English, check this out.
The Icelandic language belongs to the Nothern Germanic branch of the Indo-European family. However, Danish, Norwegian, Swedish, and Faroese are some other Nothern Germanic languages. It is spoken in and Iceland and its history began in the 9th century. From the 12th -16th century, there were considerable vowel shifts and pronunciation changes in the Icelandic language. The written language remains unchanged since the 13th century. Hence, Icelandic speakers can easily understand the stories that were written centuries ago.
The Greek language is native to Cyprus and Greece. Hence, it one of the oldest living languages to date. It belongs to the Hellenic branch. Greek official language of Europe. However, it is a minority language of Italy, Romania, Turkey, Albania, Hungary, Ukraine, and Australia. It has been spoken since 3000 BC.
It belongs to the Finnic group of a Finno-Ugric language family. Unlike other lingos, it also arises from the Indo-European family. Historical records of Finnish date back to 1500BC-1000BC. However, it one other two official languages of Finland. Since 1955 it is among the official languages of the EU.
The Persian language is a very old Indo-European language. Hence, it belongs to the Indo-Iranian branch. The Persian language is the common language of Afghanistan, Iran, and Tajikistan. Hence, it has different varieties. The modern-day Persian language emerged around the 8th century. However, it is the descendant of middle and old Persian.
Sanskrit is the official language of India but its history dates back to Europe. It is the belongs to Indo-Aryan branch. The Sanskrit language is more than 4000 years old. Hence, the first written record of Sanskrit was produced around the 2nd millennium BCE.
It is thought to e a dead language because it is not spoken but it’s still a part of many literary works. Latin is native to Southern Europe and Roman Empire. Its origin dates back to 700 BC. The Latin enthusiasts try to keep the Latin language alive.
To conclude, these are some of the lingos of ancient times that are still surviving to date. However, knowledge of lingos and their history is very important to become familiar with our ancestors’ traditions and culture. This list of languages is based on the research of linguists and scientists. Hence, it is impossible to know the age of language with only these pieces of evidence. But this information helps track back the origin of ancient and mysterious languages.
Hopefully, this article will help you gain knowledge of the ancient languages of Europe. If you want to explore more about the linguistic world you can visit our blog for more articles. And if you have a translation request, please get in touch with us and let us know more about your project.