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6 Oldest Languages in the World You Must Know

Human history is constructed by the various languages, each of which has a long history dating back thousands of years. These languages are the roots of civilizations and how our ancestors communicated, recorded their achievements, and passed down their wisdom. Let’s uncover the top 6 oldest languages in the world as these ancient tongues offer invaluable insights into the cultural, social, and intellectual life of early human societies. 

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List of 6 Oldest Languages in the World 

  • Chinese
  • Sanskrit 
  • Egyptian
  • Sumerian 
  • Hebrew
  • Greek

1- Chinese

The Chinese language is the oldest in the world, with a history spanning over 6,000 years. The earliest written records of the Chinese language date back to the Shang Dynasty (1766-1123 BC), where inscriptions on turtle shells and animal bones reveal a sophisticated writing system used for divination and record-keeping. 

The early writing system, known as the Oracle Bone Script, is the ancestor of modern Chinese characters and is still studied by scholars today.

The Chinese language is part of the Sino-Tibetan language family, which includes languages spoken in China, Tibet, and other parts of East Asia. The relationship between Chinese and other Sino-Tibetan languages is still a topic of ongoing research and debate. 

Over the centuries, the Chinese language has undergone significant changes and developments. The earliest written records of the language are found in the Oracle Bone Script, which was used during the Shang Dynasty. 

The script was later replaced by the Bronze Script, which was used during the Zhou Dynasty (1046-256 BC). The Bronze Script was more complex and included a larger number of characters, many of which are still used in modern Chinese.

The Seal Script, which was used for official documents and served as the model for today’s modern Chinese characters, was introduced during the Qin Dynasty (221-206 BC).

The Han Dynasty (206 BC-220 AD) saw the development of the Clerical Script, which was used for official documents and was the basis for the modern Chinese characters used today.

The Tang Dynasty (618-907 AD) saw the development of the Regular Script, which is still used today and is the basis for the modern Chinese characters used in mainland China, Taiwan, and other parts of the world.

The Chinese language has also been a key factor in the development of Chinese identity and national pride. It has been used to express Chinese values and traditions and has been a symbol of Chinese culture and civilization.

In recent years, the Chinese language has become increasingly important in the global economy and politics. It is one of the most widely spoken languages in the world, with over 1 billion speakers, and is an official language of the United Nations.

Read More: Most Spoken Languages in Asia

2- Sanskrit 

Sanskrit is often referred to as the “mother of all languages”. It is the second oldest and most influential language in the world. This language originated in ancient India. 

Sanskrit emerged in the 2nd millennium BCE as Vedic Sanskrit, a standardized dialect of Old Indo-Aryan. It is believed to have evolved from the Proto-Indo-Iranian language and is closely related to other Indo-European languages such as Greek and Latin. 

The language was initially used for sacred and ritual purposes, with the Vedas, a collection of sacred hymns, being composed in Vedic Sanskrit. The Vedas were orally transmitted for centuries before being written down and their composition is attributed to the period between 1000 and 500 BCE. 

As Sanskrit evolved, it branched out into different dialects and regional variations. The most significant development in Sanskrit’s history came with the composition of the Rigveda, the oldest surviving work of any Indo-European language. The Rigveda is a collection of poems appearing as hymns and theological discussions,

On the other hand, The Vedic language began to evolve into Classical Sanskrit around 400 BCE, when Panini, a linguist, wrote down and refined the language. It was a new era in Sanskrit’s development, with the language becoming more standardized and widely used.

Sanskrit’s cultural and historical significance cannot be overlooked. It has been the traditional means of communication in Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism, and Sikhism, and its influence can be seen in the languages and cultures of India and beyond. 

Many languages have benefited substantially from Sanskrit’s influence, including Hindi, Kannada, Malayalam, and Telugu, which have all extensively consumed both syntax and vocabulary from the Sanskrit language.

It is essential to know that Sanskrit has influenced languages such as Chinese, Thai, and Indonesian, which have adopted Sanskrit loanwords and grammatical structures.

Sanskrit’s significance extends beyond its linguistic influence. It has played a crucial role in the development of Indian philosophy, literature, and art. The language has been used to compose some of the most revered works of Indian literature, including the Mahabharata and the Ramayana. 

3- Egyptian

The Egyptian is another world’s ancient language, with a history spanning over 5,000 years. Interestingly, its evolution and development have been intricately linked with the rise and fall of Egyptian civilization.

The Egyptian language is a member of the Afro-Asiatic language family. Its earliest known records date back to the mid-3rd millennium BC during the Old Kingdom of Egypt, around 3400 BC. 

Initially, the language was written using hieroglyphics, a complex system of symbols that depicted both logograms and phonograms. This writing system was used extensively throughout the ancient Egyptian civilization, with the earliest known examples found on the Naqada II pottery vessels.

Over time, the Egyptian language underwent significant changes, with the emergence of different stages and dialects. The Old Egyptian period saw the language become the official language of the Old Kingdom and the first intermediate period. 

During this time, the language underwent significant changes, with the tripling of ideograms, phonograms, and determinatives to indicate the plural. This period also saw the development of a more sophisticated writing system, with hieroglyphics and hieratic scripts.

The Middle Egyptian period is often referred to as the Classical Egyptian period. The language achieved its popularity during this period when a vast array of textual writing in the hieroglyphic and hieratic script was produced. 

The language was utilized in scientific and medical documents, like the Edwin Smith papyrus, as well as in the daring narratives of certain individuals. The poetic texts and the stories of ancient Egyptian gods also found expression in the middle Egyptian period.

The Late Egyptian period witnessed the language continued to evolve, with the emergence of new dialects and the decline of the classical Middle Egyptian. This period also saw the rise of the New Kingdom, which is considered the golden age of ancient Egyptian civilization.

The Egyptian language has played a significant role in the cultural and historical development of the ancient world. It was used extensively in religious and funerary contexts to communicate with the Gods and to ensure the safe passage of the deceased into the afterlife. 

The language was also used in administrative and economic contexts to record transactions and manage the vast resources of the Egyptian empire.

Egyptian has also had a significant impact on the development of the Coptic language, which is the latest stage of the Egyptian language and is still used today as the liturgical language of the Coptic Orthodox and Coptic Catholic Churches.

Read More: Most Spoken Languages in Europe

4- Sumerian 

The Sumerian language is the fourth oldest known language in the world, with a history of over 4,000 years. It originated in ancient Mesopotamia, which is now modern-day Iraq.

Sumerian is an independent language, which means it does not belong to any recognized language family. Despite its isolation, Sumerian had an impact on the development of many other languages, including Akkadian, Babylonian, and Assyrian.

The earliest known written records of Sumerian date back to the Archaic Sumerian period. The first Sumerian towns such as Uruk and Jemdet Nasr were built during this time. These towns were distinguished by highly developed irrigation systems, intricate commerce networks, and sophisticated governmental structures.

The Sumerians were a non-Semitic and non-Indo-European people who lived in the region of southern Mesopotamia, which was then fertile and well-watered.

The origins of the Sumerians are still a topic of debate among historians and linguists. Some believe that they were West Asian people who migrated to the region, while others propose that they were North African people who migrated from the Green Sahara. However, most scholars agree that the Sumerians were a distinct ethnic group with their language, culture, and traditions.

Over time, the Sumerian language evolved and developed, with four distinct periods of Sumerian identified: Archaic Sumerian, Old or Classical Sumerian, New Sumerian, and Post-Sumerian. 

The Archaic Sumerian period, which lasted from 2900 BC to 2600 BC, developed a primitive writing system. It was primarily used for administrative and business purposes. The Old or Classical Sumerian period, which lasted from around 2500 to 2300 BCE, saw the emergence of a more sophisticated writing system and the development of a rich literary tradition.

The New Sumerian period, which began around 2000 BCE, saw the rise of the Akkadian Empire, which brought about a significant decline in the use of Sumerian as a spoken language. However, Sumerian continued to be used as a sacred language and was written in cuneiform script until the end of the Akkadian Empire.

The Sumerian language has also played a significant role in the development of literature and art. The Epic of Gilgamesh, which is considered to be one of the earliest surviving great works of literature, was written in Sumerian. 

The Sumerians were also known for their skills, beautiful pottery, sculptures, and other forms of art, which have been found in archaeological excavations throughout the region.

5- Hebrew

The Hebrew language came into existence about 3,000 years ago. Hebrew originated in the region known today as Israel and Palestine. Historically, it went through several phases: Biblical Hebrew, Mishnaic Hebrew, Medieval Hebrew, and Modern Hebrew.

Hebrew was mainly used in academic and liturgical contexts until Eliezer Ben-Yehuda revitalized it in the late 19th and early 20th centuries as part of the Zionist movement. This led to Hebrew’s status as an official language in modern-day Israel. 

Hebrew is not only a language of communication but also a deep reservoir of Jewish culture and thought. It is the language of much of the Bible, central rabbinic texts, and modern Israeli literature which reflects the spiritual, historical, and social experiences of Jews.  

While modern Hebrew is relatively uniform due to its recent revival and standardized teaching, several minor dialectical differences exist. Ashkenazi Hebrew, influenced by Yiddish, is used mainly by Ashkenazi Jews and features some variations from Standard Modern Hebrew. 

Sephardi Hebrew, generally closer to the Hebrew pronunciation norms found in Israel today, has pronunciation influenced by Spanish and Portuguese. Mizrahi Hebrew, spoken by Jews from Middle Eastern countries, incorporates some phonetic aspects of Arabic.

6- Greek

Greek is one of the oldest Indo-European languages, with a rich history dating back to the 3rd millennium BCE. The earliest known form of Greek is Mycenaean Greek, which was written in Linear B script and used in the Mycenaean civilization on the Peloponnese peninsula. 

After the collapse of the Mycenaean civilization around 1200 BCE, the Greek language went through a period of decline and fragmentation, with various dialects emerging across the Greek world.

The classical period of Greece, which lasted from the 5th to the 4th century BCE, saw the emergence of the Attic dialect, which was spoken in Athens and became the basis for the Koine Greek. It spread throughout the Mediterranean region following the conquests of Alexander the Great. 

Koine Greek remained the bridge language of the Eastern Mediterranean until the rise of the Byzantine Empire in the 4th century CE. During the Byzantine period, Koine Greek evolved into Medieval Greek, which was the language of the Byzantine Empire until its fall. 

After the fall of Constantinople, Greece continued to evolve, with the development of Modern Greek, which is the official language of Greece and Cyprus today.

Greek has had a long-lasting impact on Western civilization, with its influence evident in fields such as philosophy, science, mathematics, and literature. The research of classical Greek philosophers such as Plato, Aristotle, and Socrates has also affected Western philosophy.

Greek has also contributed to the development of the English language, with many English words derived from Greek roots. 

Read More: Most Spoken Languages in the USA


The world’s earliest languages offer fascinating insights into the linguistic diversity of human history. Chinese, Sanskrit, Egyptian, Sumerian, Hebrew, and Greek stand as pillars of ancient communication, each with a unique historical significance and cultural impact. These languages have not only survived the test of time but have also shaped the development of literature, religion, and philosophy. The survival of these languages is a tribute to the originality and creativity of our ancestors and highlights the vital role language plays in preserving our culture and keeping us linked to the past. 


1- Which is the Oldest Language in the World? 

The Chinese language is the oldest in the world, with a history of over 6,000 years. 

2- Who is the Mother of All Languages?

Sanskrit is often referred to as the “mother of all languages,”. It is the second oldest and most influential language in the world.

3- What is the Hardest Language to Learn?

Mandarin Chinese is the hardest language to learn. 

Oleksandra Mamchii

Working as a academic lead at Best Diplomats.

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