The world is full of languages – over 7,000, most spoken by only a few thousand people – but you may be shocked to learn that many of them are not spoken anymore.
In this article, you will learn about these languages and their unique stories. You may even find a language to study for your next project!
Table of Contents
1. Akkadian language
The first language we will explore is Akkadian, which was spoken in Mesopotamia since around 2400 BC until 100 AD when it died out. The only remaining evidence of this language are a few cuneiform tablets discovered from that time period.
What is interesting about the Akkadian language is that it was the first Semitic language to use a form of cuneiform writing, which is one of the earliest forms. The language has been studied because it had many influences on later languages in that area. For example, Hebrew and Arabic are influenced by it greatly. It also shares many similarities with other Mesopotamian languages.
2. Ancient Egyptian
Ancient Egyptian experienced a steady decline in usage from about 800 BC to 200 AD. By the time Alexander invaded Egypt around 332 BC, it had already ceased being used as an everyday language but remained prevalent in temples and religious texts.
After the Romans conquered Egypt, they began to use Latin as their administrative language which led to a gradual decline of Egyptian until it was no longer used at all.
Ancient Egyptian has been lost with the exception of some hieroglyphs that have survived on monuments and temple walls.
Breton is a Celtic language that was spoken in the Brittany region of France until about 1900. The Breton people have been gradually assimilated into Gallo-Romance languages like French and there are only around 150,000 native speakers today but it still has regional recognition as an administrative language.
What is interesting about the Breton language is that it has changed very little over the last thousand years and it is one of the best-documented Celtic languages.
Osage is an indigenous language that was spoken by the Osage people in Oklahoma. The last native speaker, Annie Parker died in 1979 and it has been extinct ever since but there are efforts to revive the language today with children learning and relearning words from their elders.
Another cool fact is that the Osage language is that it is the lone Native American language that uses a syllabic alphabet.
5. Biblical Hebrew
Biblical Hebrew is a Semitic language that was used as the primary spoken and written language of ancient Israel from about 1200 BCE to 400 CE. It has been extinct for centuries but it still retains some important linguistic importance because its texts are an invaluable part of the study of Judaism, Christianity and Islam.
The Bible is written in Biblical Hebrew so it can be said that every time someone reads a translation, they’re reading something that was originally written in this extinct language.
What many people don’t know about Biblical Hebrew is that there were different forms of speech depending on the social class of the person. For example, a shepherd might use one form of Hebrew and an Israelite king would use another.
The Anglo-Norman language is a dialect of Old French that was spoken by the Normans during their conquest and settlement in England. It has been extinct since then but it still retains some importance because of its use as a literary medium for various medieval and early modern texts, most famously Sir Thomas Malory’s Le Morte D’Arthur.
The Aka-Bo language is a linguistic isolate that was spoken in the Democratic Republic of Congo from about 1800 BCE to 1500 CE. It has been extinct for centuries but it still retains some importance because of its use as an important source of information on ancient African languages.
8. Welsh Romani
The Welsh Romani language is a linguistic isolate that was spoken in Great Britain from about 700 CE to 300 years ago. It has been extinct for centuries but it still retains some importance because of its use as an important source of information on the history and origin of Roma culture.