Is Sumerian the World's Oldest Language?

May 15, 2019


Most experts agree that Sumerian is the oldest known written language. A limestone tablet found at the ancient Sumerian city of Kish. A plaster cast of the Kish Tablet is inscribed with proto-cuneiform signs and is displayed in the collection of the Ashmolean Museum. Sumerian was spoken in southern Mesopotamia (modern day Iraq) from around the 4th millennium BC until 2,000 BC. The Sumerian language was not discovered until after its cuneiforms were deciphered. Even the language's name had semitic roots. After Sumerian was replaced as the primary spoken tongue by Akkadian, it continued to be used in religious documents as well as for scholarly purposes until the first century AD.

Tamil is a one of the oldest languages and is still spoken by the Tamil people of the southern India state of Tamil and Sri Lanka. It is also named as the official language Sri Lanka and Singapore. As a classical language, Tamil is over 5,000 years old and the collection of literature written in the language is quite vast. Still a widely spoken language, thousands of newspapers and official documents are still published in Tamil. Linguistic scholars will long argue over the scarcity of evidence when it comes to determining the oldest spoken language. The original Sumerian script was developed in the 3rd millennium BC for funeral inscriptions used to track souls in the afterlife.

Other languages can be traced back thousands of years. Once considered the language of the classics in India, Sanskrit is probably more than 4,000 years old and is still an official language in India despite its limited use as an everyday language. Consisting of 49 letters, Sanskrit combines sound vibrations and is repetitiously uttered for mediation in Hindu temples. Hailed as God's language, Sanskrit likely evolved from Tamil and has the world's largest reserve of words. In addition, Sanskrit is the most mathematical language of all the world's languages. NASA is exploring the possibility of producing 7th and 8th generation computer processors using Sanskrit as the main programming language.

In conclusion, Sumerian, Tamil and Sanskrit were all important core languages and both Tamil and Sanskrit have retained millions of speakers for thousands of years. Sanskrit is the only human language, which has a fully defined and context-free grammar comprised of more than 4,000 rules of grammar.

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