Extinct Languages and Dead Languages

What are extinct languages? How many of them had existed? Read on and find out!

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extinct languages

Extinct Languages vs Dead Languages

An extinct language is one that has no speakers or is no longer in use. It usually differentiates from a dead language by specific definition.

However, extinct and dead languages equate most of the time.

This is a result of changes in the environment, such as colonization of the land. An example would be the various Native American languages that have been replaced by English, Spanish, French, Portuguese or Dutch. As a result, the younger generations will no longer be native speakers of the language. They will switch to English instead.

While extinct languages no longer have any speakers, a dead language remains in use in writing for scientific, ecclesiastical or legal purpose. Latin is one of the most popular dead languages still in use today. Other examples of dead languages include Sanskrit, Biblical Hebrew, Middle English, Pali, and Armaic.

Hebrew is an example of a revived language. Attempts to revive the language started in the 19th century and the language is now a living spoken language with about 7.4 million speakers.

When a language has gone through so many changes, linguists describe it as a different language or a different stage, with the initial or original language still described as extinct. Such is the case of Old English and Middle English, and their forerunner Modern English.

There are hundreds of extinct languages today.

Klallam, a native American language spoken in Washington DC, went extinct as of 2014 after the death of its last known speaker, Hazel Sampson.


You might find it interesting to learn extinct languages or dead languages, or get help from one of our translators who speak it!

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