Have You Heard Of These Dead Languages?

Unfortunately, language does not last forever. Just as many things come to life and die, so does language. The languages we all speak today will someday not be around, but that is ok! New languages will come to take their place!

The Cambridge Dictionary defines a dead language as “a language not used for ordinary communication.” For example, Latin is a dead language. There are some that know this language. However, nobody uses it for regular communication in any community. Put this in contrast with an extinct language, which is a language which no one knows how to speak anymore. So, every extinct language is a dead language, but not every dead language is an extinct language.

But how many dead languages are there? Well, there are over 200,000 dead languages. Furthermore, it is predicted that over half of the worlds current 7,000 languages will become extinct by the end of the 21st century. That is a lot of language die-out!

Below you will find an example of a dead or extinct language on each continent.

Asia – Khitan

khitan dead language

The Khitan language was an Altaic language spoken in Manchuria and parts of modern-day Mongolia. To the Chinese, the Khitan people and language were known as “Liao,” and these people were a nomadic nation formerly from Northeast Asia.

Something interesting about this language is that it has two different writing forms: small script and a large script. Although both of these writing forms are Khitan, the original forms of these scripts have very little in common. The large script appears to be five years older than the small script with its origins in 920 AD, while in 925 AD a small script was presented.

Africa – Nagumi

Very little about how Nagumi was written or spoken is known. Its origins are in Northern Cameroon, and the name came by a German military officer named Kurt Strumpell. Though, Strumpell observed that the language was close to forgotten around 1910 AD. This language also goes by the name “Ngong” or “Gong.”

Europe – Vandalic

Vandalic was a language of the Vandals, a Germanic barbarian tribe which sacked Rome in 455 AD and created a kingdom in Northern Africa. Unfortunately, in this language very little is known about how it was written or spoken because the Vandals picked up writing so late in their existence.

North America- Pidgin Delaware

Pidgin languages are simplified languages meant to convey meaning to people who cannot speak a particular language. In this case, Pidgin Delaware was a language developed to facilitate communication between Native American Unami speakers and Dutch traders/settlers in the 1620s. The language is a simplification of the Unami language and has an incredibly limited vocabulary and syntax. The first mention found of Pidgin Delaware was in 1628 AD, while its last mention of use was in 1785 AD.

South America – Oti

Oti was a language isolate, not based on another language; as a result, there are no known lingual origins. It was spoken in the Sao Paulo region of Brazil but became extinct in the 20th century with the extinction of the Oti people.

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