10 Languages Lost To Time

English, Russian, Farsi, Bengali, Albanian, and Kurdish, among many others, all have roots in the Proto-Indo-European (PIE) language, which has been reconstructed by tracing the history of its descendants. It helps that those descendants comprise the most prolific linguistic family in the world.
The only problem is that PIE is so ancient that it predates writing, so much of our knowledge about its phonetics and lexicon are based on educated guesses. There are even three phonemes that we still don’t know how to pronounce. These are sounds not present in most other Indo-European languages, so the most accepted hypotheses liken them to certain phonemes present in Arabic. As controversial as it is, PIE remains an influential language as the common heritage of all who speak modern Indo-European languages.

1. Hunnic
You would think that setting most of Europe and a good chunk of Asia ablaze, bringing the Roman Empire to its knees, and earning the moniker of “God’s scourge” would be enough to interest people in at least understanding your language. Unfortunately, the Huns didn’t bother to put their language into writing. Only a few words survive, having been collected by Roman scholars. As such, there is an ongoing debate about how to reconstruct the language spoken by the Huns.
The prevailing hypotheses link the Huns to the Xiongnu nomads that were the northern neighbors of the Han Chinese. Like the Huns, the Xiongnu were probably illiterate, and all we know about them was recorded by their settled neighbors, who were terrified of them. It is still debatable whether Hunnic was a Turkic, Altaic, Indo-European, or even an isolate language, despite thepopular opinion among Hungarians that they are related to the Huns.

2. Dacian

The land of Dacia, which corresponds roughly with modern-day Romania, was the cradle of a warrior culture that was conquered by the Romans during the reign of Emperor Trajan in the first century A.D. Although the Romans did not eradicate the language, the inhabitants of Dacia and Moesia adopted Latin. Though some place names and Romanian words appear to originatefrom Dacian, the language was extinct by the sixth or seventh century.
The Dacians spoke some variety of Indo-European language, but most of it has been lost. It is very difficult to reconstruct, since only one inscription has survived. Attempts have been made to link Dacian to Thracian or Phrygian languages and even to modern-day Albanian, but it seems clear that Albanian is a descendant of Illyrian, leaving Dacian a dead branch of the Indo-European tree.

3. Eteocretan
We’ve previously mentioned the Minoans of Crete, an island in modern-day Greece, and their Linear A language. Eteocretan was most likely the languageof the people who wrote the Linear A and the Cretan hieroglyphics. At the very least, it is definitely a direct descendant of Old Minoic.

4. Meteoitic
Since there have been no successful attempts to decipher the Eteocretan alphabet, which means that no relations to modern languages can be established, the language is a baffling puzzle to linguists and archeologists. The few clues we do have all lead to dead ends. There have been attempts tolink the Phaistos disk to Eteocretan, but they were unsuccessful. A likely offshoot of Eteocretan, called Eteocypriot, has been identified, but it is also extinct.

Meroitic, also called Kushitic, is the language of the old Nubian civilization of Kush in modern-day Sudan. It is mainly known through Egyptian sources and obviously influenced by Egyptian culture, but Kushites developed their own script distinct from hieroglyphs or Demotic.
Although the script was deciphered in 1911, it seems to be impossible to translate. Attempts to link it to modern Sudanese languages, chiefly from the Afro-Asiatic and Nilo-Saharan families, have been largely futile. These links remain controversial, but if it really is a Nilo-Saharan language, it would be the oldest in the family to have developed a script and literary tradition. Click here for the rest
10 Languages Lost To Time 10 Languages Lost To Time Thursday, July 17, 2014 Rating: 5
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