Ancient Language (Classification) a language that lost all of its native, first-language speakers more than 1,000 years ago

Ancient Language is a term in Comparative Linguistics that commonly means "a language that lost all of its native, first-language speakers more than 1,000 years ago." (See also: ISO 639-3 Individual Language Types). This term belongs mainly to the broader category called Classification.

Website definitions of Ancient Language

Source: ISO 639-3 (

"Types of individual languages"

Ancient languages: A language is listed as ancient if it went extinct in ancient times (e.g. more than a millennium ago). Identifiers are assigned to ancient languages which have a distinct literature and are treated distinctly by the scholarly community. It would be ideal to be able to assign identifiers to ancient languages on the basis of intelligibility, but ancient records rarely contain enough information to make this possible.  In order to qualify for inclusion in ISO 639-3, the language must have an attested literature or be well-documented as a language known to have been spoken by some particular community at some point in history; it may not be a reconstructed language inferred from historical-comparative analysis.

SIL International Contributors, "ISO 693-3: Types of individual languages," accessed August 12, 2023, [Visit]

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PsychLing Contributors. "Ancient Language." PsychLing, OMNIKA Foundation, 18 Sep. 2023, Accessed 10 Dec. 2023.


PsychLing (2023, September 18). Ancient Language. Retrieved from

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PsychLing Contributors. "Ancient Language." Las Vegas, NV: OMNIKA Foundation. Created September 18, 2023. Modified September 18, 2023. Accessed December 10, 2023.


APA Dictionary

APA Contributors. "APA Dictionary of Psychology." Washington, DC: American Psychological Association. Accessed September 14, 2023. [Visit]


Crystal, David, ed. A Dictionary of Linguistics and Phonetics. 6ed. Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing, 2011.


Internet Archive Contributors. "Wayback Machine." San Francisco, CA: Internet Archive. Created October 24, 2001. Accessed July 21, 2023. [Visit]

ISO 639-3

SIL International Contributors. "ISO 639-3 Registration Authority: International Standard for Language Codes." Dallas, TX: SIL International. Accessed July 28, 2023. [Visit]

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ISO 639-3 Individual Language Types is a term in Comparative Linguistics that means the classifications of individual languages according to the ISO 693-3 standard.

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