Classical language

Classical language

Discussion
Ask a question about 'Classical language'
Start a new discussion about 'Classical language'
Answer questions from other users
Full Discussion Forum
 
Encyclopedia
A classical language is a language with a literature
Literature
Literature is the art of written works, and is not bound to published sources...

 that is classical. According to UC Berkeley linguist George L. Hart
George L. Hart
George L. Hart is a professor of Tamil language at the University of California, Berkeley.Hart received his Ph.D. in Sanskrit from Harvard University and taught at the University of Wisconsin–Madison before joining the faculty at Berkeley...

, it should be ancient, it should be an independent tradition that arose mostly on its own, not as an offshoot of another tradition, and it must have a large and extremely rich body of ancient literature.

Thus classical languages tend to be either dead languages, or show a high degree of diglossia
Diglossia
In linguistics, diglossia refers to a situation in which two dialects or languages are used by a single language community. In addition to the community's everyday or vernacular language variety , a second, highly codified variety is used in certain situations such as literature, formal...

, as the spoken varieties of the language diverge further and further away from the classical written language over centuries.

Classical studies


In the context of traditional European Classical studies, the "Classical Languages" refer to Ancient Greek and Latin
Classical Latin
Classical Latin in simplest terms is the socio-linguistic register of the Latin language regarded by the enfranchised and empowered populations of the late Roman republic and the Roman empire as good Latin. Most writers during this time made use of it...

, which were the literary languages of the Mediterranean world in Classical Antiquity
Classical antiquity
Classical antiquity is a broad term for a long period of cultural history centered on the Mediterranean Sea, comprising the interlocking civilizations of ancient Greece and ancient Rome, collectively known as the Greco-Roman world...

.

In terms of worldwide cultural importance, Edward Sapir
Edward Sapir
Edward Sapir was an American anthropologist-linguist, widely considered to be one of the most important figures in the early development of the discipline of linguistics....

 in Language (1921) would extend the list by Chinese
Classical Chinese
Classical Chinese or Literary Chinese is a traditional style of written Chinese based on the grammar and vocabulary of ancient Chinese, making it different from any modern spoken form of Chinese...

, Arabic
Classical Arabic
Classical Arabic , also known as Qur'anic or Koranic Arabic, is the form of the Arabic language used in literary texts from Umayyad and Abbasid times . It is based on the Medieval dialects of Arab tribes...

, and Sanskrit:

When we realize that an educated Japanese can hardly frame a single literary sentence without the use of Chinese resources, that to this day Siamese and Burmese and Cambodgian bear the unmistakable imprint of the Sanskrit and Pali that came in with Hindu Buddhism centuries ago, or that whether we argue for or against the teaching of Latin and Greek [in schools] our arguments are sure to be studded with words that have come to us from Rome and Athens, we get some indication of what early Chinese culture, Buddhism, and classical mediterranean civilization have meant in the world's history. There are just five languages that have had overwhelming significance as carriers of culture. These are classical Chinese, Sanskrit, Arabic, Greek, and Latin. In comparison with these, even such culturally important languages as Hebrew and French sink into a secondary position.


In this sense, a classical language is a language that has a broad influence over an extended period of time, even after it is no longer a colloquial mother tongue in its original form. If one language uses roots from another language to coin words (in the way that many European languages use Greek and Latin roots to devise new words such as "telephone" etc.), this is an indication that the second language is a classical language.

Living languages with a large sphere of influence are known as world language
World language
A world language is a language spoken internationally which is learned by many people as a second language. A world language is not only characterized by the number of its speakers , but also by its geographical distribution, and its use in international organizations and in diplomatic relations...

s.

General Usage


The following languages are generally taken to have a "classical" stage. Such a stage is limited in time, and is considered "classical" if it comes to be regarded as a literary "golden age" retrospectively. Thus, Classical Greek is the language of 5th to 4th century BC Athens, and as such only a small subset of the varieties of the Greek language
Greek language
Greek is an independent branch of the Indo-European family of languages. Native to the southern Balkans, it has the longest documented history of any Indo-European language, spanning 34 centuries of written records. Its writing system has been the Greek alphabet for the majority of its history;...

 as a whole. A "classical" period usually corresponds to a flowering of literature following an "archaic" period, such as Classical Latin
Classical Latin
Classical Latin in simplest terms is the socio-linguistic register of the Latin language regarded by the enfranchised and empowered populations of the late Roman republic and the Roman empire as good Latin. Most writers during this time made use of it...

 succeeding Old Latin
Old Latin
Old Latin refers to the Latin language in the period before the age of Classical Latin; that is, all Latin before 75 BC...

, Classical Sumerian
Sumerian language
Sumerian is the language of ancient Sumer, which was spoken in southern Mesopotamia since at least the 4th millennium BC. During the 3rd millennium BC, there developed a very intimate cultural symbiosis between the Sumerians and the Akkadians, which included widespread bilingualism...

 succeeding Archaic Sumerian, Classical Sanskrit succeeding Vedic Sanskrit
Vedic Sanskrit
Vedic Sanskrit is an old Indo-Aryan language. It is an archaic form of Sanskrit, an early descendant of Proto-Indo-Iranian. It is closely related to Avestan, the oldest preserved Iranian language...

, Classical Persian
Classical Persian
Classical Persian may refer to:*Middle Persian*New Persian...

 succeeding Old Persian. This is a partly a matter of terminology, and for example Old Chinese
Old Chinese
The earliest known written records of the Chinese language were found at a site near modern Anyang identified as Yin, the last capital of the Shang dynasty, and date from about 1200 BC....

 is taken to include rather than precede Classical Chinese
Classical Chinese
Classical Chinese or Literary Chinese is a traditional style of written Chinese based on the grammar and vocabulary of ancient Chinese, making it different from any modern spoken form of Chinese...

. In some cases, such as those of Arabic
Arabic language
Arabic is a name applied to the descendants of the Classical Arabic language of the 6th century AD, used most prominently in the Quran, the Islamic Holy Book...

 and Tamil
Tamil language
Tamil is a Dravidian language spoken predominantly by Tamil people of the Indian subcontinent. It has official status in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu and in the Indian union territory of Pondicherry. Tamil is also an official language of Sri Lanka and Singapore...

, the "classical" stage corresponds to the earliest attested literary variant.
Antiquity
  • Classical Sumerian (literary language of Sumer
    Sumer
    Sumer was a civilization and historical region in southern Mesopotamia, modern Iraq during the Chalcolithic and Early Bronze Age....

    , ca. 26th to 23rd c. BC)
  • Middle Egyptian
    Middle Egyptian
    Middle Egyptian is the typical form of Egyptian written from 2000 BCE to 1300 BCE .Although evolving into Late Egyptian from the 14th century, Middle Egyptian remained in use as literary standard language until the 4th century AD. As such, it is the classical variant of Egyptian that historically...

     (literary language of Ancient Egypt
    Ancient Egypt
    Ancient Egypt was an ancient civilization of Northeastern Africa, concentrated along the lower reaches of the Nile River in what is now the modern country of Egypt. Egyptian civilization coalesced around 3150 BC with the political unification of Upper and Lower Egypt under the first pharaoh...

     from ca. the 20th century BC to the 4th century AD)
  • Old Babylonian
    Akkadian language
    Akkadian is an extinct Semitic language that was spoken in ancient Mesopotamia. The earliest attested Semitic language, it used the cuneiform writing system derived ultimately from ancient Sumerian, an unrelated language isolate...

     (The Akkadian language from ca 20th to 16th c. BC, the imitated standard for later literary works)
  • Classical Hebrew
    Biblical Hebrew language
    Biblical Hebrew , also called Classical Hebrew , is the archaic form of the Hebrew language, a Canaanite Semitic language spoken in the area known as Canaan between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea. Biblical Hebrew is attested from about the 10th century BCE, and persisted through...

     (the language of the Tanakh
    Tanakh
    The Tanakh is a name used in Judaism for the canon of the Hebrew Bible. The Tanakh is also known as the Masoretic Text or the Miqra. The name is an acronym formed from the initial Hebrew letters of the Masoretic Text's three traditional subdivisions: The Torah , Nevi'im and Ketuvim —hence...

    , in particular of the prophetic books
    Nevi'im
    Nevi'im is the second of the three major sections in the Hebrew Bible, the Tanakh. It falls between the Torah and Ketuvim .Nevi'im is traditionally divided into two parts:...

     of ca. the 7th and 6th c. BC)
  • Classical Chinese
    Classical Chinese
    Classical Chinese or Literary Chinese is a traditional style of written Chinese based on the grammar and vocabulary of ancient Chinese, making it different from any modern spoken form of Chinese...

     (based on the literary language of the Zhou Dynasty
    Zhou Dynasty
    The Zhou Dynasty was a Chinese dynasty that followed the Shang Dynasty and preceded the Qin Dynasty. Although the Zhou Dynasty lasted longer than any other dynasty in Chinese history, the actual political and military control of China by the Ji family lasted only until 771 BC, a period known as...

     from ca. the 5th c. BC)
  • Classical Greek (Attic dialect of the 5th c. BC)
  • Classical Tamil (Sangam literature
    Sangam literature
    Sangam literature refers to a body of classical Tamil literature created between the years c. 600 BCE to 300 CE. This collection contains 2381 poems composed by 473 poets, some 102 of whom remain anonymous The period during which these poems were composed is commonly referred to as the Sangam...

     ca. 3rd c. BC to 4th c. AD, defined by Tolkāppiyam
    Tolkappiyam
    The Tolkāppiyam is a work on the grammar of the Tamil language and the earliest extant work of Tamil literature. It is written in the form of noorpaa or short formulaic compositions and comprises three books - the Ezhuttadikaram, the Solladikaram and the Poruladikaram. Each of these books is...

    )
  • Classical Sanskrit (defined by Pāṇini's grammar, ca. 4th c. BC)
  • Classical Kannada (language of the Kadamba / Chalukya
    Chalukya dynasty
    The Chalukya dynasty was an Indian royal dynasty that ruled large parts of southern and central India between the 6th and the 12th centuries. During this period, they ruled as three related yet individual dynasties. The earliest dynasty, known as the "Badami Chalukyas", ruled from Vatapi from the...

     / Rashtrakuta
    Rashtrakuta Dynasty
    The Rashtrakuta Empire was a royal dynasty ruling large parts of the Indian Subcontinent between the sixth and the 10th centuries. During this period they ruled as several closely related, but individual clans. Rastrakutas in inscriptions represented as descendants of Satyaki, a Yadava well known...

     literature, 4th c.)
  • Classical Latin
    Classical Latin
    Classical Latin in simplest terms is the socio-linguistic register of the Latin language regarded by the enfranchised and empowered populations of the late Roman republic and the Roman empire as good Latin. Most writers during this time made use of it...

     (literary language of the 1st c. BC)
  • Classical Mandaic (literary Aramaic
    Aramaic language
    Aramaic is a group of languages belonging to the Afroasiatic language phylum. The name of the language is based on the name of Aram, an ancient region in central Syria. Within this family, Aramaic belongs to the Semitic family, and more specifically, is a part of the Northwest Semitic subfamily,...

     of Mandaeism
    Mandaeism
    Mandaeism or Mandaeanism is a Gnostic religion with a strongly dualistic worldview. Its adherents, the Mandaeans, revere Adam, Abel, Seth, Enosh, Noah, Shem, Aram and especially John the Baptist...

    , 1st c. AD)
  • Classical Syriac (literary Aramaic
    Aramaic language
    Aramaic is a group of languages belonging to the Afroasiatic language phylum. The name of the language is based on the name of Aram, an ancient region in central Syria. Within this family, Aramaic belongs to the Semitic family, and more specifically, is a part of the Northwest Semitic subfamily,...

     of the Syriac church, 3rd to 5th c.)
  • Classical Armenian (oldest attested form of Armenian
    Armenian language
    The Armenian language is an Indo-European language spoken by the Armenian people. It is the official language of the Republic of Armenia as well as in the region of Nagorno-Karabakh. The language is also widely spoken by Armenian communities in the Armenian diaspora...

     from the 5th c. and literary language until the 18th c.)
  • Middle Persian
    Middle Persian
    Middle Persian , indigenously known as "Pârsig" sometimes referred to as Pahlavi or Pehlevi, is the Middle Iranian language/ethnolect of Southwestern Iran that during Sassanid times became a prestige dialect and so came to be spoken in other regions as well. Middle Persian is classified as a...

     (court language of the Sassanid Empire
    Sassanid Empire
    The Sassanid Empire , known to its inhabitants as Ērānshahr and Ērān in Middle Persian and resulting in the New Persian terms Iranshahr and Iran , was the last pre-Islamic Persian Empire, ruled by the Sasanian Dynasty from 224 to 651...

    , 3rd to 7th c.)


Middle Ages
  • Classical Telugu (Dravidian language, Kakatiya literature,9th c.)
  • Classical Arabic
    Classical Arabic
    Classical Arabic , also known as Qur'anic or Koranic Arabic, is the form of the Arabic language used in literary texts from Umayyad and Abbasid times . It is based on the Medieval dialects of Arab tribes...

     (based on the language of the Qur'an
    Qur'an
    The Quran , also transliterated Qur'an, Koran, Alcoran, Qur’ān, Coran, Kuran, and al-Qur’ān, is the central religious text of Islam, which Muslims consider the verbatim word of God . It is regarded widely as the finest piece of literature in the Arabic language...

    , 7th c.)
  • New Persian (language of classical Persian literature
    Persian literature
    Persian literature spans two-and-a-half millennia, though much of the pre-Islamic material has been lost. Its sources have been within historical Persia including present-day Iran as well as regions of Central Asia where the Persian language has historically been the national language...

    , 9th to 17th c.)
  • Classical Japanese
    Classical Japanese language
    The is the literary form of the Japanese language that was the standard until the early Shōwa period . It is based on Early Middle Japanese, the language as spoken during the Heian era , but exhibits some later influences. Its use started to decline during the late Meiji period when novelists...

     (language of Heian period
    Heian period
    The is the last division of classical Japanese history, running from 794 to 1185. The period is named after the capital city of Heian-kyō, or modern Kyōto. It is the period in Japanese history when Buddhism, Taoism and other Chinese influences were at their height...

     literature, 10th to 12th c.)
  • Classical Icelandic (the language of the Icelandic sagas, 13th c.)
  • Classical Gaelic
    Classical Gaelic
    Classical Gaelic is the term used in Scotland for the shared literary form that was in use in Scotland and Ireland 13th to the 18th century. The language is that of Early Modern Irish...

     (language of the 13th to 18th c. Scottish and Irish Gaelic literature)

Pre-Colonial Americas
  • Classical Maya
    Classic Maya language
    The Classic Maya language is the oldest historically attested member of the Mayan language family. It is the main language documented in the pre-Columbian inscriptions of the Classic Era Maya civilization.- Relationships :...

     (the language of the mature Maya civilization
    Maya civilization
    The Maya is a Mesoamerican civilization, noted for the only known fully developed written language of the pre-Columbian Americas, as well as for its art, architecture, and mathematical and astronomical systems. Initially established during the Pre-Classic period The Maya is a Mesoamerican...

    , 3rd to 9th c.)
  • Classical Quechua (lingua franca of the 16th c. Inca Empire
    Inca Empire
    The Inca Empire, or Inka Empire , was the largest empire in pre-Columbian America. The administrative, political and military center of the empire was located in Cusco in modern-day Peru. The Inca civilization arose from the highlands of Peru sometime in the early 13th century...

    )
  • Classical Nahuatl
    Classical Nahuatl
    Classical Nahuatl is a term used to describe the variants of the Nahuatl language that were spoken in the Valley of Mexico — and central Mexico as a lingua franca — at the time of the 16th-century Spanish conquest of Mexico...

     (lingua franca of 16th c. central Mexico)
  • Classical K'iche' (language of 16th c. Guatemala
    Guatemala
    Guatemala is a country in Central America bordered by Mexico to the north and west, the Pacific Ocean to the southwest, Belize to the northeast, the Caribbean to the east, and Honduras and El Salvador to the southeast...

    )
  • Classical Tupi (language of 16th -18th c. Brazil
    Brazil
    Brazil , officially the Federative Republic of Brazil , is the largest country in South America. It is the world's fifth largest country, both by geographical area and by population with over 192 million people...

    )

Early Modern period
  • Early Modern English
    Early Modern English
    Early Modern English is the stage of the English language used from about the end of the Middle English period to 1650. Thus, the first edition of the King James Bible and the works of William Shakespeare both belong to the late phase of Early Modern English...

     (language of KJV Bible and Shakespeare
    William Shakespeare
    William Shakespeare was an English poet and playwright, widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language and the world's pre-eminent dramatist. He is often called England's national poet and the "Bard of Avon"...

    , 16th to 17th c.)
  • Classical Ottoman Turkish (language of poetry and administration of the Ottoman empire
    Ottoman Empire
    The Ottoman EmpireIt was usually referred to as the "Ottoman Empire", the "Turkish Empire", the "Ottoman Caliphate" or more commonly "Turkey" by its contemporaries...

    , 16th to 19th c.)

See also

  • Aureation
    Aureation
    Aureation is a device in arts of rhetoric that involves the "gilding" of diction in one language by the introduction of terms from another, typically a classical language considered to be more prestigious. It can be seen as analogous to gothic schools of ornamentation in carving, painting or...

    , an aspect of the influence of a classical language on a later language
  • Classical languages of India
  • Classics
    Classics
    Classics is the branch of the Humanities comprising the languages, literature, philosophy, history, art, archaeology and other culture of the ancient Mediterranean world ; especially Ancient Greece and Ancient Rome during Classical Antiquity Classics (sometimes encompassing Classical Studies or...

  • Classicism
    Classicism
    Classicism, in the arts, refers generally to a high regard for classical antiquity, as setting standards for taste which the classicists seek to emulate. The art of classicism typically seeks to be formal and restrained: of the Discobolus Sir Kenneth Clark observed, "if we object to his restraint...

  • Literary language
    Literary language
    A literary language is a register of a language that is used in literary writing. This may also include liturgical writing. The difference between literary and non-literary forms is more marked in some languages than in others...

  • Sacred language
    Sacred language
    A sacred language, "holy language" , or liturgical language, is a language that is cultivated for religious reasons by people who speak another language in their daily life.-Concept:...

  • Official language
    Official language
    An official language is a language that is given a special legal status in a particular country, state, or other jurisdiction. Typically a nation's official language will be the one used in that nation's courts, parliament and administration. However, official status can also be used to give a...

  • Standard language
    Standard language
    A standard language is a language variety used by a group of people in their public discourse. Alternatively, varieties become standard by undergoing a process of standardization, during which it is organized for description in grammars and dictionaries and encoded in such reference works...

  • World language
    World language
    A world language is a language spoken internationally which is learned by many people as a second language. A world language is not only characterized by the number of its speakers , but also by its geographical distribution, and its use in international organizations and in diplomatic relations...

  • List of languages by first written accounts
  • The Primary Classical Language of the World