70 Extinct Languages of Asia

, Staff Editor
Updated November 10, 2020
Chinese woman under tree speaks extinct Asian language
    ancient Chinese woman
    Eitan Ricon Editions / Stock / Getty Images Plus

Languages become extinct in countries and on continents when there is no longer someone that can speak them. This happens when there are no ancestors who are fluent in the language to pass it on to family members or friends. There are many languages throughout Asia that have become extinct.

Extinct Languages of China Examples

More than 55 ethnic groups in China each have their own language, as Chinese ethnic groups have throughout history. These languages are some of the extinct languages.

  • Han'er: This is the pre-modern Sino-Korean language that was spoken in medieval China.
  • Jurchen: This language was originally spoken by the Jurchen people of Manchuria and is now extinct.
  • Khitan: This language was originally spoken by the Khitan people that inhabited the country of Japan from A.D. 388 to A.D. 1243.
  • Saka: Also called Sakan, this is the name of two extinct languages from Iran. It was spoken primarily in Xinjiang, China.
  • Tangut: Another Tibeto-Burman language that was spoken in the Western Xia Dynasty.
  • Tocharian: Also called Tokharian, this language is an extinct Indo-European language family.
  • Zhang-Zhung: An extinct Tibeto-Burman language spoken primarily in Tibet and Central Asia.

Examples of Extinct Languages From Korea

Korean languages are generally classified as Korean, Middle Korean, and Old Korean. History of Old Korean languages is scarce, but these are a few of the known extinct languages.

  • Baekje: This language was spoken in the ancient kingdom of Baekje from 18 B.C. to 660 B.C.
  • Buyeo: Also known as Fuyu, this language was a combination of languages spoken on the Korean Peninsula.
  • Goguryeo: This language was spoken in the ancient kingdom of Goguryeo and one of the three kingdoms of Korea.
  • Silla: This language was spoken in the ancient kingdom of Silla from 57 B.C. to A. D. 935.

Extinct Languages of Central and Northern Asia

Central and Northern Asian groups had and have languages influenced by Persian, Russian, and Iranian languages. These are a few that are no longer spoken.

  • Hunnic: Also known is Hunnish, this language was spoken by the Huns that lived in Europe and Asia.
  • Khazarian: Also known as Khazar, this was the language spoken by the Khazars in Central Asia.
  • Scythia: This refers to the now nonexistent languages spoken by the people of the Scythia region in Eurasia.
  • Sogdian: This language was spoken in Sogdiana, which is now modern-day Uzbekistan and Tajikistan.

Examples of Extinct Languages From Siberia

Siberia is considered by some to be the least linguistically diverse place in the entire world. Most of their 45 languages are now endangered, and these are some that are extinct.

  • Arin: This was a language spoken in Russia in an area along the Yenisei River.
  • Assan: A Yeniseian language spoken during the 19th century.
  • Kamassian: Also known as Kamas, it is an extinct Uralic language.
  • Koibal: This language was spoken by the Koibal people in Southern Siberia.
  • Kott: A language formerly spoken in Central Siberia.
  • Mator: Also known as Motor, this language is an extinct Uralic language.
  • Pumpokol: One of the Yeniseian languages that went extinct in the 18th century.
  • Sireniki: Also called Sirenikskiy, this is an extinct language of the Eskimos or Aleutians that lived in areas of Asia.
  • Yugh: An extinct language spoken by the Yugh people in Central Siberia.
  • Yurats: A Samoyedic language previously spoken by those living in the Siberia tundra.

Extinct Languages of India Examples

Nearly 200 languages in India are extinct, endangered, or vulnerable. Only a few are considered extinct by Indians, and they were all spoken in the Himalayan belt.

  • Ahom: A Tai language once spoken in Assam, a state in northeastern India.
  • Andro: A Sino-Tibetan language once spoken in Manipur, India.
  • Arwi: A version of Tamil once spoken by Muslims in Tamil Nadu, India.
  • Labanki: A version of the Panjab dialect.
  • Sengmai: Language once spoken by the Loees in the Valley of Munnipore.
  • Tolcha: A dialect of Tibeto-Burman languages.

Extinct Languages From Sri Lanka

Like other parts of Asia, Sri Lanka is home to many dialects, each belonging to a specific group of people. Because the island nation is so small, it’s easy to see how languages like these examples could be extinct.

  • Ceylon Portugese: Another name for Sri Lankan Portuguese Creole, which was influenced by Portuguese colonizers.
  • Kaffir: Dialect similar to Xosa and Zulu.
  • Pali: A Middle Indo-Aryan language from Northern India.

Examples of Extinct Languages From Taiwan

In the last century, native languages of Taiwanese groups were banned from school use. Policies like these contribute to the extinction of languages.

  • Babuza: Language of aboriginals from the western part of Taiwan's Central Basin.
  • Basay: Language of a group of Ketagalan people.
  • Ketangalan: Language of a native group from Northern Taiwan.
  • Kulun: Language also known as Pazeh-Kaxabu.
  • Papora: Formosan language once spoken in mid-western Taiwan.
  • Pazeh: Extinct language of aboriginal Taiwanese people.
  • Siraya: Formosan language spoken until the 19th century by indigenous Siraya people.
  • Taokas: Indigenous Formosan language.

Near East Extinct Language Examples

Common Near Eastern languages are very old and include Arabic, Hebrew, and Turkish. These extinct languages did not withstand the test of time.

  • Carian: Language spoken until the 1st century A.D. in what is Turkey today.
  • Galatian: an ancient Celtic language from what is Turkey today.
  • Hattian: A non-Indo-European language from what is Turkey today.
  • Hittite: An Indo-European language from what is Turkey today.
  • Luwian: An ancient Anatolian language in the second millennium B.C.
  • Lycian: An ancient language from the Iron Age that was replaced by Greek.
  • Lydian: An Indo-European language that was once spoken in the western part of what is now Turkey.
  • Mysian: A little-known language once spoken in the northwestern part of Anatolia.
  • Palaic: An ancient Anatolian language spoken in Hittite territory.
  • Phrygian: An Indo-European language from the 8th to the 5th century B.C.
  • Urartian: An ancient language from the Armenian highland.

Examples of Extinct Languages From Arabia

Some Arabian languages from ancient times are categorized as Epigraphic.

  • Hadramautic: A Semitic language from what is now Yemen.
  • Himyaritic: A Semitic language spoken before Yemen became Islamic.
  • Minaean: A Ṣayhadic language from the north-east region of ancient Yemen.
  • Nabatean: A Western variety of Aramaic spoken in the city of Petra.
  • Sabaean: An Afroasiatic language spoken in the first millennium B.C.

Extinct Languages From Levant

Levant is the name of a big area in Southwest Asia that included a variety of peoples.

  • Ammonite: A Canaanite language used by people in what is now Jordan.
  • Eblaite: A Semitic language from the third millennium B.C. also called Paleo Syrian.
  • Edomite: A Canaanite language from southwestern Jordan in the first millennium B.C.
  • Moabite: A Canaanite language spoken during the first millennium B.C. in Moab.
  • Phoenician: A Canaanite language spoken in what was called Pūt, Canaan, or Phoenicia.
  • Ugaritic: An Amorite dialect used in the first millennium B.C.

Mesopotamia Extinct Language Examples

The main languages used in Mesopotamia were Assyrian, Babylonian, and Sumerian. However, there were other dialects used by specific groups.

  • Akkadian: A Semitic language used during the third millennium B.C.
  • Amorite: An archaic Semitic language spoken in what is now Northern Syria.
  • Gutian: A little-known language spoken by a group of people who ruled Sumer around 2100 B.C.
  • Hurrian: A Hurro-Urartian language spoken in the third and second millennia B.C.
  • Kassite: A language spoken in the second and first millennia B.C. in Iran.
  • Sumerian: An ancient language spoken in what is now Iraq during the third millennium B.C.

Languages Lost to History

Like dead languages and ancient languages, extinct languages were used at some point in history, but aren’t widely used today. Learning about extinct languages helps you understand Asian cultures throughout history. If you’re considering learning a second language, resurrecting one of these ancient Asian languages is an option.