Enduring Voices: The Extinct Languages Quiz


4 Min Quiz

What percentage of the world's more than 6,000 languages will likely be extinct by the end of the century?

UNESCO estimates that half of all languages on Earth will disappear by the end of the 21st century. The most vulnerable locales? Those with the greatest diversity.


The last native speaker of this Isle of Man tongue died in 1974.

The last native Manx speaker died in 1974, and UNESCO declared the language extinct a few years later. The language has since been revived through academic efforts, though, and UNESCO now lists it as critically endangered.


The 2008 death of Marie Smith Jones meant the end of the Eyak language, a native tongue of this U.S. state.

Jones' death in 2008 spelled the end of the Eyak language. It was also the first time that a native Alaskan language was known to go extinct.


Developed around 3100 B.C.E, this language was one of the first to use cuneiform.

Sumerian served as the language of Mesopotamia. It went extinct around 2000 B.C.E, and it wasn't until the 20th century that humans figured out how to decipher it once more.


What language did Chaucer use to write his "Canterbury Tales?"

Chaucer wrote in Middle English, a form of English used between 1150 and 1500, which was later replaced by early Modern English.


The Ainu people of this nation were prohibited from speaking their native language in 1899.

The Japanese banned the Ainu language in 1899, and only about 10 people still speak this language today.


How many languages are spoken by fewer than 10 people?

Roughly 500 languages have fewer than 10 remaining speakers, leaving them highly vulnerable to extinction.


What supposedly dead language did Pope Benedict XVI use to announce his resignation?

Widely used in Europe throughout the Renaissance, Latin remained the primary tongue of the Roman Catholic Church through the '60s. Pope Benedict XVI shocked the world when he chose this language to announce his resignation in 2013.


What once living language was replaced by Aramaic around the year 200?

The Hebrew language fell out of favor for nearly 2,000 years before enjoying a resurgence at the start of the 20th century. Mazel Tov!


What ancient Roman tongue was replaced by Latin around the 7th century B.CE.?

Ancient Roman people living in what is now known as Tuscany spoke in Etruscan until it was superseded by Latin in the 7th century B.C.E. This one-of-a-kind language not only belongs to its very own family of languages, but is also unusual in that it's read from right to left.


What percentage of global languages have died out in the last 500 years?

In the past five centuries, the world has lost half of its languages. Each of these lost tongues means a loss of culture and heritage that can never be recovered.


Which of these languages is NOT found on the Rosetta stone?

The Rosetta stone, which features text written in hieroglyphics, Demotic and Ancient Greek, proved invaluable to helping modern people understand the language of the ancient Egyptians.


How many languages were lost in the U.S. alone in the last 500 years?

Of the 280 languages used in what is now the U.S. at the time of Columbus, 115 have since been lost.


What drove the native tongue of the island of Tambora extinct in 1815?

A volcanic eruption killed more than 10,000 people on Tambora in 1815, taking with it the local language. British officers who happened to visit the island a few years prior to the eruption managed to record around 48 words of Tambura for posterity.


What percentage of global languages have fewer than 100,000 speakers?

Around 85 percent of all languages have fewer than 100,000 speakers, and the world loses another language as often as every two weeks.


Which population communicated in the now-defunct Classical Nahuatl?

Classical Nahuatl was used by the Aztecs and other people over an area as large as modern-day Mexico. The modern Nahuatl language is quite different from this earlier tongue.


How many people speak Welsh, according to a 2012 survey?

While 300,000 people spoke Welsh as of 2012, the language is losing 3,000 speakers a year, leading to fears that the language will not survive for future generations.


What ancient Egyptian language was replaced by Arabic during the 7th century?

The Coptic language was largely lost when the Arabs conquered Egypt in the 7th century but remained the language of the Christian Church for a few hundred years more.


The dozen or so native dialects on this island nation went extinct by the late 19th century.

The various tribes of Tasmania lost their native tongues by the end of the 19th century. These languages were unique because they were so different from other tongues, with no relationship to other world languages.


During the 9th century, more than 40,000 people still spoke this now-dead British dialect.

Cornish died out as a first language by the late 18th century. Despite the fact that it was once declared dead by the BBC, about 300 people still speak Cornish, according to a 2009 report.


Explore More Quizzes

Image: refer to hsw

About This Quiz

Dead languages are more than words lost to the ages. They represent entire cultures, civilizations and people history struggles to remember. See how much you know about long-departed dialects and those that are still in danger of extinction.

About HowStuffWorks Play

How much do you know about dinosaurs? What is an octane rating? And how do you use a proper noun? Lucky for you, HowStuffWorks Play is here to help. Our award-winning website offers reliable, easy-to-understand explanations about how the world works. From fun quizzes that bring joy to your day, to compelling photography and fascinating lists, HowStuffWorks Play offers something for everyone. Sometimes we explain how stuff works, other times, we ask you, but we’re always exploring in the name of fun! Because learning is fun, so stick with us!