A dead language is one that is no longer spoken as a mother tongue by anyone. It is normal for languages to develop, and the final stage of development is to give rise to descendants which then take over. (Latin is a case in point: as the Roman Empire collapsed, people began to speak the local dialects of Latin that became the [[|Romance languages|Romance language family]].)In some cases, languages with no mother-tongue speakers left nevertheless have a vigorous life. Some find a niche that encourages their use as a second language by people who do not otherwise have a common language.
- Traditionally, the most common use in European academic circles was to label the classical languages that were at the heart of European education: Latin, which was part of academic and, particularly, Christian, life from the departure the Roman mother-tongue speakers in about 410 CE until well into the modern era; and Greek, whose real modern study only began in the sixteenth century. Both these languages continued to be at the centre of education until well into the twentieth century.
- Several languages , while dead in the sense of having no more native speakers, remain vigorous in daily use for religious purposes. Sanskrit is central to Hinduism; the old form of Tibetan to its own form of Buddhism; and Coptic, an ancient language of Egypt around the beginning of the Common Era, remains the language of the Coptic Catolic and Coptic Orthodox Christian churches. The Arabic of the Qur'an is far more formal than the forms of Arabic spoken in the different countries of the Middle East today.
- Nowadays many other dead languages are recognised, such as Egyptian hieroglyphic. Linguisticians recognise and study many. Others are dying at a great rate.
- Some people distinguish between
- extinct languages: languages with no mother-tongue speakers, and therefore no longer really living languages
- dead languages: languages which have ceased to change, or develop in grammar and vocabulary.
- This distinction is not necessary at the level at which AWE tries to discuss language; it may even be thought to be an unnecessary distinction anyway. For more, see []