What are classical languages? How they are different from other languages? Is English is an example of classical language?

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    Sorry, this is off-topic. It is not really a question about English, except to the extent that English happens to be a language. – Kosmonaut Feb 25 '11 at 14:24
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    I really don't see this as being off-topic. It is asking about the meaning of an English phrase, and the answer hinges on a particular meaning of the word classical. If I had the required reputation, I would cast a reopen vote. – bye Feb 25 '11 at 17:42
  • @Stan Rogers: The question doesn't just ask "what is the meaning of classical in classical language"? It asks how classical languages are different from other languages — that is off-topic. It could be made on-topic by removing that portion. – Kosmonaut Feb 25 '11 at 18:19
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    I read that as part of the meaning of the word classical. One cannot answer the question in any form without exploring the use of the word classical as it pertains to tradition and education (that is to say, why Latin and ancient Greek, among others, are classical while others are merely foreign). It would devolve into an off-topic question if it were a matter of structural linguistic differences between languages, but it has nothing to do with any intrinsic attribute of a language. It's not like the question is "why is English not considered a polysynthetic language?" – bye Feb 25 '11 at 19:23

The Wikipedia article is a good reference.

A Classical language 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

Is English is an example of classical language.


In the context of traditional European Classical studies, the "Classical Languages" refer to Ancient Greek and Latin. In terms of worldwide cultural importance, Edward Sapir in Language (1921) would extend the list by Chinese, Arabic, and Sanskrit.

However, it also states

Early Modern English (language of KJV Bible and Shakespeare, 16th to 17th c.) is the classical stage of English -

Such a stage is limited in time, and is considered "classical" if it comes to be regarded as a literary "golden age" retrospectively

This means today you would consider the Shakespearean period to be the golden age of the English language.

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  • @khan: you're welcome - not 'great' really, I only quoted wikipedia ;) – JoseK Feb 25 '11 at 13:04

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