What are the slowest changing languages (as measured by, e.g., a "glottochronological constant" or other methods)?

  • I don't know all languages, but Greek is slow enough that Modern Greek speakers can pretty much understand Classical Greek. Just the grammar of the verb has changed. This question is difficult because many languages do not have ancient writings.
    – Perry Webb
    Commented Dec 26, 2023 at 12:19
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    @perry They can more or less get the gist of written Classical Greek. If they’re not trained in it, they would have very little chance of understanding a Greek speaker from 2,500 years ago – and even more so the other way around. Lots of other things have changed than just the verb, of course, but it is true that vocabulary has remained a lot more stable than in many other European languages. Commented Dec 26, 2023 at 19:04
  • Those languages are spoken in the areas where nothing ever happens. Take Lithuania — nothing happened there for 2000 years, no conquests, no migrations, no genocides. There's no other quieter corner of the world like Lithuania!
    – Yellow Sky
    Commented Dec 26, 2023 at 19:31
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    @YellowSky it's rare that a comment here makes me wish for the wider array of reactions available on facebook, slack, etc, but yours certainly made me long for a laugh reaction
    – Tristan
    Commented Dec 27, 2023 at 9:46

1 Answer 1


In general, languages that are not in contact with other languages, and that are strongly standardized. Dead liturgical languages are a special case of that. Icelandic, Latin, Non-Colloquial Arabic and Sanskrit are the paradigm case. Lithuanian, Slavic languages and Tamil are also on the more-conservative end of the continuum.

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    Could the downvoters comment why? Commented Dec 27, 2023 at 22:25
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    @AdamBittlingmayer The answer needs citations and data to support the claims.
    – Geremia
    Commented Dec 28, 2023 at 3:35
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    @AdamBittlingmayer I think this is a good answer.
    – fdb
    Commented Dec 28, 2023 at 23:53
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    It's not clear what "not in contact with other languages" means or how it applies to most of the named languages - Icelandic speakers may be isolated, but Slavs, Balts, and speakers of Indian languages don't appear to be.
    – Stuart F
    Commented Jan 4 at 11:55

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