The study of human language is one of the most fascinating forms of anthropological exploration, and one that dates back to antiquity. The earliest linguistic pursuits have been traced to India, to describe Sanskrit texts, and to the ancient Greek philosophers who viewed grammar as an intellectual discipline. Thousands of years and billions of people later, there are now some 7,000 different dialects spoken around the world, whose sounds, structure, origins, and rules can unlock remarkable insight into human history and culture.
Today, there are also a large number of languages that are endangered, spoken by such a small number of people they risk dying out. Many are obscure, restricted by geographic or social barriers. At the same time, language is constantly in flux, and new lexicons continue to be forged, including more than one attempt to unite humankind with a universal vernacular. Below, you’ll find 12 places around the world where unusual brogues are spoken, lingo originated, and language continues to be studied. No word-lover’s bucket list would be complete without a visit to these linguistic locales.