How much is known of the Carthaginian language, which as I understand it is called Punic and descended from Phoenician? Google searches show some sketches of alphabet characters and such, but do we know enough to be able to learn it as a viable language today, the way we can with Latin? Are there many samples and fragments available for study? If not, is there a specific reason why the language of such a powerful empire has been lost (e.g. did the Romans try to purge it or something), or was it just the ravages of time?
Some Late Punic texts (ca. 200-400 CE) were written in Latin letters, and so fully vocalized. The best treatment of these is R. M. Kerr, Latino-Punic Epigraphy. FAT ser. 2: 42. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2010. Punic certainly had vowels; the writing system didn't fully represent them (because the syllable structure of all Semitic languages makes it easy to know them without writing them).
The reason we can't speak Phoenician today as we can with Latin is that Phoenician original writing has no vowels, so we know many of the words but have no idea how the Carthaginians would have pronounced them.
Also the reason why little of the Carthaginian writing is left today is because it wasn't rewritten. Most of the Latin writings we have stem from manuscripts that where copied during Charlemagne's reign, but in the middle ages no one (to my knowledge) was interested enough to copy the Phoenician scripts. (probably because they couldn't read them: even knowledge of Greek was nearly non-existant). Most of those who did survive only did so because they had been translated to Latin in the classical era.
Actually, from the little I've seen, Punic (the Canaanite-Phoenician language of ancient Carthage and other phoenician settlements around the Mediterranean) is a lot like Hebrew, and many of its letters are recognizable from Paleo-Hebrew forms that are stilled used by the few hundred Samaritans of today.
Canaanite/Phoenician is very closely related to Hebrew. Not as in "cousins". More as in dialects of the same language. With some effort and a bit of guidance, a modern Hebrew speaker could read the ancient Canaanite texts and understand. When read out with the Hebrew vowels it is almost fully intelligable. I have not seen any Carthaginian texts so I cannot comment specifically. I imagine the vowels would have been roughly the same.