The German Wikipedia-site states the following with regards to the ethnogenesis of kurds:

"Bereits Wilhelm Gesenius versuchte die Chaldäer (Chardim) mit den Kurden (Kard) in Verbindung zu bringen.[14] Auch von Hellwald setzt kommentarlos Chaldäer und Kurden gleich."

Vague translation:

"Wilhelm Gesenius tried to suggest a link between Chaldeans and Kurds. Likewise, von Hellward equate Kurds and Chaldeans." Wikipedia:Ethnogenese

How is this even plausible? Kurds are Iranian people, that speak an Indo-European language. Chaldeans on the other hand speak a Semitic language. Is this some biased, Euro-centric reading?

1 Answer 1


You are quite correct that the linguistics of the situation shows such association is nonsense.

The two writers in question appear to have both been primarily active in the 1800's. Obviously, the state of the art in Historical analysis has advanced some in the intervening 2 centuries.

In particular, it wasn't until the late 19th Century that Indo-European Linguistics really started to gain steam, and probably more like the early 20th when it became widely accepted. So the kind of linguistic analysis you and I rely on simply was not available to those gentlemen. They had to rely on other markers (like perhaps the two peoples' cultural behavior and geographic proximity, and yes perhaps even some eurocentric thinking), and clearly that led them to a wildly different conclusion.

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    Though without much knowledge in the sphere of cultural or ethnic studies, and acknowledging the weakness of science (especially the "soft" sciences) in centuries past, it does not immediately seem clear to me that linguistics shows that a association is "nonsense". It does not seem odd to me that a group may change their language, especially to a related language of the dominant group, especially if it is a "religious" language: compare the spread of English over Gaelic in Scotland and Ireland, or for a modern example, the suppression of the Catalan language in Spain.
    – sharur
    Sep 6, 2020 at 16:37
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    @sharur - That would be a better argument if we were talking about a change to some culturally dominant language like Arabic. In Kurdish history, the only period that you could really say that about was perhaps the Ayyubid dynatsty, and it looks like most of those rulers actually spoke Arabic.
    – T.E.D.
    Sep 6, 2020 at 17:27
  • @sharur ... but your assumption bases on nothing but mere speculation i.e. the kurds are descendants of chaldeans. Just stating chaldeans could have changed their language doesn't prove chaldeans were the ancestors of the kurds to begin with. That's circular reasoning, i.e. presupposing that chaldeans were ancestors of the kurds to claim chaldeans discarded their semitic language, adopted an indo-germanic/iranic language, to become today's kurds. And when were the "kurds" even dominant 1000 bc. ? _
    – NHSH
    Sep 12, 2020 at 0:24
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    @ChezBorz - I think sharur was arguing against applying the general principle universally, not this specific example.
    – T.E.D.
    Sep 12, 2020 at 2:52

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