Have secular genetic studies confirmed Israelites' Aramean origins?

rakovsky

Well-known member
In the Biblical story, Abraham's father Terah came from the Ur of Chaldea. It's not clear whether this refers to an "Ur" in northern Mesopotamia like the region associated with Assyria or the more famous one near Babylon in southern Mesopotamia in present-day southern Iraq. The more common idea seems to be that it refers to the southern "Ur," but I am open-minded on that topic.

In Genesis, Abraham's father moved to Haran in Aramea (present-day southern Turkey). There is a place later in the Torah (I think in Exodus) where the Israelites are told to say in their prayer that their father was a "wandering Aramaean." Sometimes this has been interpreted differently (eg. "an Aramean ready to perish"). Next, Abraham moved to Canaan, and then Abraham demanded that his servant look for wives for Abraham's son in Abraham's homeland, and not among the Canaanites. So Abraham's servant went to "Aram" (Aramea). Abraham's descendants like Jacob did the same thing according to Genesis, choosing Aramean wives instead of Canaanite ones.

The term "Hebrew" apparently is related to "Eber," which is also the name of one of Abraham's forefathers. "Eber" is taken to mean "across" or "beyond," referring to the idea that Eber and the "Hebrews" came from a land beyond or across a major river, particularly like the Euphrates River. The land east of the Euphrates is Mesopotamia, including Aramea and Assyria. Aramea (eg. the city of Haran) is actually a different place from the original center of Assyria (eg. the cities of Asshur and Nineveh). The Arameans spoke Aramaic and the Assyrians spoke Akkadian, the language of Babylon. However, the Assyrian Empire switched to Aramaic in about the 8th century after Assyria conquered Aramea.

Next in the books of Genesis-Joshua, Abraham's grandson Jacob/"Israel" went down to Egypt and then generations later his descendants, the Israelites returned as conquerors of Canaan. However, the Israelites did intermarry with Canaanites, including Canaanites who were noteworthy as helpers and allies to the Israelites like Ruth. The main scholarly view is that the Israelites' "Hebrew alphabet" and language before David's time (eg. before 1050 BC) was practically the same as the Phoenicians' and Canaanites' language and alphabet.

So one hypothesis could be that if the Israelites under Joshua were Arameans and not Canaanites, they could have had a relationship to the conquered Canaanites similar to the Normans to the English and the Vikings to the Russians Slavs. In those situations, the Normans and Vikings formed a kind of hierarchy or ruling group on top of the English and Russian Slavic peoples. So in this hypothesis, the Israelites' ruling dynasties could have been Aramean, whereas the bulk of their population could have been Canaanite.

A quick review of genetic studies online did not directly address this issue.

  1. One study said that modern Israeli Jews had closer genetic relations to the Kurds, Armenians, and Georgians - peoples of the Caucasus and eastern Turkey, than to what the study classed as "Arabs." This could serve as evidence favoring an Aramean connection. But the study theorized that this could be because the "Arabs" could have been composed of a mix of people who came from outside of Arabia. However, this study might not tell us much, because the study might have been comparing Israeli Jews to classical Arabian Arabs, like those from Saudi Arabia, and not dealing with Arab-speaking groups closer to the Israelis, such as northern Mesopotamian, Syrian, or Levantine Arabs.
  2. A second study noted that Mizrahi Jews (ie those from the Middle East) shared a special closeness with non-Jewish Assyrians. This also goes along with an Aramean connection. However, that study did not run a comparison with the Canaanites, nor do I remember the study mentioning Levantine Arabs.
  3. A third study said that Israeli Jews had an especially close connection to the ancient Canaanites.
  4. It's common for studies to show closeness between Israeli Jews and Palestinian Arabs. This makes sense because over the centuries, there have been many Jews in Palestine who converted to Christianity or Islam. However, this does not really show us how much of those groups around today are related to the Arameans compared to the Canaanites.
 

Komodo

Well-known member
In the Biblical story, Abraham's father Terah came from the Ur of Chaldea. It's not clear whether this refers to an "Ur" in northern Mesopotamia like the region associated with Assyria or the more famous one near Babylon in southern Mesopotamia in present-day southern Iraq. The more common idea seems to be that it refers to the southern "Ur," but I am open-minded on that topic.

In Genesis, Abraham's father moved to Haran in Aramea (present-day southern Turkey). There is a place later in the Torah (I think in Exodus) where the Israelites are told to say in their prayer that their father was a "wandering Aramaean." Sometimes this has been interpreted differently (eg. "an Aramean ready to perish"). Next, Abraham moved to Canaan, and then Abraham demanded that his servant look for wives for Abraham's son in Abraham's homeland, and not among the Canaanites. So Abraham's servant went to "Aram" (Aramea). Abraham's descendants like Jacob did the same thing according to Genesis, choosing Aramean wives instead of Canaanite ones.

The term "Hebrew" apparently is related to "Eber," which is also the name of one of Abraham's forefathers. "Eber" is taken to mean "across" or "beyond," referring to the idea that Eber and the "Hebrews" came from a land beyond or across a major river, particularly like the Euphrates River. The land east of the Euphrates is Mesopotamia, including Aramea and Assyria. Aramea (eg. the city of Haran) is actually a different place from the original center of Assyria (eg. the cities of Asshur and Nineveh). The Arameans spoke Aramaic and the Assyrians spoke Akkadian, the language of Babylon. However, the Assyrian Empire switched to Aramaic in about the 8th century after Assyria conquered Aramea.

Next in the books of Genesis-Joshua, Abraham's grandson Jacob/"Israel" went down to Egypt and then generations later his descendants, the Israelites returned as conquerors of Canaan. However, the Israelites did intermarry with Canaanites, including Canaanites who were noteworthy as helpers and allies to the Israelites like Ruth. The main scholarly view is that the Israelites' "Hebrew alphabet" and language before David's time (eg. before 1050 BC) was practically the same as the Phoenicians' and Canaanites' language and alphabet.

So one hypothesis could be that if the Israelites under Joshua were Arameans and not Canaanites, they could have had a relationship to the conquered Canaanites similar to the Normans to the English and the Vikings to the Russians Slavs. In those situations, the Normans and Vikings formed a kind of hierarchy or ruling group on top of the English and Russian Slavic peoples. So in this hypothesis, the Israelites' ruling dynasties could have been Aramean, whereas the bulk of their population could have been Canaanite.

A quick review of genetic studies online did not directly address this issue.

  1. One study said that modern Israeli Jews had closer genetic relations to the Kurds, Armenians, and Georgians - peoples of the Caucasus and eastern Turkey, than to what the study classed as "Arabs." This could serve as evidence favoring an Aramean connection. But the study theorized that this could be because the "Arabs" could have been composed of a mix of people who came from outside of Arabia. However, this study might not tell us much, because the study might have been comparing Israeli Jews to classical Arabian Arabs, like those from Saudi Arabia, and not dealing with Arab-speaking groups closer to the Israelis, such as northern Mesopotamian, Syrian, or Levantine Arabs.
  2. A second study noted that Mizrahi Jews (ie those from the Middle East) shared a special closeness with non-Jewish Assyrians. This also goes along with an Aramean connection. However, that study did not run a comparison with the Canaanites, nor do I remember the study mentioning Levantine Arabs.
  3. A third study said that Israeli Jews had an especially close connection to the ancient Canaanites.
  4. It's common for studies to show closeness between Israeli Jews and Palestinian Arabs. This makes sense because over the centuries, there have been many Jews in Palestine who converted to Christianity or Islam. However, this does not really show us how much of those groups around today are related to the Arameans compared to the Canaanites.
If there were an Aramean conquest of Canaan roughly comparable to the Norman conquest of England, we might expect evidence from linguistics as well as genetics. English, after the Norman conquest, contains many words of French origin, although many of the most common words (mother, father, house, etc.) remain Germanic. Does Biblical Hebrew have anything like this pattern?
 

rakovsky

Well-known member
If there were an Aramean conquest of Canaan roughly comparable to the Norman conquest of England, we might expect evidence from linguistics as well as genetics. English, after the Norman conquest, contains many words of French origin, although many of the most common words (mother, father, house, etc.) remain Germanic. Does Biblical Hebrew have anything like this pattern?
Komodo,
You are on the right track for a way to help answer the question. But I doubt that it's a perfect test. The Russian aristocracy was viking, but the vikings did not vikingize Russian, that I'm aware of. The Turkish rulers of Palestine did not Turkify Palestinian Arabic either. On the other hand, the Norman's did leave a strong mark. English today is very much a mix of Germanic and French. Old English reminds me a lot of Scandinavian. And yet again, there are cases where conquerors adopt the language of the conquered, like how the Assyrians adopted Aramaic from the Arameans.

The Israelite conquest happened in the 14th century BC. There is archaeological evidence for the destruction of the Canaanite city of Hazor. Based on what I read, Hebrew, Canaanite, and Phoenician languages and alphabets were practically the same before about 1050 BC. There is not a ton of Israelite art found from that period AFAIK, but it resembles Canaanite art, I think. King David ruled a united Israel in c. 1000 BC.

The Assyrians did leave a major mark later when they conquered Israel in the 8th century BC and brought the Aramaic language.
 

Cornelius

New Member
I don't think with all the centuries of genetic mixing that any conclusion can be based on genetics. The language would be even less of an indicator since as you point out the Normans who diluted with the English a few centuries later (by Edward I there was only "English"), would mean the local language was adopted. But that wouldn't speak of a provenance any more than a foreigner whose children learned the local languages: in Ezra and Nehemiah the Israelites were marrying foreign women and their kids didn't know Hebrew. The Nile delta which was full of Canaanites since the 18th century BC would've made the Israelites speak proto-Canaanite, which is why El is the early word for God.

But William G. Dever in his lectures shows that Abraham's migratory pattern all over the Levant in the spring was typical of the nomads around Mesopotamia in Abraham's day. Also the cave/holes in the ground where Sarah is buried is from around 1900 BC and not much later
 

rakovsky

Well-known member
@Cornelius
That's a good point about conquering, foreign rulers' heirs adopting conquered local languages.

The example of English language is actually a counter example because as a result of the French Norman conquest, a mass of French was introduced into English, in contrast to other Germanic languages like Dutch. About 30-40 percent of English vocabulary is French in origin, showing the French Norman rulers' conquest of England.

A better example might be the Assyrian empire's language change. The Assyrians spoke Akkadian, but then around 800-700 BC they conquered Aramea. Then the Assyrians adopted Aramaean/Aramaic as their own language.
 

Komodo

Well-known member
[. . .] A better example might be the Assyrian empire's language change. The Assyrians spoke Akkadian, but then around 800-700 BC they conquered Aramea. Then the Assyrians adopted Aramaean/Aramaic as their own language.
Do you happen to know any reason which has been advanced for why they did so?
 

Cornelius

New Member
Do you happen to know any reason which has been advanced for why they did so?
I'm also intrigued, I never really paid too much attention to this. From what I found, either Aramaic's alphabet (vs Akkadian's characters) made it easier to use, or the numerous deportees that were allowed government positions etc, or a combo of those essentially marginalized Akkadian.

someone said Nicholas Ostler's Empires of the World: A Language History of the World had a chapter on Aramaic's rise. No google books preview though
 

rakovsky

Well-known member
Do you happen to know any reason which has been advanced for why they did so?
Wikipedia's article on Aramaic gives this answer:
The scribes of the Neo-Assyrian bureaucracy had also used Aramaic, and this practice was subsequently inherited by the succeeding Neo-Babylonian Empire (605–539 BC), and later by the Achaemenid Empire (539–330 BC).[23] Mediated by scribes that had been trained in the language, highly standardized written Aramaic (named by scholars as Imperial Aramaic) progressively also become the lingua franca of public life, trade and commerce throughout the Achaemenid territories.[24] Wide use of written Aramaic subsequently led to the adoption of the Aramaic alphabet and (as logograms) some Aramaic vocabulary in the Pahlavi scripts, which were used by several Middle Iranian languages (including Parthian, Middle Persian, Sogdian, and Khwarazmian).
...
Ancient Aram, bordering northern Israel and what is now called Syria, is considered the linguistic center of Aramaic, the language of the Arameans who settled the area during the Bronze Age c. 3500 BC. The language is often mistakenly considered to have originated within Assyria (Iraq). In fact, Arameans carried their language and writing into Mesopotamia by voluntary migration, by forced exile of conquering armies, and by nomadic Chaldean invasions of Babylonia during the period from 1200 to 1000 BC.
...
During the Neo-Assyrian and Neo-Babylonian Empires, Arameans, the native speakers of Aramaic, began to settle in greater numbers, at first in Babylonia, and later in Assyria (Upper Mesopotamia, modern-day northern Iraq, northeast Syria, northwest Iran, and southeastern Turkey (what was Armenia at the time). The influx eventually resulted in the Neo-Assyrian Empire (911–605 BC) adopting an Akkadian-influenced Imperial Aramaic as the lingua franca of its empire.[24]
 

Komodo

Well-known member
Wikipedia's article on Aramaic gives this answer:
Thanks! The answer was, essentially, "the practice of the scribes ultimately spread and prevailed among the rulers and the general population." But of course that not something that happens inevitably. For example, the use of Latin among European priests didn't result in Latin becoming the language of Europe.
 

e v e 21

Well-known member
In the Biblical story, Abraham's father Terah came from the Ur of Chaldea. It's not clear whether this refers to an "Ur" in northern Mesopotamia like the region associated with Assyria or the more famous one near Babylon in southern Mesopotamia in present-day southern Iraq. The more common idea seems to be that it refers to the southern "Ur," but I am open-minded on that topic.

In Genesis, Abraham's father moved to Haran in Aramea (present-day southern Turkey). There is a place later in the Torah (I think in Exodus) where the Israelites are told to say in their prayer that their father was a "wandering Aramaean." Sometimes this has been interpreted differently (eg. "an Aramean ready to perish"). Next, Abraham moved to Canaan, and then Abraham demanded that his servant look for wives for Abraham's son in Abraham's homeland, and not among the Canaanites. So Abraham's servant went to "Aram" (Aramea). Abraham's descendants like Jacob did the same thing according to Genesis, choosing Aramean wives instead of Canaanite ones.

The term "Hebrew" apparently is related to "Eber," which is also the name of one of Abraham's forefathers. "Eber" is taken to mean "across" or "beyond," referring to the idea that Eber and the "Hebrews" came from a land beyond or across a major river, particularly like the Euphrates River. The land east of the Euphrates is Mesopotamia, including Aramea and Assyria. Aramea (eg. the city of Haran) is actually a different place from the original center of Assyria (eg. the cities of Asshur and Nineveh). The Arameans spoke Aramaic and the Assyrians spoke Akkadian, the language of Babylon. However, the Assyrian Empire switched to Aramaic in about the 8th century after Assyria conquered Aramea.

Next in the books of Genesis-Joshua, Abraham's grandson Jacob/"Israel" went down to Egypt and then generations later his descendants, the Israelites returned as conquerors of Canaan. However, the Israelites did intermarry with Canaanites, including Canaanites who were noteworthy as helpers and allies to the Israelites like Ruth. The main scholarly view is that the Israelites' "Hebrew alphabet" and language before David's time (eg. before 1050 BC) was practically the same as the Phoenicians' and Canaanites' language and alphabet.

So one hypothesis could be that if the Israelites under Joshua were Arameans and not Canaanites, they could have had a relationship to the conquered Canaanites similar to the Normans to the English and the Vikings to the Russians Slavs. In those situations, the Normans and Vikings formed a kind of hierarchy or ruling group on top of the English and Russian Slavic peoples. So in this hypothesis, the Israelites' ruling dynasties could have been Aramean, whereas the bulk of their population could have been Canaanite.

A quick review of genetic studies online did not directly address this issue.

  1. One study said that modern Israeli Jews had closer genetic relations to the Kurds, Armenians, and Georgians - peoples of the Caucasus and eastern Turkey, than to what the study classed as "Arabs." This could serve as evidence favoring an Aramean connection. But the study theorized that this could be because the "Arabs" could have been composed of a mix of people who came from outside of Arabia. However, this study might not tell us much, because the study might have been comparing Israeli Jews to classical Arabian Arabs, like those from Saudi Arabia, and not dealing with Arab-speaking groups closer to the Israelis, such as northern Mesopotamian, Syrian, or Levantine Arabs.
  2. A second study noted that Mizrahi Jews (ie those from the Middle East) shared a special closeness with non-Jewish Assyrians. This also goes along with an Aramean connection. However, that study did not run a comparison with the Canaanites, nor do I remember the study mentioning Levantine Arabs.
  3. A third study said that Israeli Jews had an especially close connection to the ancient Canaanites.
  4. It's common for studies to show closeness between Israeli Jews and Palestinian Arabs. This makes sense because over the centuries, there have been many Jews in Palestine who converted to Christianity or Islam. However, this does not really show us how much of those groups around today are related to the Arameans compared to the Canaanites.
according to the jewish editor of an older edition of the encyclopedia judaica, modern jews are not related to the ancient israelites.
 

rakovsky

Well-known member
Thanks! The answer was, essentially, "the practice of the scribes ultimately spread and prevailed among the rulers and the general population." But of course that not something that happens inevitably. For example, the use of Latin among European priests didn't result in Latin becoming the language of Europe.
It kind of did in that example - French, Spanish, Portuguese are "Romance" languages based on Latin.
English has lots of Latin and is about 40% French vocabulary, which in turn is mostly Latin-based itself.

Besides that, Latin was until the Reformation one of the academic and legalistic languages of the educated in Western Europe. For instance, the Magna Carta was written in Latin.

6. If you call it “the Magna Carta,” you probably aren’t from England.
According to standard British usage, King John’s Great Charter has 63 clauses but no definite article—it’s simply referred to as Magna Carta, without the “the.” The charter was written in Latin (in which there are no exact equivalents for “an” or “the”), and signed by men who would have been fluent in Latin, French and Middle English. But for American newspapers, museum exhibitions and politicians, Magna Carta nearly always merits the article.

I call it "the Magna Carta", but I'm American.

Why was the Magna Carta written in Latin? | Study.comhttps://study.com › Humanities › Language
The Magna Carta was written in Latin for the same reason that modern-day treaties are written in legal English rather than slang.
 

rakovsky

Well-known member
Thanks! The answer was, essentially, "the practice of the scribes ultimately spread and prevailed among the rulers and the general population." But of course that not something that happens inevitably. For example, the use of Latin among European priests didn't result in Latin becoming the language of Europe.
The answer talked about an influx of Aramaean immigrants into Assyria too.
 

Komodo

Well-known member
It kind of did in that example - French, Spanish, Portuguese are "Romance" languages based on Latin.
English has lots of Latin and is about 40% French vocabulary, which in turn is mostly Latin-based itself.
But the spread of the Romance languages is a product of the Roman Empire, not the influence of the Latin-using priests (or academics or lawyers, as you note below). Priests, academics and lawyers also used Latin in northern Europe, but those people didn't adopt a Romance language as a result. It's also not typical for an empire to adopt the language of later immigrants, is it?
 

rakovsky

Well-known member
But the spread of the Romance languages is a product of the Roman Empire, not the influence of the Latin-using priests (or academics or lawyers, as you note below). Priests, academics and lawyers also used Latin in northern Europe, but those people didn't adopt a Romance language as a result. It's also not typical for an empire to adopt the language of later immigrants, is it?
Komodo, the issue that you and I were debating was your statement here:
The answer was, essentially, "the practice of the scribes ultimately spread and prevailed among the rulers and the general population." But of course that not something that happens inevitably. For example, the use of Latin among European priests didn't result in Latin becoming the language of Europe.
The larger issue is that whether scribes' practices prevail and spread among rulers and the general population. So we would need to think of situations where the scribes had a certain writing practice and it spread through the population. Roman empire scribes and Latin clergy resulted in Latin in effect becoming one of the main languages of Europe, as French, Spanish, Italian, etc. are descendant versions of Latin.

Latin is not a great example to deal with the main point because it was a case where the empire's language got put onto the subject population, whereas we are looking for cases of whether an empire did or didn't adopt a subject population's language.

One case is the Eastern Roman empire- for a long time Latin was the official language, including of the Byzantines, but eventually it reverted to the pre Roman literary "Lingua Franca" of the eastern Mediterranean - Greek. In effect, Greek was a quite literary language. However, Latin was never the everyday language in the Eastern Roman empire, just the official political legal language for centuries, even after the division of the over all empire.

The Aryans conquered north India and Pakistan in 3000-1000 BC and were Indo-European, whereas the conquered Indus Valley civilization was Dravidian. This tends to be the most common theory of that history. The end result was the Aryan civilization there keeping an Indo European language (Hindi) and the Indus script of the conquered civilization dying out unless you theorize that the Brahmi script is a version of the Indus script. However, the resulting religion (Hinduism) appears a syncretism of Aryan and Indus native religion.

The Akkadians conquered Sumer in 2500-1500 BC and adopted Sumerian writing and basics of Sumerian religion, but I think not the Sumerian language. I guess the Akkadians hadn't had their own script previously. After the conquest, the Sumerian and Akkadian languages existed together and eventually Sumerian died out.

The French Normans conquered England and used a Latin language, and they ruled it using French, but Anglo Saxon was still a persistent language and was used in literature. So the end result was a mix of Anglo Saxon and French, and this resulting mix is today modern English.

The Biblical story presents things as if Abraham and his offspring were Aramaeans. They had a policy in the Bible of only marrying Aramaeans. In contrast, Hebrew is a Canaanite language. Yet the post conquest (of Canaan by Joshua and Moses) Israelites ended up with Hebrew language.

Germanic and Gothic people like the Visigoths and Ostrogoths conquered Italy, Spain, and other places, yet Romance, the language of the scribes of those lands remained the language and writing of those lands even during or after the period of Gothic control.

The Arabs conquered North Africa, their writing and official imperial language was Arabic, and across the board, those conquered lands adopted Arabic, rather than adopting the written language of the conquered people, like Coptic, Latin or Greek, and rather than the native languages staying the basic language of the conquered lands.

The Roman Empire conquered Romania / Dacia for a relatively short time around 200 AD, maybe just for 2 centuries. Yet a version of Latin has become the very traditional language of Romania since then, probably due to the importance of Latin for trade and writing. In contrast, Albania has kept its unique indigenous language since ancient times. So have the Basques, although both the Albanians and Basques have adopted the Latin alphabet.

The Normans were Scandinavians who conquered northern France. I take it that they had Norse runes. But eventually they adopted French and the Latin alphabet as the Normans' language.
 

Komodo

Well-known member
Komodo, the issue that you and I were debating was your statement here:

The larger issue is that whether scribes' practices prevail and spread among rulers and the general population. So we would need to think of situations where the scribes had a certain writing practice and it spread through the population. Roman empire scribes and Latin clergy resulted in Latin in effect becoming one of the main languages of Europe, as French, Spanish, Italian, etc. are descendant versions of Latin.

Latin is not a great example to deal with the main point because it was a case where the empire's language got put onto the subject population, whereas we are looking for cases of whether an empire did or didn't adopt a subject population's language.

One case is the Eastern Roman empire- for a long time Latin was the official language, including of the Byzantines, but eventually it reverted to the pre Roman literary "Lingua Franca" of the eastern Mediterranean - Greek. In effect, Greek was a quite literary language. However, Latin was never the everyday language in the Eastern Roman empire, just the official political legal language for centuries, even after the division of the over all empire.

The Aryans conquered north India and Pakistan in 3000-1000 BC and were Indo-European, whereas the conquered Indus Valley civilization was Dravidian. This tends to be the most common theory of that history. The end result was the Aryan civilization there keeping an Indo European language (Hindi) and the Indus script of the conquered civilization dying out unless you theorize that the Brahmi script is a version of the Indus script. However, the resulting religion (Hinduism) appears a syncretism of Aryan and Indus native religion.

The Akkadians conquered Sumer in 2500-1500 BC and adopted Sumerian writing and basics of Sumerian religion, but I think not the Sumerian language. I guess the Akkadians hadn't had their own script previously. After the conquest, the Sumerian and Akkadian languages existed together and eventually Sumerian died out.

The French Normans conquered England and used a Latin language, and they ruled it using French, but Anglo Saxon was still a persistent language and was used in literature. So the end result was a mix of Anglo Saxon and French, and this resulting mix is today modern English.

The Biblical story presents things as if Abraham and his offspring were Aramaeans. They had a policy in the Bible of only marrying Aramaeans. In contrast, Hebrew is a Canaanite language. Yet the post conquest (of Canaan by Joshua and Moses) Israelites ended up with Hebrew language.

Germanic and Gothic people like the Visigoths and Ostrogoths conquered Italy, Spain, and other places, yet Romance, the language of the scribes of those lands remained the language and writing of those lands even during or after the period of Gothic control.

The Arabs conquered North Africa, their writing and official imperial language was Arabic, and across the board, those conquered lands adopted Arabic, rather than adopting the written language of the conquered people, like Coptic, Latin or Greek, and rather than the native languages staying the basic language of the conquered lands.

The Roman Empire conquered Romania / Dacia for a relatively short time around 200 AD, maybe just for 2 centuries. Yet a version of Latin has become the very traditional language of Romania since then, probably due to the importance of Latin for trade and writing. In contrast, Albania has kept its unique indigenous language since ancient times. So have the Basques, although both the Albanians and Basques have adopted the Latin alphabet.

The Normans were Scandinavians who conquered northern France. I take it that they had Norse runes. But eventually they adopted French and the Latin alphabet as the Normans' language.
The sequence which seemed unusual to me, in the case of the Assyrians and the Arameans, was that an already widespread empire, with a settled capital, conquered an additional province, and that province's language became the language of the capital (and all its provinces). The examples you provide -- thanks, by the way, very interesting! -- don't quite seem to follow that pattern. Rather we have:

Eastern Roman Empire: reversion to the previous and still-living language, after the previous capital (Rome), with its language (Latin) no longer rules it.

South Asia: not known what the original capital of the Indo-European people was, or even if they had one in the usual sense. In any case, the Indo-European conquerors did not adopt the language of the conquered province.

Sumer: I don't know anything about the Akkadian Empire, but you say they adopted the script, but not the language, of the Sumerians.

England: Not a typical case of imperial expansion, since England wasn't ruled from the Norman capital of Rouen, but rather the Duke of Normandy moved to England (where he could be a King, not a lowly Duke). The descendants of the conquering Normans in England eventually spoke 'English', but their counterparts in French Normandy never did.

Judea: even if the Biblical account is basically accurate history, again not a case of imperial expansion; more like the next case you cite, that of the Visigoths and Ostrogoths, where a wandering tribe without a settled capital and territory conquers a territory, settles there, and adopts the language of the conquered people (or at least an offshoot of their language).

North Africa: the conqueror's language replaces that of the conquered peoples.

Romania: the conqueror's language replaces that of the conquered peoples.

Albania: the conquered people's language is restored after the empire departs, as with other provinces of the Eastern Roman Empire.

Normandy: again, as with the Visigoths and Ostrogoths, a wandering tribe without a settled capital and territory conquers a territory, settles there, and adopts the language of the conquered people.

So the examples of "reverse flow," where the conquered people's language replaces the language of their conquerors (England, Judea, "Gothic" lands, Normandy -- also Russia when conquered by the Vikings, which you mentioned elsewhere) seem to be cases where the conquerors were nomadic, without a true capital. So the case of the Assyrians adopting Aramaic still looks like an exception to me.
 
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rakovsky

Well-known member
The sequence which seemed unusual to me, in the case of the Assyrians and the Arameans, was that an already widespread empire, with a settled capital, conquered an additional province, and that province's language became the language of the capital (and all its provinces).
Wikipedia gives this history in its article on Akkadian:
During the first millennium BC, Akkadian progressively lost its status as a lingua franca. In the beginning, from around 1000 BC, Akkadian and Aramaic were of equal status, as can be seen in the number of copied texts: clay tablets were written in Akkadian, while scribes writing on papyrus and leather used Aramaic. From this period on, one speaks of Neo-Babylonian and Neo-Assyrian. Neo-Assyrian received an upswing in popularity in the 10th century BC when the Assyrian kingdom became a major power with the Neo-Assyrian Empire, but texts written 'exclusively' in Neo-Assyrian disappear within 10 years of Nineveh's destruction in 612 BC. The dominance of the Neo-Assyrian Empire under Tiglath-Pileser III over Aram-Damascus in the middle of the 8th century led to the establishment of Aramaic as a lingua franca[17] of the empire, rather than it being eclipsed by Akkadian.

After the end of the Mesopotamian kingdoms, which were conquered by the Persians, Akkadian (which existed solely in the form of Late Babylonian) disappeared as a popular language. However, the language was still used in its written form; and even after the Greek invasion under Alexander the Great in the 4th century BC, Akkadian was still a contender as a written language, but spoken Akkadian was likely extinct by this time, or at least rarely used. The last positively identified Akkadian text comes from the 1st century AD.
So at first, Akkadian and Aramaic were used with equal status in the Neo-Assyrian empire, with Aramaic being a lingua franca. This would be like Latin in Western Europe. Luther's sermons have a mix of Latin and German; the Magna Carta was in Latin (1215 AD). Another factor was not just scribes, but also the influx of Armaic speakers into Assyria proper (north Mesopotamia). I am not sure how widespread Aramaic was before the Assyrian conquest, but the Amorites around northern Israel were Aramaic. Aramaic writing is practically the same as Hebrew alphabetics, whereas Akkadian looks harder to me to deal with. It has a lot of thinks that look like triangles and asterisks as I recall.
Then when the capitol (Nineveh) got conquered by Persia (6th cent BC), Akkadian declined a lot in popularity. The Persian Achaemenid empire used Aramaic as a Lingua franca too. NIneveh became a relative backwater (today it's Mosul), although still a notable caravan city.

So: Country A conquers Country B and imports scribes and gets immigrants from Country B. Country B's language becomes a "lingua franca" like medieval Latin or modern English or ancient Greek. Then Country A's capitol gets conquered by some other country, goes into decline, and Country A's language becomes less popular, eventually dying out.

The Normans spoke French and were based in Normandy, then they conquered England. It's true that they moved their base to London, but the Normans and Norman monarchy of Britain still maintained vast territory in northern France, leading to wars between France and Britain due to these Norman claims. Eventually the French expelled the British (descendants of the Normans). The British still control the Channel islands off of France. For a very long time, French was the dominant language there, but recently English has become the dominant language.
As a crown dependency of the British monarch, English has a special place in the island, and is now the dominant, as well as an official, language.

The English language has been allowed in parliamentary debates in the States of Jersey since February 2, 1900.

Most signs are written in English, sometimes with French or Jèrriais subtitling. There are around 87,000 people in Jersey, and 20% are of British (traditionally English-speaking) descent. Most of the Norman-descended population now speaks English as well. All demographics combined, English is spoken by 94.6% of the population.
The Normans moved their base to London in order to more effectively administrate England. However, the Assyrians didn't need to move their base to Aramea to administrate it nor for Aramaea to have major influence due to geography, with Nineveh being so close to Aramea. geographically.

14327_fertile_crescent.rev.1386278182.jpg

Historic map of Neo-Assyrian language span.
SOURCE: https://www.lakeforest.edu/academics/majors-and-minors/environmental-studies/suret-neo-aramaic

Administrative and educational languages play a major role in speech. Among Americans, the number 1 ethnicity is German-American by heritage. Nowadays they are 3rd generation usually, from before WW1. It must have been that having schools teach English, as well as court documents, mass media, stores, etc. use English played a major role in the German-American minority picking up English, even though they passed down German intonation in some regions of the US.

I am having trouble finding the same set of facts where one empire conquers another and then picks up the language of the conquered nation due to scribes and influxes of immigrants, because you emphasized that the conqueror should keep its capitol in its original separate location away from the conquered nation, and you also don't agree with using nomadic conquerors as examples.

One might normally look for cases where the successful language was a lingua franca like Latin, Greek, French, or English. And often the case where a conqueror would pick up that language would be one where the conqueror was a nomad that did not have as developed a civilization as the conquered people, so one would think of cases where the conqueror was a nomad or invader, like the Goths picking up Romance when they conquered Spain or Italy.

Maybe the Goths had a capitol in Northern Italy when they attacked Rome and picked up Italian. Maybe there were Sudanese/Nubians who had a capitol in Sudan and then conquered Egypt and brought Egyptian language back to Sudan. Maybe the Israelites had a capitol in Aramea, Jordan, or Midian while they conquered Canaan and brought back Hebrew language. Greek language and religion played a huge role in Rome, and many Romans knew Greek. But it never go to the point of Greek replacing Latin in Rome.

But maybe Aramaic did not replace Akkadian per se in the capitol of Assyria (Nineveh) until after the fall of Nineveh to Persia.
 

Komodo

Well-known member
. . . Another factor was not just scribes, but also the influx of Armaic speakers into Assyria proper (north Mesopotamia). I am not sure how widespread Aramaic was before the Assyrian conquest, but the Amorites around northern Israel were Aramaic.
The Wikipedia article on the Neo-Assyrian Empire (911 B.C. - 609 B.C.) says it was already a widespread language in the region before the expansion of that empire. It also sort of answers my question about why there was this unusual "reverse flow" of language from conquered to conqueror this way:

The imperialism of the Neo-Assyrian Empire was in some ways different from that of later empires. The perhaps biggest difference was that the Neo-Assyrian kings at no point imposed their religion or language on the foreign peoples they conquered outside the Assyrian heartland; the Assyrian national deity Ashur had no significant temples outside of northern Mesopotamia and the Neo-Assyrian language, though it served as an official language in the sense that it was spoken by provincial governors, was not forced upon conquered peoples.[63] This lack of suppression against foreign languages, and the growing movement of Aramaic-speaking people into the empire during the Middle Assyrian and early Neo-Assyrian periods facilitated the spread of the Aramaic language.

So the lack of interest in spreading their language seems to have been correlated with their (atypical?) lack of interest in spreading their culture generally. The Greeks, by contrast, had a stronger interest in "Hellenizing" things wherever they went, which led to problems in Judea with the Maccabees, and maybe other places I don't know about.

Aramaic writing is practically the same as Hebrew alphabetics, whereas Akkadian looks harder to me to deal with. It has a lot of thinks that look like triangles and asterisks as I recall.
But writing systems and daily spoken language can be essentially independent. Yiddish, for example, is a Germanic language, but still uses Hebrew script for writing. One can pretty easily imagine an alternate history where the Assyrian empire did something similar: keeping Akkadian (Wikipedia calls the language, as well as the empire, "neo-Assyrian"; I have no idea whether that is standard or not) as its spoken language, but writing it in the Aramaic script.

Then when the capitol (Nineveh) got conquered by Persia (6th cent BC), Akkadian declined a lot in popularity. The Persian Achaemenid empire used Aramaic as a Lingua franca too. NIneveh became a relative backwater (today it's Mosul), although still a notable caravan city.
Meaning that when the old man guarding the Bridge of Eternal Peril in Monty Python and the Holy Grail asked "what is the capital of Assyria?" the question was unfairly anachronistic! Still, I guess Sir Robin had it coming.

So: Country A conquers Country B and imports scribes and gets immigrants from Country B. Country B's language becomes a "lingua franca" like medieval Latin or modern English or ancient Greek. Then Country A's capitol gets conquered by some other country, goes into decline, and Country A's language becomes less popular, eventually dying out.

The Normans spoke French and were based in Normandy, then they conquered England. It's true that they moved their base to London, but the Normans and Norman monarchy of Britain still maintained vast territory in northern France, leading to wars between France and Britain due to these Norman claims. Eventually the French expelled the British (descendants of the Normans). The British still control the Channel islands off of France. For a very long time, French was the dominant language there, but recently English has become the dominant language.
Without cheating and looking it up first, I'm guessing the Channel Islands were conquered (or originally settled) by the French-speaking Normans before 1066, were then part of the unified Anglo-Norman kingdom and had no more motive to switch from French to English than did the Norman possessions in mainland France, then by some accident of history got left under English control while the rest of the English possessions in France reverted to French control.

Let me see how I did...

Pretty much right, it seems (though they were populated by Celts, Franks and Vikings before the Normans took control):

After the loss of Calais in 1558, the Channel Islands were the last remaining English holdings in France and the only French territory that was controlled by the English kings as Kings of France. This situation lasted until the English kings dropped their title and claims to the French throne in 1801, confirming the Channel Islands in a situation of a crown dependency under the sovereignty of neither Great-Britain nor France but of the British crown directly.

. . . I am having trouble finding the same set of facts where one empire conquers another and then picks up the language of the conquered nation due to scribes and influxes of immigrants, because you emphasized that the conqueror should keep its capitol in its original separate location away from the conquered nation, and you also don't agree with using nomadic conquerors as examples. One might normally look for cases where the successful language was a lingua franca like Latin, Greek, French, or English. And often the case where a conqueror would pick up that language would be one where the conqueror was a nomad that did not have as developed a civilization as the conquered people, so one would think of cases where the conqueror was a nomad or invader, like the Goths picking up Romance when they conquered Spain or Italy.
I think it would be pretty rare, and maybe (as was apparently the case with Assyria) it would depend on the empire not having any interest in spreading its culture. I thought at first of the Mongols, who were also at least partly nomadic and were laissez-faire in language and religion, but I don't think the original Mongol region ever became Chinese speaking after the Mongol conquest of China, although China had a more developed civilization by almost any standard.
 
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rakovsky

Well-known member
The Wikipedia article on the Neo-Assyrian Empire (911 B.C. - 609 B.C.) says it was already a widespread language in the region before the expansion of that empire. It also sort of answers my question about why there was this unusual "reverse flow" of language from conquered to conqueror this way:
I thought about it more and remembered that Assyrian Script was and is the name for the modern Biblical script. It became the script for Hebrew about the time that Aramaic became the language of the Jews I guess, and it's also the alphabet for Aramaic, but not, I think, for Akkadian. So maybe even during the Neo-Assyrian Empire's period of rule, Aramaic was the most common language in the region of Assyria proper (northern Mesopotamia. Aramaic became the official legal language of the Assyrian empire, but I don't know which was the most common language in the region of Assyria proper. Aramaic becoming the legal language of Assyria could be like Latin being the official language of medieval Anglo-Saxon England when regular Englishmen spoke Anglo-Saxon.

Meaning that when the old man guarding the Bridge of Eternal Peril in Monty Python and the Holy Grail asked "what is the capital of Assyria?" the question was unfairly anachronistic! Still, I guess Sir Robin had it coming.
I actually don't find it such a bad question, even if the movie intended it to be. The movie says that it is set in 932 AD.
The question seems legitimate to me so long as there was some administrative region roughly resembling either Assyria's Empire at some point or upper Mesopotamia (Assyria proper). This would be like asking what is the capitol of Maine, even if Maine was not an independent state, or the capitol of Burma, even if it's called Myanmar today.

Wikipedia's article on Assyria says:
Starting from the 1st century AD onwards, many of the Assyrians became Christianized,[98] though holdouts of the old ancient Mesopotamian religion continued to survive for centuries.[9] Despite the loss of political power, the Assyrians continued to constitute a significant portion of the population in northern Mesopotamia until religiously-motivated suppression and massacres under the Ilkhanate and the Timurid Empire in the 14th century, which relegated them to a local ethnic and religious minority.
Assyria as a region corresponds to Upper Mesopotamia.
Wikipedia's article on Upper Mesopotamia includes a map. The article says that it was called Al-Jazira under Islamic rule at that time and included Mosul (Nineveh).
During the early history of Islam, al-Jazira became a center for the Kharijite movement and had to be constantly subdued by various caliphs. In the 920s, the local Hamdanid dynasty established an autonomous state with two branches in al-Jazira (under Nasir al-Dawla) and Northern Syria (under Sayf al-Dawla). The demise of the Hamdanid power put the region back under the nominal rule of the Caliphs of Baghdad, while actual control was in the hands of the Buyid brothers who had conquered Baghdad itself. At the turn of the 11th century, the area came under the rule of a number of local dynasties, the Numayrids, the Mirdasids, and the Uqaylids, who persisted until the conquest by the Seljuq Empire.

Encyclopedia Britannica says about Al-Jazirah:
In the 10th century Al-Jazīrah came under the rule of a succession of independent dynasties: the Ḥamdānids of Mosul (905–991); the Būyids of Baghdad (977–983); the Marwānids in Diyār Bakr (983–1085); and the ʿUqaylids in Mosul (c. 992–1096).
... The history of the largest district, Diyār Rabīʿah in eastern Al-Jazīrah, henceforth became identical with that of its capital, Mosul. The Zangids, the Mamlūks, the Persian Il-Khans, the Jalāyirids, the Turkmen Kara Koyunlu and Ak Koyunlu, and the Persian Ṣafavids ruled the area in succession until it was finally absorbed into the Ottoman Empire in 1637.

You wrote:
"I thought at first of the Mongols, who were also at least partly nomadic and were laissez-faire in language and religion, but I don't think the original Mongol region ever became Chinese speaking"
One might want to check if the Mongols ever subjugated Turkic people and then while keeping the Mongolian capitol in Mongolia, the main language of a Mongol power became Turkic. There was a Xiongnu (eastern Hun) kingdom or power around Mongolia in the 1st century AD, and the Huns were basically Turkic, according to what my reading into the Huns and Xiongnu has shown me. Typically the Huns made confederations or hordes or kingdoms that subsumed other cultures like Slavs and Mongolians, so that there were Mongolians among the Xiongnu in north China (What is today written as Xiongnu in modern Chinese was pronounced like Hungnu in ancient Chinese).

Ghenghis Khan in medieval times would have spoken Mongolian, and he conquered Turkic lands. What we in the West consider the "Mongol yoke" over Russia, the Russians think of as the "Tatar yoke", the Tatars being Turkic. After the time of Ghenghis Khan, there were major Khan and Tatar powers ruling what had been Ghenghis Khan's empire.

Here is a map of the Turkic languages' speakers today:
Turkic_Languages_distribution_map.png
 

rakovsky

Well-known member
Since Mongolians today still speak Mongolian, I imagine that no language ever replaced Mongolian as the most common language in Mongolia, although some Yuan Dynasty Mongolian emperors spoke Chinese (as well as Mongolian, I imagine).
 
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