The curious case of Ethiopic Chaldean: Fraud, philology, and cultural (Mis)understanding in European conceptions of Ethiopia

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Abstract

An intriguing mystery in early modern intellectual history is how and why European scholars came to designate Ethiopic, the sacred language of Ethiopia, as Chaldean. This article locates the designation's origins in a deduction made by Vatican library personnel, partially inspired by a hoax perpetrated a quarter-century earlier. It then traces the influence of this designation on the progress of historical linguistics, where theories defending the appellation of Ethiopic as Chaldean, although often erroneous, nevertheless contributed to the accurate categorization of Ethiopic as a Semitic language, and on attitudes to Ethiopian Christianity that played a role in Catholic-Protestant polemic.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1227-1264
Number of pages38
JournalRenaissance Quarterly
Volume68
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 1 2015

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • History
  • Visual Arts and Performing Arts
  • Literature and Literary Theory

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