Gerhard Doerfer (8 March 1920 – 27 December 2003) was a German Turkologist, Altaist, and philologist best known for his studies of the Turkic languages.

Doerfer spent his childhood in Königsberg and Berlin. After release from captivity following the World War II, from 1949 to 1954 he took in Berlin courses in Turkic and Altaic languages, Islamic and Iranian Studies. In 1955–57 he was an assistant professor in Mainz University, in 1960 he moved to the Göttingen University, where in 1966 he became an associate professor. Between 1968 and 1973, he conducted several expeditions to research the Turkic Khalaj and Oguz languages in Persia. In 1970 Doerfer became a professor of a newly founded for him Chair of Turkic and Altaistic Studies at the Georgia Augusta Göttingen University; in 1975–1976, Doerfer served a tour of a Visiting Professor at Istanbul University. In his extensive and multi-faceted studies, Doerfer investigated Mongolian and Turkic elements in Persian language, culture, and folklore, wrote his four-volume Türkische und mongolische Elemente im Neupersischen (1963–75), and contributed greatly to the study of Persian-Turkic language contacts (1967).

Doerfer dismissed the validity of the Altaic language family concept. He argued that the words and features shared by Turkic, Mongolic, and Tungusic were cultural borrowings, and that any other similarities should be attributed to chance resemblances. He further states that if all three languages were genetically connected, the comparative language losses over time should be random instead of limited to the geographical fringes of the family.

Selected works

  • 1954 "Zur Syntax der Geheime Geschichte der Mongolen" (The syntax of the Secret History of the Mongols), ZDMG 113, 1963, S.87-111.
  • 1963 "Der Numerus im Mandschu" (The number in the Manchu), Wiesbaden
  • 1963 "Bemerkungen zur Verwandtschaft der sog. altaische Sprachen", (Remarks on the relationship of the so-called Altaic languages), In Gerhard Doerfer, Türkische und mongolische Elemente im Neupersischen, Bd. I: Mongolische Elemente im Neupersischen, 1963, 51–105, Wiesbaden, Franz Steiner Verlag.
  • 1963–1975 "Türkische und mongolische Elemente im Neupersischen", Bd. I-IV, Wiesbaden, Franz Steiner Verlag, 1963–1975.
  • 1967 "Türkische Lehnwörter im Tadschikischen" Wiesbaden [Abhandlungen für die Kunde des Morgenlandes XXXVII, 3].
  • 1973 "Lautgesetze und Zufall: Betrachtungen zum Omnicomparativismus", Innsbrucker Beiträge zur Sprachwissenschaft 10.
  • 1974 "Ist das Japanische mit den altaischen Sprachen verwandt?" Zeitschrift der Deutschen Morgenländischen Gesellschaft 114.1.
  • 1985 "Mongolo-Tungusica"/Tungusica. 3, Wiesbaden, Otto Harrassowitz
  • 1988 "Grundwort und Sprachmischung : eine Untersuchung an Hand von Korperteilbezeichnungen", Munchener ostasiatische Studien, vol.47, Stuttgart, Franz Steiner Verlag
  • Azeri Turkish at Encyclopædia Iranica


  • Lars Johanson. Obituary: Gerhard Doerfer (1920–2003)//Turkic Languages, 2004, Volume: 8, No 1