University of Minnesota
Department of Spanish and Portuguese Studies

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Department of Spanish and Portuguese Studies

Founded in the 1960s, the Department of Spanish and Portuguese Studies at the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities, is widely recognized as a pioneer in the interdisciplinary study of language, literature and, more broadly, cultural expressions grounded in theorized and broadly socio-historical perspectives.

We offer B.A. degrees in Spanish and in combined Spanish and Portuguese; and M.A. and Ph.D. degrees in Hispanic Literatures and Cultures, Hispanic Linguistics, and Lusophone Literatures & Cultures. Our faculty have strengths in the colonial, postcolonial and globalization triad; feminist, gender and sexuality studies; memory and witnessing; human rights; subaltern studies; law and literature; cultural contacts; and the Hispanic legacies of Hebrew and Arabic traditions. In Linguistics, our strengths are in the study of language in its context(s) with a focus on interdisciplinary approaches to language contact, phonology, pragmatics, second language acquisition, sociolinguistics and syntax.

Department News

  • Barbara Weissberger, Professor Emeritus, Honored for Her Human Rights Work

    Barbara Weissberger, Professor Emeritus, was honored with The Advocates for Human Rights’ Volunteer Award for her work as a Spanish interpreter in immigration court for unaccompanied minors from Central America. The award was presented to Weissberger at a June 16 event, attended by 800 people and held at the Minneapolis Depot.

    “Professor Weissberger has been an integral part of The Advocates’ response to help refugees from Central America who fled their homelands for safety and protection,” said Deepinder Mayell, director of The Advocates’ Refugee & Immigrant Program. “She has been there when vulnerable children and families needed her the most. She gave voice to people who otherwise would have had to remain silent. She was a voice for those who left their homes, sometimes in the middle of the night, which nothing but a shred of hope. She helped save lives.”

    The Advocates is the largest provider of free legal services in the Upper Midwest to people seeking asylum and to immigrants. In addition to Weissberger, translators Eleni Beyene, Mary Diaz, Sophia Leenay, Teresa Mesa, and Ali Tews were recognized.

    Other volunteers honored at the dinner included Elizabeth Cutter, a Minnesota district court judge, for her work to protect women from domestic violence; Minneapolis Institute of Arts docent Carreen Heegaard, for conducting human rights tours at the Institute; and marketing executive Jörg Pierach, on behalf of the Minneapolis-based Fast Horse, for designing a new website for the organization.

    VocalPoint Chorus and Centro de Trabajadores Unidos en Lucha (CTUL) each received The Advocates’ Special Recognition Award. VocalPoint was honored for staging two concerts to benefit The Advocates’ work to make a better, safer world for women. CTUL was honored for combining extraordinary organizing with an everyday use of a human rights advocacy approach to empower workers who are far too often invisible.

    The event’s keynote speaker was Sonia Nazario, the Pulitzer Prize Award-winning journalist and author of the book, Enrique’s Journey, also a newspaper series which describes a Honduran boy’s struggle to flee violence in his home country. Nazario spoke about the determination and plight of Central American refugees based, in part, on her journey with migrants from Honduras through Mexico to the United States on top of the “Train of Death.” At the event, Nazario was presented with The Advocates’ Don and Arvonne Fraser Human Rights Award.
    (Continue Reading)
  • Language Alumni Reunion

    (Pictured from left to right: Maggie Broner (Ph.D. 2000), Carol Klee (Professor and Chair), Paula Kempchinsky (M.A. 1980), Jackie Mosio (M.A. 1979), Tom Romens (Ph.D. 1980), Patrick Shoemaker)

    On Saturday morning, April 25, 174 alumni from the Department of Spanish & Portuguese Studies, together with alumni from the Departments of French & Italian  and German, Scandinavian & Dutch came to the beautifully remodeled Folwell Hall to enjoy the company of faculty, staff, and new or old friends. They gathered on the fourth floor for coffee and pastries, voted for the best student photographs from the past year's study abroad experiences, and donned "conversation pins" to facilitate discussions of how their language studies have enriched and informed their lives. Everyone then went to the first floor to participate in three mini-class sessions. A total of seventeen mini-classes were offered on a wide range of topics and were taught by a mix of faculty, students, and alumni. 
    Professor Michelle Hamilton (photo to the left) offered a mini-course on “Convivencia in Medieval Iberia,” Professor Jaime Hanneken taught a mini-course on “The Historic Cultural Phenomenon of the Cuban Rumba,” while Professor Luis Ramos-García taught one on “U.S. Latino Theater,” and Kathleen Ganley offered a course on “Latino Immigration.” In addition to faculty, one of our alumni, Maggie Broner, who is an Associate Professor at St. Olaf, gave a mini-course on “Language Learning Assumptions,” and another of our alumni, Kelsey Rademacher, participated in a panel on “Teaching Abroad - the Benefits and Challenges”; one of our undergraduate students, Julia Potach, took part on a panel on “Language Learning Outside the Classroom”; and, one of our graduate students, Luz Hernández, participated in the World Café on “Contemporary Language Evolution & Impact of New Technologies.” You can see the full range of mini-courses below:

    Session A
    Teaching Abroad - the Benefits and challenges
    Regions of France
    Language Learning Outside the Classroom 
    Finnish Origins: Linguistics & Genetics
    Danger in Francophone Africa
    Convivencia in Medieval Iberia
    Session B
    Saints and Soldiers in Medieval France
    The Historic Cultural Phenomenon of the Cuban Rumba
    Language Learning Assumptions
    Growing Anti-Semitism in Europe
    Divine Decadance: Berlin in the Roaring '20s 
    U.S. Latino Theater
    Session C
    25 Years After the Wall 
    Only in Italy: Events not to be Missed
    Food, Energy & Politics in Germany 
    World Cafe: Contemporary Language Evolution & Impact of New Technologies
    Latino Immigration 
    The alumni who attended enjoyed the morning. A number of our alumni sent us the following comments about their experience at the reunion:

    Robert Cook, B.A. 2005, Spanish and Sociology, Corporate Sales
    My wife and I thoroughly enjoyed the U of M Language Alumni Reunion last Saturday (April 25th).  Having spent many, many hours in Folwell Hall during my undergrad years ten years ago, it was first & foremost nice to reconnect with a space that holds many positive memories for me.
    As expected, the mini-classes were all interesting, ranging from the origins of the Finnish people to modern life in Berlin, 25 years after the fall of the wall.  We particularly enjoyed the class on the social history of rumba music in Cuba, which touched not only on race and economics, but also provided a bit of music theory as well.
    All of these sessions reminded me of why I chose to be a Spanish major in the first place: when one reflects on the structure and history of a foreign language and culture, one naturally begins to reflect back on one's *own* language and culture.  This sort of critical thinking helps a person to develop a positive world-view, and to recognize that we are all indeed "global citizens".
    We were very happy that the Language Departments offered these mini-classes, as it also provided alumni with an opportunity to gain a brief overview on new scholastic developments, as well as providing "refreshers" on topics we may have studied in the past.  These sort of alumni events show the U's commitment to life-long learning, and we hope to attend many similar events in the future.
    ¡Arriba las Tuzas! (Go Gophers!)

    Jane Magnuson, B.A. 1997, Spanish, Global Human Resources - Onboarding at Accenture. 
    The reunion was a great event!  It was well-organized and a great opportunity to reconnect with fellow alumni and professors, see the beautifully renovated Folwell Hall and take interesting courses.
    The event was also a reminder of the value of my university experience (especially studying abroad and getting a degree in a foreign language) and how it continues to resonate to this day.  My time at the University helped me develop a unique perspective and certainly has shaped my career in global human resources. 
                I am grateful to be an alum who lives close to the University, and able to participate in all of the opportunities the University offers the community (not just alums) to get involved, learn and give back.  Maintaining a connection to the university and the foreign language department is like a gift that keeps on giving, and for that I am grateful!

    Ada Cifuno, B.A. 2010, Spanish, Associate Business Analyst at SPS Commerce
    The reunion was a great experience. Nostalgia was high and it re-sparked my passion for languages. It was refreshing to be surrounded with others that share that same passion again.

    Tanya Novak, B.A. 1984, Spanish, ESL teacher at Anoka Hennepin School District
    It was really wonderful being back in a stimulating environment where alumni of all ages came together just for the fun of learning. Although Folwell Hall has entered the modern age with its funky plastic desks and modern technology, it has still retained its beautiful architecture. Walking down the hallways brought back memories of some of the great language instructors and professors who impacted my life.

    Alexandra Kivley, B.A. 2011, Spanish, Manages translations at Arch Language Network
    It was so refreshing to be back in the academic setting and in such a relaxing and fun atmosphere. Working full time, it is hard to continue your education on a regular basis - and this was much needed brain food!

    Carolyn Fernandez, B.A. 1992, Spanish and Psychology,  Web Team Customer Service & Inside Sales. Velocity Tech Solutionskytown

    "I had a great time at the reunion.  I hope to attend others.  The classes I took were fantastic!"
    (Continue Reading)
  • 2015 Study Abroad Photo Contest Winner

    Students from all the language departments that had studied abroad were welcomed to submit photos that they have taken on their year or semester abroad. The Alumni that came to the 2015 Language Alumni Reunion on April 25, 2015, voted on the entries.  

    This year the winner, from over 50 entries, is Kayla Maring's picture entitled," Water Reflection in Kassel, Germany." Kalya will receive her photo in an 11" X 14" frame as winner for the 2015 Academic Year.

    Description of Photo:

    This photo was taken in April 2014 at the Bergpark Wilhelmshöhe in Kassel, Germany. I took a day trip to the city during my study abroad and decided to hike all the way up to the top of this hillside park—one of the largest in the world. When I was at the top, I watched the sunset, which was absolutely stunning as the gorgeous hues shone over the entire city. Just after sunset I realized I was running late for my train, so I began to head back down the hill. However, on my way down I caught a glimpse of the water reflecting the still beautiful sky and I knew I needed to capture the beauty of nature in Kassel. Too say the least, it was worth having to run four kilometers back to the train station to catch my train in time.

    Congratulations Kayla!!!
    (Continue Reading)
  • Segmental, syllabic, and stratal domains of Dominican [s]-hypercorrection

    A lecture by
    Rafael Núñez-Cedeño
    University of Illinois at Chicago
    Friday, May 1st
    1:30 - 3:30 p.m.
    105 Folwell Hall

    The appearance of [s]/[h] in unexpected contexts (hereafter "Surprise-[s]") - e.g. negativa[s]mente 'negatively', atra[s]co 'robbery'- in speech varieties that we will call "popular Dominican Spanish" (PDS) has been the topic of numerous analyses. Among other claims, Surprise-[s] has been regarded as hypercorrection of the deletion of rhyme /s/ (Henríquez Ureña 1975, Andrade 2009, Terrell 1986, Núñez Cedeño 1988, Harris 2002); it has been held to be subject to constraints on syllable position (Terrell 1986, Núñez Cedeño 1988, Harris 2002, Bradley 2006); it has been thought to obey voicing restrictions across a word boundary and phrase finally  (Morgan 1998, Bullock and Toribio 2010, Bullock et al. 2014). In this presentation we focus our attention on Bullock et al's. (2014) hypotheses that Surprise-[s] is followed predominantly by voiceless stops, and that this alleged distributional restriction is theoretically significant, and further consider its behavior in phrasal contexts. First, we propose that the distribution of Surprise-[s] is not due to any phonological restriction but rather to the lexical frequencies of consonants. Second, we demonstrate the interplay between aspiration or deletion of /s/ and Surprise-[s].  We argue that surprise-[s] resists resyllabification because silent positions (Selkirk 1984), which we contend are still present at the post-lexical stratum, block the process from occurring, while a lexically-derived [s]/[h] can resyllabify because there is not a  physically realized pause intervening between adjoining words; it is a matter of fast speech.

    Further information can be found at:

    (Continue Reading)

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