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

  • 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:

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  • Identity, authority and authenticity in language policy: Reflections from the Peruvian Andes

    Lecture by Professor Virginia ZavalaZavala-Image-300x300.jpg
    Pontifical Catholic University of Peru

    Monday, April 27th
    103 Folwell Hall

    This talk will be based on ethnographic research about a language policy favoring Quechua in the Apurímac region of the southern Peruvian Andes, which has developed in the context of the decentralization of the central government since 2000. At least at the level of official policy documents, the region is being imagined as a community of apurimenians unified by the local language, which creates an emotional identification with the region. In this talk, I will analyze the power relationships that are constructed between a community of practice of Quechua "experts" and the rest of Quechua-speaking people from Apurímac. Although the declared wish is to build a regional "us", Quechua experts interpret and negotiate language policy from particular language and literacy ideologies and end up establishing identity divisions between "us" and "them" through tactics of intersubjectivity based on difference, authority and authenticity (Bucholtz 2003). This work follows earlier studies about language ideological battles in relation to Quechua and shows that, after several decades, the former top-down language policies coming from the capital city are now being reproduced within the Quechua-speaking social actors themselves, and the conflict has diversified into new dilemmas.

    Further information at:

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  • Towards a Theory of Situated Languaging

    Lecture by Per Linell
    Senior Professor in the Department of Education, Communication and Learning at Gothenburg University, Sweden

    Friday, April 17, 2015
    125 Nicholson Hall
    10:30 am-12:00 pm

    PL-Book-image-Sm.jpgThere is an ongoing perspective shift in the language sciences from unquestionably assuming abstract language systems to be primary with regard to language use, to the opposite assumption with situated languaging (language use) in talk, text events, new media, etc. as the primary phenomenon of language. This shift will move linguistics from structuralism to substantialism (but still with a fair amount of structuralism), and it will require partly new approaches to most domains of language study, as compared to modern linguistics of the 20th century. I argue that these theories of situated languaging should build on a dialogical meta-theory of human sense-making. Such a meta-theory is an antidote to monological theories of individualist information processing in cognition, unidirectional transfer in communication, and code models of language.

    In this lecture I will sketch the implications of the meta-theory of dialogical activities for theories of syntax, lexicology/semantics, phonology and pragmatics. Other topics that will be mentioned, and at least minimally discussed, in the lecture are the embodiment of language, the relation of language to non-linguistic semiotic resources, the participatory agency of speakers (and other participants), and the relationship of talk and writing.

    Further reading at

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  • Alumni Reunion

    Just-M-of-UofM.jpgCome back to Folwell Hall and spend the morning with us. Learn again from esteemed University scholars, hear from current students about their experiences inside and outside the classroom, and get tips from expert alumni and friends.

    Saturday, April 25

    9:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m.

    Folwell Hall

    Cost $25 ($10 will support students in the department of your choice)

    To view the Program and Register go to or to register by phone, call 612-624-2345.

    (Continue Reading)

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