Contact Information

Spanish Philology
Department of Modern Languages

P.O. Box 24 (Unioninkatu 40)
00014 University of Helsinki

Telephone directory

Ibero-Romance languages

The study of Spanish has a long tradition in Finland. Oiva Johannes Tallgren (later Tuulio), born in 1878, made an extensive field trip to central and southern Europe in 1901 after obtaining his Master’s degree. At the very beginning of the 20th century, he studied in Madrid under the guidance of Ramón Menéndez Pidal, the most renowned Hispanist of the time. Tuulio’s doctoral dissertation, Estudios sobre la Gaya de Segovia (1907), was the first doctoral dissertation concerning the Spanish language and written in Spanish that was approved at the University of Helsinki.

In addition to studies in Spanish, Tuulio published a considerable number of studies concerning Italian, Catalan and Arabic. On a European scale, he is considered to be the founder of the study of Hispano-Arabic philology (the interaction between Spanish and Arabic). From 1928 until his death in 1941, he held the position of Professor Extraordinary in Southern Romance Languages at the University of Helsinki.

The Hispano-Arabic research tradition launched by Tuulio was continued by his pupil Eero K. Neuvonen, whose doctoral thesis Los Arabismos en el español del siglo XIII (from 1941) is still the most well-known work in Finnish Hispanic studies. After the Second World War, this research tradition came to a halt for nearly four decades. Neuvonen left for the University of Turku to assume the post of head librarian. Practical Spanish was now also taught at the Helsinki School of Economics (now Aalto University School of Business), where lecturer Erkki Vierikko founded the Ibero-American Institute. When the institute ceased operations, its library was transferred to the University of Helsinki. At this occasion, the Ibero-American center was also established.

The first professorship in Ibero-Romance languages was established in 1981. Thereafter, it was possible to complete Advanced studies in Spanish philology. Basic studies and Intermediate studies teaching (approbatur and cum laude) started in the beginning of the 1970s; the student organization Setenta was founded in 1970 (hence its name). All through the 1970s, Erik von Kraemer, professor extraordinary in Romance philology, was responsible for the degree requirements and planning of Spanish philology teaching. Teaching in practical Spanish had been given in the 1960’s by Elena Talavera y Seco; in 1969, Dr. Alfonso Reta became the holder of the first permanent Spanish language lectureship.

During the 1980s, the range of Ibero-Romance languages offered by the department was expanded to include Portuguese (the department’s lectureship has been maintained by the State of Portugal since 1983), Galician (supported by Xunta de Galicia), and Catalan (with support from the Generalitat de Catalunya). Starting from the 1980’s, courses in the non-Romance Basque language (Euskara) have also been offered yearly.

The Subject has been a part of the Department of Modern Languages since 2010.