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Timo Riiho

Timo Tapani Riiho
Born 7 October 1950, Kymi

Master of Philosophy 1975 (Romance philology) and PhD (Romance philology) 1979, University of Helsinki.

Professor of Ibero-Romance Languages 1981-

Publications, research projects and other activities
Research areas: linguistics, Ibero-Romance languages, historical and comparative syntax, prepositions, personal pronouns.

Awards and recognitions
Foreign correspondent of the Royal Spanish Academy
Commander of the Spanish Order of Civil Merit
Grand Officer of the Portuguese Order of Henry the Navigator
Commander of the Brazilian Order of Castelo Branco

Authors: Timo Riiho and Riitta-Ilona Hurmerinta (ed.)
Translated by: Laura Mena and Aija-Leena Bernouilli
Revised by: John Calton

My best memories of the University

My years in the University, starting back in the autumn of 1969, have witnessed many changes. Throughout this time the study of Spanish and Portuguese has continued to grow. Spanish is no longer held to be an exotic language, as it was for many in the 1970s.

The University’s professor of Spanish has for years offered interesting perspectives and told of his wonderful experiences from the Spanish-speaking world: as guest of the South-West Algerian Polisario Front researching the language conditions of refugees in former Spanish Sahara, in Havana dining with the former Cuban president, Fidel Castro, monitoring the language conditions of the autochthonous inhabitants of Sonora, North-West Mexico, study trips with students in Northern Spain and Portugal, sailing on the Amazon in Brazil, countless visits to the Basque region to give talks (with audiences of up to 30,000), frequently addressing groups close to currently proscribed separatist organisations, and the list goes on.

As a fellow of the Real Academia Española (the Spanish Royal Academy) he is invited to the Academy’s sessions, which are always presided over by a member of the Spanish royal family. The seminars are followed by informal discussions with royalty. This was how I met Queen Sofia and had a chat with the then Crown Prince, the reigning monarch HM King Felipe VI; the latter still fondly recalls a gift of wooden toys following his father King Juan Carlos’ visit to the University in the autumn of 1974, where he gave a speech.

One memory has to do with the 2006 Eurovision Song Contest, which was won by the Finnish hard rock band Lordi. Immediately after the win, I received a summons from Madrid via the Spanish Embassy, and was granted the honour of translating the lyrics of the winning song "Hard Rock Hallelujah" into Spanish.

The most enthralling and pleasant memories however have to do with my years of study and research in the libraries and archives of Madrid and Lisbon. In the early 1970s Spain was still under the dictatorship of General Franco and the final years were marred by ongoing clashes on campus between students and riot police. In the beginning of the 1980s there was even an attempted coup in Madrid.

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