Willem Leo Wetzels - Biography#

Leo Wetzels is mainly active in the field of theoretical linguistics and the description and analysis of the indigenous languages of South America and Brazilian Portuguese, with a focus on sound and word structure. He is currently professor emeritus and part-time researcher of Romance Languages and Languages of the Amazon region at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam and a full-time professor of linguistics at the Federal University of Ceará in Fortaleza (UFC), Brazil.

Leo Wetzels received his MA degrees in General Linguistics and French Language and Literature from Radboud University Nijmegen, in 1975, as well as his PhD in Linguistics, in 1981. In his dissertation, Analogie et lexique, le problème de l’opacité en phonologie générative, he studied the conditions under which phonological alternations are eliminated from the grammar or generalized to novel contexts under paradigmatic pressure. Being appointed assistant professor of French language and linguistics at the Radboud University from October 1975, he spent the academic year 1982-1983 as well as the first semester of 1984 as a guest researcher at Harvard University. During these periods, he studied phonology and morphology with Professor Nick Clements at Harvard University and Professors James Harris, Morris Halle, and Paul Kiparsky at MIT. After his return to the Netherlands, he was promoted associate professor of French linguistics in 1984. In 1989 he founded the linguistics journal Probus, International Journal of Latin and Romance Linguistics, with Rafael Nuñez Cedeño (University of Illinois at Chicago) and Eduardo Raposo (University of California at Santa Barbara), first published by Foris Publications in Dordrecht, the Netherlands, taken over in 1993 by Mouton de Gruyter, Berlin. In 1990 he was given the chair of French language and linguistics at the Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam. At that time, he was studying the phonology and morphology of Brazilian Portuguese as a guest researcher at UNICAMP, in Campinas, Brazil, with a grant of the Dutch Foundation for Tropical Research (WOTRO). In 1990 and 1991 he acted at an invited professor at the Museu Nacional, in Rio de Janeiro, where most of his students were specialists in indigenous languages. It was there that he became interested in the phonology and morphology of the indigenous languages of South America. Together with his students, themselves professors of indigenous linguistics, he published the book Estudos fonológicos de línguas indígenas brasileiras, which soon became an important reference for Brazilian students interested in the phonological analysis of Indian languages. In 2002 his chair at the Vrije Universiteit was redefined to include the modern Romance languages and the languages of the Amazon. In the following years, numerous South American students went to Amsterdam to write their Phd under his guidance.

From January 2007 until the spring of 2009 Leo Wetzels combined a full-time senior research position (directeur de recherche) at the Laboratoire de Phonologie et Phonétique/CNRS Sorbonne Nouvelle in Paris with a part-time professorship in Amsterdam, after which period he took up again his full-time position at the Vrije Universiteit, where he remained until his recent retirement in June 2017. In 2014 he was rewarded a honorary doctorate by the Pontifícia Universidade Católica do Rio Grande do Sul (PUCRS) in Porto Alegre, Brazil. During the last two decades he acted as a temporary visiting professor in many universities of Brazil and elsewhere, among which USP, UNICAMP, and UNESP, in the state of São Paulo, Universidad Internacional Menéndez Pelayo in Madrid, Universidad San Francisco in Quito, Ecuador, etc.. As from January 1 2019 until December 2021, he will participate in the execution of the research project Lévi-Strauss and his Nambikwara field notes at the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales (EHESS), in Paris, coordinated by Professor Emmanuel Desveaux. The aim of this project is to digitize and prepare a critical edition of Claude Lévi-Strauss's field notes from his second expedition to Brazil at the Nambikwara in 1938/39, deposited at the Bibliothèque Nationale de France (BNF), in Paris.

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