Wilfredo Valentín-Márquez

Dr. Wilfredo Valentín-Márquez was known to many in the University of Michigan community. He was a student of the past joint Romance Languages – Linguistics PhD program, which brought together graduate students and faculty for innovative and interdisciplinary projects. 

Wilfredo began his studies at the University of Michigan in September 2000. Despite the fact that he was a first-semester graduate student who was commuting by bus daily from the western part of the state in order to attend classes in Ann Arbor, his professors recall that his work was superlative, and that from the beginning he demonstrated the makings of a ‘natural’ sociolinguist, who was very perceptive of language phenomena that had escaped the attention of more senior scholars.

His 2007 dissertation, Doing Being Boricua: perceptions of national identity and the sociolinguistic distribution of liquid variables in Puerto Rican Spanish (committee: Lesley Milroy (emeritus) -Teresa Satterfield, co-chairs, Robin Queen and Robert E. Vann (Western Michigan University)) is a meticulous examination of patterns of phonological variation found in two Puerto Rican communities: one, Cabo Rojo, on the island of Puerto Rico and the other in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Set within the variationist sociolinguistics tradition, Wilfredo’s investigation is a novel analysis that describes the sociolinguistic distribution of three variables, (rr), (r), and (l), and each have a socially stigmatized realization as well. At the time, few works about Puerto Rican Spanish phonology/sociophonetics had explored dimensions beyond the traditional variables of age, gender and social class in order to better understand the distribution of the most characteristic features of the Spanish spoken on the Island and by Puerto Rican groups in the US. Wilfredo’s investigation was ground-breaking, not only given its detailed acoustic and statistical identification of the linguistic and social factors, but also for examining the differences that exist between US- and Island-based communities in terms of the structure of networks of significant ties that Puerto Ricans keep with other Puerto Ricans. 

Wilfredo enjoyed interacting with the broader (Hispanic) Linguistic community and regularly presented in high-profile forums such as the Hispanic Linguistic Symposium, NWAV, and the Spanish in the U.S. conferences. Many students and colleagues fondly remember Wilfredo as an excellent communicator in both Spanish and English. He overcame many obstacles throughout his career, but those temporary setbacks equipped him with a quiet confidence and dignity that drew others to him.

Wilfredo was a long-time faculty member of the English & World Languages Department at Millersville University in Pennsylvania, where he was a professor of Spanish. He was a popular and skilled educator, who was generous with his time and knowledge. Wilfredo continued to be a dedicated sociolinguistic researcher, and authored numerous articles in Spanish and English, most recently, “The Dominican Diaspora: From Quisqueya to Puerto Rico and Beyond (2021)," with Eva-María Suárez Büdenbender, and “Estudio comparativo de /s/ en las variedades puertorriqueña, cubana y dominicana del español hablado en Lancaster, Pennsylvania (2022).”  He also contributed two edited volumes to the field, Dialects from Tropical Islands: Caribbean Spanish in the United States, with Melvin González (2019) and Puerto Rican Spanish, Reggaeton Style: The (Socio)Linguistics of Urban Music (to be published post-humously). 

In addition to his impressive efforts as a teacher and scholar, Wilfredo was a community leader and humanitarian. He never forgot his immigrant roots and was a staunch advocate for Puerto Ricans on the Island and the mainland. He had a social media presence on Twitter (#profewilfre) and contributed Op-Eds to the local newspapers to make the Puerto Rican experience visible. He was a constant force for organizing support for Puerto Ricans, such as during catastrophic Hurricane María and the COVID pandemic. 

Wilfredo humbly attributed his many achievements and successes to his strong faith in God. He was a central member of the Adventista del Séptimo Día congregation in Lancaster. He was a gifted photographer and musician. Many will remember his beautiful singing voice. He adored and was adored by his nuclear and extended family. Wilfred always spoke glowingly of his foster son, daughter-in-law, and young grandson.

A video memorial service from May 2023 is available on Youtube and Millersville University will be honoring Wilfredo in a service on September 21, 2023 at 12:00pm.