Associate Dean of the Faculty of Arts, Associate Professor and Director of the Official Languages and Bilingualism Institute (OLBI), University of Ottawa and co-director of the Language Acquisition Research Lab (LAR LAB uOttawa). Member of the Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies and thereby authorized to supervise theses. Cross-appointed with the Department of Modern Languages and Literatures.

Ph.D. Linguistics, McGill University, Canada, 2006

M.A. Spanish linguistics, University of Ottawa, Canada, 1998

B.A., Art History, Carleton University, Canada, 1995

Room: Hamelin Hall, 70 Laurier Avenue East, Room 115A

Work E-mail: [email protected]

Elena Valenzuela

Fields of Interest

  • Second language acquisition
  • Heritage Languages in multilingual contexts
  • Minority and heritage language acquisition and maintenance
  • Bilingualism and multilingualism
  • Hispanic linguistics
  • Creativity in language learning


My research focuses on language acquisition, bilingualism, and heritage languages in the Canadian context. I examine the processes underlying the development of second languages as well as heritage and immigrant languages. My main focus is to understand the mental and cognitive processes that guide language learning by examining language acquisition in multilingual contexts.

Since my arrival at the University of Ottawa in 2009, I have been co-director of the Language Acquisition Research Lab, where I train and mentor students in research and project management. I was the director of the Spanish Graduate Program for 5 years as well as director of the Entrepreneurship, Creativity and Social Innovation microprogram, which I helped create, at the Faculty of Arts.

In 2022, I won the Distinguished Teaching Award at the Faculty of Arts which was a great honour.

I am a first-generation Canadian who was raised speaking Spanish at home, I was enrolled in early French Immersion, and used English in the community. Throughout my life, I have enjoyed the advantages of Canada's linguistic policies, which have supported and nurtured my multilingualism. Commitment to bilingualism/multingualism, language learning, linguistic policy, and research in support of language education is central to the mission of OLBI. Consequently, my appointment as the director of OLBI holds a special meaning for me.

Selected publications

  • Valenzuela, Elena, Kristina Borg, Rachel Klassen and Tania Zamuner. 2020. “Ambiguous relative clause modifier attachment in code-switched constructions: Evidence from eye-tracking”. In Perspectivas actuales en la enseñanza y el aprendizaje de lenguas en contextos multiculturales / Current Perspectives in Language Teaching and Learning in Multicultural Contexts. M. Planelles Almeida, A. Foucart y J.M. Liceras (Eds.). Thomson Reuters Aranzadi. ISBN: 978-84-1309-932-3.
  • Valenzuela, Elena, Iverson, Michael, Rothman, Jason, Pascual y Cabo, Diego, Borg Kristina, & Manuela Pinto. 2015. “Heritage Spanish in Canada and the US: Ser & Estar at the Interfaces” In I. Pérez, M. Leonetti, & S. Gumiel (eds.). Amsterdam: John Benjamins.
  • Valenzuela, Elena and Bede McCormack. 2013. “Semantic and Pragmatic features at the interface between generative theory and pedagogical approaches to SLA” In Gil, Marsden and Whong (eds.) Universal Grammar in the Second Language Classroom, Education and Language Series, Springer.
  • Valenzuela, Elena, Ewelina Barski, Adriana Diez, Ana Faure, Alma Ramirez, Yolanda Pangtay. 2012. “Gender in the code-mixed DPs of heritage Spanish bilinguals”, Hispania 95:3.
  • Bruhn de Garavito, Joyce and Elena Valenzuela. 2008. “Eventive and stative passives in Spanish L2 acquisition: A matter of aspect”. Geeslin, K., & P. Guijarro-Fuentes (eds.), Bilingualism: Language and Cognition, 11, 3, pp. 323-336.
  • Valenzuela, Elena. 2006. “L2 end state grammars and incomplete acquisition of Spanish CLLD constructions”. In Slabakova, Roumyana, Silvina Montrul and Philippe Prévost (eds.). Special Volume in honour of Lydia White, pp. 283-304. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.
  • White, Lydia, Elena Valenzuela, Martyna Kozlowska-Macgregor and Ingrid Leung. 2004. “Gender agreement in non-native Spanish: evidence against failed features”. Applied Psycholinguistics 25.1, pp. 105-133.

Selected conference presentations

  • Valenzuela, Elena, Mihaela Pirvulescu, and Jérôme Simon. 2023. “Genericity in the Grammars of Spanish HL Speakers in multilingual contexts”, 10th National Symposium on Spanish as a Heritage Language, Harvard University, MA, USA, April 13-15, 2023
  • Pirvulescu, Mihaela and Elena Valenzuela. 2021. “Interpretation of genericity in Romanian, English and French”, The Romance Turn, Universidad Nacional de Educación a Distancia, Madrid, Spain, June 16-18, 2021.
  • Valenzuela, Elena, Jérôme Simon, and Joselyn Brooksbank. 2019. “The role of language dominance in the swearing habits of French/English bilinguals”. AESLA 37, Universidad de Valladolid, March 2019.
  • Valenzuela, Elena, Jérome Simon, Raquel Llama. 2017. “Sentence parsing and language dominance: ambiguity in French-English relative clauses”, EUROSLA 2017, University of Reading, UK, September 2017.
  • Valenzuela, Elena, Jérome Simon, Raquel Llama. 2017. “Sentence parsing and language dominance: ambiguity in French-English relative clauses”, AFLS 2017, University of Toronto, August 2017.
  • Mathieu, Marie Philip, and Elena Valenzuela. 2017. “Anaphora interpretation in the Heritage Spanish of Francophone and Anglophone speakers”, Symposium on Spanish as a Heritage Language, February 2017, UC Irvine, USA.
  • Valenzuela, Elena, Kristina Borg, Rachel Klassen and Tania Zamuner. 2015. “Ambiguous relative clause modifier attachment in code-switched constructions: evidence from eye-tracking”. Heritage Language Conference, University of Reading, UK, October 2015.
  • Valenzuela, Elena, Kristina Borg, Rachel Klassen and Tania Zamuner. 2014. “Processing of code-switched relative clause constructions: an eye-tracking study”. Hispanic Linguistics Symposium (HLS 2014), Purdue University, November, 2014.