Joyce L. S. Bruhn de Garavito, Professor
Department of Modern Languages and Literatures
The University of Western Ontario


2000 Ph.D. Linguistics, McGill University, Montreal Canada
1986 M.A. Applied Linguistics, Concordia University, Montreal Canada
1968 B.A. Universidad Nacional de Colombia, Bogotá Colombia


I was born in Bogotá, Colombia. My mother was British, my father American, but the only place I spoke English was at home. I consider myself a heritage speaker of English, and also essentially bicultural. In 1962, just before the death of my mother, I met my husband, Holman Garavito. We married in 1967 in Colombia, where I remained for a year to finish my studies, a BA in Philosophy from the Universidad Nacional de Colombia.

I arrived in Montreal in the winter and saw snow for the first time. Since then I have always admired people who emigrate, leaving behind family, friends, culture, geography and food they love. Whenever I see mountains I feel nostalgia for what I left behind, but my love for my new country has grown, particularly for the French culture of Québec. I am now pluri-cultural.

My five children were all born in Montreal, which also helped me put down roots there. I took night courses at Concordia University and obtained an MA in Applied Linguistics. While I was studying I taught Spanish, first at Concordia and later at McGill University as well. My love for linguistics started with an appreciation for grammar in high school, and it has grown since then. My love for teaching goes back to my childhood.

In 1988 I started my PhD in the Department of Linguistics at McGill University. It took me a long time because I had a family and by then I was also coordinating Spanish at McGill. In 1999 I accepted a tenure track position in the University of Western Ontario and I have been enjoying my work here ever since.  I was promoted to Associate Professor in 2004, and to Full Professor in 2009. In 2007 I received the Graham and Gail Wright Distinguished Scholar award, and in 2010 the Edward G. Pleva Award for excellence in teaching. I am currently the Chair of the Department of Modern Languages and Literatures.

Research interests


Morphosyntax; acquisition of morphosyntax; bilingualism; language contact; linguistic theory applied to language teaching; indigenous languages (Nahuatl, Zapoteca, Inuktitut); ellipsis



Se contructions in Spanish: I have argued that there is only one se in Spanish, but it is associated with different syntactic nodes: aspectual, object agreement and TP, among others. Evidence comes from different properties such as word order, secondary predication and subextraction (Bruhn de Garavito, 2000); submitted.

Applicatives: Clitic doubling of indirect objects in Spanish is, in essence, an applicative construction, related to preposition incorporation (Bruhn de Garavito, 2002, 2006).

Acquisition of morphosyntax

(Bruhn de Garavito & White, 2002) looks at the production of gender in L2 Spanish by French L1 speakers, comparing with English L1 speakers. Results are used to argue against the Failed Features Hypothesis.

(Bruhn de Garavito, 2008) examined the relation between phonology in the L1 and the acquisition of inflectional morphology in L2 Spanish focusing on the formation of the plural (see also (Goad, White, & Bruhn de Garavito, 2011)

(Bruhn de Garavito & Valenzuela, 2008) compared the use of ser and estar in verbal and adjectival passives. Results show that L2 learners differ from native speakers in the possible interpretation of generic subjects in the different passives (see also (Bruhn de Garavito, 2009).

(Bruhn de Garavito & Valenzuela, 2007) examined the L2 acquisition of the future of probability in l2 Spanish. Results show that learners had no problem with acquiring the discourse and lexical constraints on the interpretation of the future.

(Borgonovo, Bruhn de Garavito, & Prévost, 2015) This paper focuses on the acquisition of the morphosyntax/semantics interface in the acquisition of mood in Spanish relative clauses by native speakers of English. The use of subjunctive or indicative in relative clauses is not related to ungrammaticality as both moods are possible, but rather to differences in interpretation. General results show that the L2 speakers could appropriately select the expected mood but performance was not uniform across the various conditions tested. However, variability is not solely a product of L2 acquisition; this paper shows it can be found in native speakers as well.


(Bruhn de Garavito, 2011) argues against connexionism, comparing the acquisition of se constructions in Spanish by native speakers and early and late bilinguals. It is shown that some of the properties of se constructions are virtually un-acquirable if we rely on frequency or association, and yet all three groups performed as expected under generative approaches.

Language contact/Indigenous languages

(Bruhn de Garavito & Atoche, 2006) examined the function and gender of object clitics in the Spanish of speakers who lived in a Quechua/Spanish community in Peru. Findings show frequent lack of agreement between the clitic and its referent, and this lack of agreement increased in cases of clitic doubling of the object.

(Ramírez-Trujillo & Bruhn de Garavito, 2015) looked at subject verb agreement in the Spanish of speakers who lived in a Nahuatl/Spanish community in Mexico. Findings show that the main factor for inconsistency of agreement was not age of acquisition but rather degree of contact with the Spanish of the region.

Linguistic theory applied to language teaching

In (Bruhn de Garavito, 2013a, 2013b) I show how studies conducted with theoretical questions in mind within the generative tradition can inform language teaching, particularly in relation to the choice of material to be taught.


A series of ongoing projects looks at knowledge of nominal ellipsis in early and late bilingualism.