Media Releases

Celebrated U of T linguist wins Killam Prize

April 19, 2011

TORONTO, ON –Uni­ver­si­ty of Toron­to lin­guis­tics pro­fes­sor Keren Rice, con­sid­ered one of Canada’s fore­most experts in the Slavey (Dene) lan­guage, one of the offi­cial lan­guages of the North­west Ter­ri­to­ries, has been award­ed one of five 2011 Kil­lam Prizes.

The Kil­lam Prize, one of Canada’s most pres­ti­gious awards, is admin­is­tered by the Cana­da Coun­cil for the Arts and comes with a $100,000 prize. The awards hon­our schol­ars active­ly engaged in research and are giv­en in recog­ni­tion of out­stand­ing career achieve­ments in health sci­ences, engi­neer­ing, nau­tur­al sci­ences, social sci­ences and human­i­ties.

“Pro­fes­sor Rice has been deeply involved in the preser­va­tion of Canada’s Abo­rig­i­nal her­itage,” says Pro­fes­sor Paul Young, U of T’s Vice-Pres­i­dent, Research. “She exem­pli­fies the best of what uni­ver­si­ty research can be—she’s a lead­ing schol­ar con­duct­ing in-depth research that then forms the basis for a fruit­ful col­lab­o­ra­tion with com­mu­ni­ty groups. We are delight­ed that the Cana­da Coun­cil has hon­oured her with a Kil­lam prize.”

The direc­tor of the University’s Cen­tre for Abo­rig­i­nal Ini­tia­tives, Rice is an expert and an activist, focused on doc­u­ment­ing and pre­serv­ing the Slavey lan­guage. She has pro­duced a dic­tio­nary of the Slavey lan­guage and helped to stan­dard­ize its writ­ten sys­tem. She has also devel­oped cur­ric­u­la and lan­guage preser­va­tion and train­ing pro­grams for Native teach­ers.

Rice plans to use part of her prize mon­ey to sup­port a com­mu­ni­ty-based research project in Deline, North­west Ter­ri­to­ries. “The project is look­ing at lan­guage and the dif­fer­ent dialects of the lan­guage,” she says. “It’s tied in with issues of self-gov­ern­ment and how we can use sto­ries to tell us about what was impor­tant to peo­ple as the com­mu­ni­ty seeks to define its own gov­er­nance strat­e­gy.”

Among her many awards, Rice is a Uni­ver­si­ty Pro­fes­sor, the high­est research hon­our U of T bestows on its fac­ul­ty mem­bers. She also holds the Cana­da Research Chair in Lin­guis­tics and Abo­rig­i­nal Stud­ies, is a past Con­naught Research fel­low and pre­vi­ous­ly won the Kil­lam Research Fel­low­ship.


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