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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