Keren D. Rice

Canada Research Chair in Linguistics and Aboriginal Studies

Tier 1 - 2003-03-01
University of Toronto
Social Sciences and Humanities


Research involves

Study of global uniformity and local variability of Athapaskan languages.

Research relevance

Will lead to a better understanding of what "language" is.

Learning from Athapaskan Languages

Athapaskan languages, spoken in northern areas of North America - parts of Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta, British Columbia, Northwest Territories, Yukon, Alaska - the American southwest, and the Pacific Coast, are well-known for their complex verbs. These verbs contain information about participants, time, transitivity, and adverbial notions as well as the core event or state. It is also a fascinating family of languages, with substantial similarities between the various languages in terms of sound systems, morphology, syntax, and lexicon, yet each language has its own individual properties. Studying these languages can lead to a better understanding of the system that underlies both the uniformity and the diversity between them.

Dr. Keren D. Rice is a well-known linguistics expert, recognized for both theoretical and Native American linguistics. As Canada Research Chair in Linguistics and Aboriginal Studies, her main goal is to write a comparative grammar of Athapaskan languages. This work will encompass phonology, morphology, syntax, semantics and the lexicon of the languages. In doing so, she also hopes to sort out sources of some of the differences between the languages of the family.

A second thrust of Dr. Rice's research expands and develops her work on markedness, contrast and complexity in phonology. She aims to complete a book in this area of theoretical linguistics, with a goal to evaluate the diagnostics that have been proposed to determine markedness (with special attention to frequency, implication and neutralization) and to examine phonological patterning.

Finally, Dr. Rice will be revising her 1989 grammar book of Slave, an Athapaskan language of the Mackenzie River Valley, as part of a project to put outstanding grammars on compact disks. She is also working with a team to create a dictionary of a Slave dialect. This work will be invaluable to the community where this dialect is spoken, a community which is concerned with language revitalization.