Professor Keren Rice


Professor Keren Rice


Keren Rice is a professor of linguistics and Director of the Centre for Aboriginal Initiatives at the University of Toronto. She completed her Ph.D. thesis in 1976 and began her teaching career as an Assistant Professor at the Faculty of Arts and Science in 1984. She progressed through the ranks to Professor in 1990 and was named the Canada Research Chair in Linguistics and Aboriginal Studies in 2003. In 2006, she became a member of the Teaching Academy of the University of Toronto.


Keren has spent the last three decades studying the Slavey language of Canada’s Northwest Territories, and has been deeply engaged in work to maintain and revitalize this language. Her unparalleled contribution includes producing an in-depth dictionary of one Slavey dialect as well as a grammar of the language that has served as a model for grammars of many other languages. Through her work on Slavey, she was a member of a committee that worked to standardize the writing system of the language. In addition to this work, Keren worked with a team on the development of language curriculum and materials. As well as her language activist work, Keren has also made many scholarly contributions on the Slavey language and other languages of the Athapaskan family, and her work is held in the highest regard in the field of linguistics. Keren has brought her research directly into the community for the benefit of native teachers and students by developing training programs and language preservation strategies for native teachers in Northern communities. As well as contributing to Athapaskan linguistics, Keren’s work has also impacted general theoretical linguistics, shedding light on the structure and properties of sound systems within human grammar.


Keren has written numerous books and articles in linguistics and Aboriginal studies, and has served on the editorial boards of the several journals. Her honours and awards include a Faculty of Arts and Science Outstanding Teacher Award in 1998 and the Bloomfield Book Award from the Linguistic Society of America for A Grammar of Slavey, a book which is cited for its encyclopedic scope, its organizational precision, and enduring value to linguists. She was also awarded the Killam Research Fellowship for the study of Athapaskan languages for 1993 and 1994; a Connaught Research Leave Fellowship in 2001-2002; and a President’s Teaching Award in 2006, and she was recognized in an Honour Ceremony at First Nations House at the University of Toronto in 2005.


Keren’s impressive list of publications includes Hare Noun Dictionary; the co-edited Athapaskan Linguistics: Current Perspectives on a Language Family; and Morpheme Order and Semantic Scope: Word Formation in the Athapaskan Verb. She also co-edited Athabaskan Prosody, published in 2005. Her forthcoming book is entitled Featural Markedness in Phonology. She is editor of the International Journal of American Linguistics, the leading journal on indigenous languages of the Americas, and served as a member of the board of the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) from 2002 until 2008, and she serves on the Standing Committee on Research Support and the Standing Committee on Ethics and Integrity of SSHRC. She served a term as vice president and president-elect, president, and past president of the Canadian Linguistic Association from 1996 to 2002 and was elected a fellow of the American Academy for the Advancement of Science in 2005.

Keren is a popular and effective teacher with a long record of dedication and innovation as she constantly seeks ways to improve students’ learning experiences. In the Department of Linguistics, she has developed and taught several new courses and worked to be responsive to students’ needs whilst at the same time demanding a strong intellectual rigour. In addition to courses considered core in a linguistics program, she recently developed a new course in language revitalization. She has also been involved in the creation of web-based materials, both for the introductory linguistics course in which students demand extra problem sets of practice and for the higher level field methods course, where an easy to use database program is a necessity. As Director of the undergraduate Aboriginal Studies program from 1993 until 2007, she oversaw the development of all of the program courses. The most recent addition, a course in research methodology, engages students in research within the broader Toronto community, as a way for them to learn how to do research.