Sally Rice



My research spans multiple methodologies, from corpus linguistics, field elicitation and observation, to psycholinguistic experimentation. My divergent research interests––as evidenced in my publications, thesis supervision, and grant-funded projects––are all expressions of two tenets that have informed my linguistic research since graduate school:

(1) the inseparability of meaning and form

(2) the priority of empirical methodologies over linguistic theorizing

With respect to (1), I hold that linguistic and conceptual categories are neither universal nor invariant, and that culture and use impact language and mind (and vice versa). I am deeply interested in the interaction between lexicon and syntax, as played out in the meaning, use, and functional instability of relational predications such as verbs and adpositions. Thus, I am attracted to the study of semantic and grammatical change over time (encompassing what has been called lexicalization and grammaticalization in the literature) and the challenges that language change poses for linguistic representation in an individual speaker, across a speech community, or in the mind of a linguist.

With respect to (2), I believe that contemporary linguistic theories have done a poor job of looking outside themselves either in stating testable claims about linguistic representation or in accommodating empirical evidence. It is only through corroborating lines of evidence from different methodologies and data from structurally and culturally diverse languages and speaker populations that linguists can hope to attract the attention of other students of human cognition. I have put this belief into practice by carrying out research, both individually and collaboratively, that looks at the form/meaning interface developmentally, diachronically, typologically, experimentally, and through the analysis of large corpora of spoken and written language data.

Over the past seventeen years, I have become intensely involved in language endangerment issues as my own fieldwork on Dene Sųłiné (a northern Athapaskan language formerly known as Chipewyan) has attracted major funding for the implementation of community-based research on the documentation and revitalization of this language. This work has led me further along the path of action research and aboriginal language advocacy. I have been involved with CILLDI, the Canadian Indigenous Languages and Literacy Development Institute, an annual summer school that trains speakers of aboriginal languages in linguistics, second language pedagogy, and teacher education, since 2001. The Department of Linguistics, through CILLDI, now offers a 6-course Community Linguist Certificate for speakers of Indigenous and heritage languages and much of my activities are currently drawn to the implementation and delivery of this program. These field-based endeavors are easily reconciled with my dedication to (1) and (2). The situation we face today with dying languages impels us to carry out multi-faceted data collection while we still can.

*and, yes, I love wind-up toys


Professor (and Interim Chair), Department of Linguistics

Landrex Distinguished Professor, Faculty of Arts, University of Alberta



4-60 Assiniboia Hall

University of Alberta

Edmonton, Alberta


tel:  +780.492.0809

fax: +780.492.0806