Dr. Marguerite MacKenzie and her team are finalists for the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) Insight Award in recognition of their groundbreaking work on the preservation of the Innu language.
The award is given to an individual or team whose project has resulted in significant contribution to knowledge and understanding about people, societies and the world.
Dr. MacKenzie, a professor of linguistics in the Faculty of Arts, has been working with Aboriginal communities for 40 years to both protect and promote the Innu, Cree and Naskapi languages. Her research, carried out in collaboration with researchers at Memorial, Carleton University, private scholars, government departments and Aboriginal partners, has led to the creation of dictionaries, workplace vocabularies, and readers for schools and language-learning materials for adults.
Throughout North America Aboriginal languages are being lost at an alarming rate, as they are not being passed on to a younger generation due to the influence of English and French, she said. These languages allow access to a range of knowledge and world views which are significantly different than those of European origin.
By working closely with Innu speakers, Dr. MacKenzie and her team have developed a comprehensive pan-Innu dictionary, that covers all the Innu dialects spoken in Quebec and Labrador. Published in Innu, English and French, it is one of the most thorough and complete dictionaries of an Aboriginal language, and is available online at www.innu-aimun.ca/dictionary
The teams research has also led to the development of specialized vocabularies for criminal law, family law, environmental impact assessment terms and teaching terms, with a medical glossary coming soon in print and as a mobile app. Dr. MacKenzie has contributed her expertise on the language to the development of culturally-relevant teaching resources, including a place names website for use in elementary and secondary schools.
Dr. MacKenzie is an excellent candidate for the SSHRC Insight Award, said Dr. Richard Marceau, vice-president (research), Memorial University. Her research on endangered Aboriginal languages has safeguarded the significant and extensive Innu cultural and linguistic heritage, and by working closely with Aboriginal communities, she has created resources that are immensely useful for those community members.
The Insight Award is part of a prestigious new suite of awards launched by SSHRC to recognize outstanding social sciences and humanities research. The awards will be presented at a special ceremony at the World Social Science Forum in Montreal, Que., on Oct. 15.
Dr. Leslie Brown, University of Victoria, and Dr. Thomas Lemieux, University of British Columbia, are the other finalists for the award.