Language researcher receives prestigious national award

Oct 17th, 2013

by Janet Harron

Dr. Marguerite MacKenzie
Language researcher receives prestigious national award

Dr. Marguerite MacKenzie joins four other scholars from Canadian universities who have been awarded prestigious Impact Awards from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) for their achievements in research, research training, knowledge mobilization and outreach activities.

The professor of linguistics and her team were awarded the $50,000 Insight Award at a ceremony held at the World Social Science Forum in Montreal, Que., on Tuesday, Oct. 15.

The recipients were selected by a jury from among a highly competitive list of candidates submitted by Canadian post-secondary institutions. 

“The outstanding achievements of these researchers, students and research partners illustrate how the social sciences and humanities help create a better world through improved understanding of people in the past and present,” said Dr. Chad Gaffield, president of SSHRC, at the award ceremony. “I am very proud that the excellence of their scholarly work, as well as their exceptional leadership in sharing their knowledge and collaborating with others both on campus and beyond, are being recognized today. I would also like to congratulate all the finalists and to thank the many Canadian institutions who nominated stellar candidates for these inaugural awards.”

Dr. MacKenzie thanked SSHRC for the recognition of the years of work accomplished as a result of partnerships between universities and members of Innu and Cree communities, noting that that there is a strong positive correlation between the maintenance of an Aboriginal language and increased community health.

Dr. MacKenzie has worked for more than 40 years in capacity-building in Cree, Innu and Naskapi communities. Her research project, Knowledge and Human Resources for Innu Language Development, carried out in collaboration with researchers at Memorial, Carleton University, the Université du Québec à Montréal, the Institut Tshakapesh and Mamu Tshishkutamashutau, private scholars and government departments has led to the creation of dictionaries, workplace vocabularies and readers for schools and language-learning materials for adults. This project has directly contributed to improved access to government services, through better quality interpretation and translation.

A comprehensive pan-Innu dictionary developed by Dr. MacKenzie and her team 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

“Dr. MacKenzie’s work is truly stellar, and I’m delighted to congratulate her, and her research team, on behalf of the entire Memorial community,” said Dr. Richard Marceau, vice-president (research). “Her success speaks to the quality of her research and the impact it has on the community.