Episode 11: Keren Rice, part 1, on the Dene languages

This is an exciting week! We are talking to Dr. Keren Rice of the University of Toronto, former President of the Linguistic Society of America, the Canadian Linguistic Association and the Society for the Study of Indigenous Languages of the Americas. We discuss the Dene (formerly Athabaskan) languages of North America. Tune in for a fascinating discussion!


  • Dene languages may be related to languages in Siberia
  • “Athabaskan” is no longer used for the name of the family. It is now “Dene”, which is the word for ‘person’.
  • The genetic relationships of the subgroups.
  • the complicated “verb words”
  • polysynthetic languages
  • the sociolinguistic situation and vitality status of the languages
  • What does it mean to “speak” the language?
  • the speech domains of the languages
  • Master-Apprentice programs
  • Immersion programs in schools
  • 3-way contrast in laryngeal consonants
  • affricate sequences
  • vowel and consonant inventories
  • various types of tones
  • tuning your ear when learning another language
  • how these languages are relatively immune to borrowing
  • Edward Sapir
  • How are the lines between the languages drawn?


  • Rice, Keren. “Language Contact, Phonemic Inventories, and the Athapaskan Language Family.” Linguistic Typology, vol. 8, no. 3, 2004, pp. 321:43.
  • Rice, Keren. “Athabaskan Languages and Serial Founder Effects.” Linguistic Typology, vol. 15, no. 2, 2011, pp. 233:50.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *