Andrew McKenzie

Associate Professor of Linguistics
Affiliate Professor in Indigenous Studies
University of Kansas | KU Linguistics

Specializing in formal semantics and linguistic fieldwork.
Focus on Native American languages, especially Kiowa.

me at my desk, 2017. Credit: Miranda Anaya, University Daily Kansan

Office:       409 Blake Hall
Office Hrs:T 1-2:30 • F 10-11:30
E-mail:        andrew.mckenzie@ku.edu   

News (click for details) 

I will be giving a colloquium talk at Arizona on Nov 8!

I have recently appeared on the Vocal Fries podcast, talking about the interstellar travel project. I will soon appear on that podcast talking about my semantic grammar of Kiowa.

I will be giving a colloquium talk at Southern Illinois on Nov 9, followed by a public-audience talk on revitalization.

I have been elected to a three-year term on the executive committee of SSILA, the Society for the Study of Indigenous Languages of the Americas

As of this fall, I'm a tenured associate professor here at KU!

I will see you in New York this January as I attend SSILA to present on Kiowa locatives, and at LSA to present with Jeff Punske (So Illinois) on games in lingusitics teaching.

I have been awarded a grant from the Documenting Endangered Languages program! (read the grant abstract) The three-year project's goal is to result in a semantic reference grammar of Kiowa, along with papers that result. This kind of grammar is novel and promises to really help document not only Kiowa but other endangered and understudied languages as well.

Read about my grant in the University Daily Kansan, KU Today, and the Lawrence Journal-World. Better yet: Listen to the Public Radio report at KCUR FM or Kansas Public Radio!

Papers & Projects (Click to open)

In press at Acta Futura vol. 12.

If we sent a vessel on a multi-generation space journey, what might happen to the language on board? How might it change, especially as the vessel maintained less and less contact with Earth? We are necessarily speculative, but draw inspiration from Earthbound examples of isolated long-distance voyages. This paper contributes to the European Space Agency's Advanced Concepts Team's discussion on issues that may arise during interstellar travel.

Accepted pre-print version

Presentation at ESSEC (slides)


This is a collaborative project with Surgilab at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, headed by Dr Gary Sutkin. We are exploring the role that semantic ambiguity plays in causing errors and near-errors in surgery, especially in a pedagogical context. We're currently writing up some results for the society conference in surgical education, but here is a very early description, which I presented to some linguists at Angelika Kratzer's recent fest. Slides


Eventual volume detailing the grammar of Kiowa, focusing on the semantics, employing formal tools and targeted elicitation. This drop-down menu will bring up some works that fit in that vein.

The near side and the far side in Kiowa: A matter of perspective.
Presented at SSILA 2019 • Handout

Published in the Proceedings of SULA 10.

Explores some of the semantic relations found in verb+verb structures in Kiowa, and consquences for the composition of incorporating structures.

Accepted pre-print version

Under revision at Natural Language & Linguistic Theory.

Resolves two elements of weak compositionality in noun incorporation in one stroke. NI either involves non-objects (knife+cut) which are quantified over but whose relation to the verb is vague, or objects (meat+cut) whose relation is clear but whose entity argument is not saturated in a satsifactory way. Looking at Kiowa NI and English synthetic compounds, I show that these issues are both resolved if noun incorporation requires a mediating relation, which is independently needed in many cases. This relation provides a thematic role when required, and binds the entity argument, along with world and event arguments when the meaning requires. Object incorporation requires a mediating relation above the verb, provided by a derivational or light-verb head not in the inflectional projection.

submitted draft

The role of semantics in licensing English synthetic compounds Seed poster, published in the proceedings of WCCFL 36


Seed talk, presented at Modality across Categories workshop (slides | handout

Co-author Lydia Newkirk. Published at Linguistics & Philosophy.

We demonstrate that the English adverbial almost requires a modal in addition to scalar proximity. The modal involves the same Non-Interrupting ordering source that Portner finds in the progressive. If the event and its circumstances allow the event to proceed to completion in normal relevant counterparts to the topic situation, almost can apply `at a distance'. In cases where that isn't possible, notably in statives, present tense eventives, and cases where the evaluation is based on the result rather than the process, almost requires most of the necessary conditions to be complete.

published version (subscription required)

accepted pre-print version  •  seed paper from WCCFL 33

Co-authors Gülnar Eziz and Travis Major. Published in Glossa.

Employs semantic fieldwork techniques to argue that the auxiliary construction -(I)p bol- in the Turkic language Uyghur (and -(i)b bo'l- in Uzbek) is actually two constructions: The first asserts that the event relation is homomorphic, which leads to a sense of 'full completion.' The second, previously unattested in the literature, conventionally implicates that the event relation satisifies the content of some known content-bearing object. This paper promises a new line of research and offers suggestions for deep discoveries concerning Turkic auxiliaries and auxiliaries cross-linguistically.

published version (open access)  •  seed paper from BLS 41

Available at Oxford Bibliographies in Linguistics.

Critically annotated bibliography spanning major descriptive and theoretical work on switch-reference. Focuses on different switch-reference areas around the world, and major issues in the theory of switch-reference.

Get version (library subscription required)Get pre-print

Under revision for the Journal of Semantics

Examines switch-reference when it (non-canonically) ignores subjects, arguing that we can explain this if it is tracking the reference of the joined clauses' Austinian topic situations, rather than their subjects. In doing so, it highlights the role that the utterance context and speaker intent play in shaping reference-tracking.

get draft version

Published in the International Journal of American Linguistics. Offers a new and comprehensive survey of switch-reference in North American languages. It also discusses major descriptive issues concerning switch-reference, and problems with relying on targeted portions of reference grammars without checking other parts.

published versionaccepted pre-print version


chapter published in Methodolgies of Semantic Fieldwork

Uses ordinary semantic fieldwork techniques to elicit clear judgments that suggest that some types of movement that appear discourse-driven are actually moving to disambiguate between opaque and transparent readings. It's the fact of movement that signals discourse prominence, not the other way around.

accepted pre-print version
purchase volume (or better yet, ask your library to get one!)

Courses I often teach 


Ling 107 - Intro to Linguistics (Honors)
Ling 447/747 - North American Indian Languages
Ling 531/731 - Semantics
   click here to view video lecturelets
Ling 441/741 - Field Methods
Ling 575 - Structures of Kiowa

Extra things

ling-macros LaTeX package for linguistics (@CTAN!)
jayhawks LaTeX package (for KU colors)
Kiowa stories (coming soon)

Full curriculum vitae