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:       on zoom
Office Hrs:on sabbatical
E-mail:        andrew.mckenzie@ku.edu   

News (click for details) 

My paper on language in space has been featured in an article in Slate.

I will be giving an invited talk at the 39th West Coast Conference on Formal Linguistics this April!

I will be presenting to the SSC at Berkeley in February

Me and Jeff Punske's paper on language development during interstellar travel has piqued quite a bit of interest among writers. KU Press Release
Slate - Voice of America - space.com - Big Think - Universe Today - Advanced Science News -

Listen to my radio interview on KCUR's Up To Date in March 2020. It got cut short because of COVID-related news before it, but it was still fun and informative!

My M.A. advisee John-Patrick Doherty has begun the next step of his research career in the Rutgers PhD program, where he will pursue his program on syntax of West African languages in an ideal environment. Best of luck, JP!

I will be giving a colloquium talk at Arizona on Nov 8, 2019!

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)

Plains Life in Kiowa: Voices from a Tribe in Transition. Under review at University of Chicago Press.

This volume of texts for the IJAL series Texts in Indigenous Languages of the Americas offers 18 different texts in the Kiowa language, glossed and translated, which trace the historic journey from the pre-reservation life into the modern Westernized era. The texts present a uniquely Kiowa perspective on this transition, its ups and downs, and exemplifies the wit, humor, and dedication to memory of Kiowa storytelling. Each text is accompanied by an introduction that situates it in Kiowa history and culture.

Part of submitted draft

McKenzie, Andrew and Jeffrey Punske. 2020. Language development during interstellar travel Acta Futura 12: 123-132. DOI: 10.5281/zenodo.3747353

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.

This project proved highly interesting to the general public; see in News for some write-ups and interviews!

Published issue 12

Presentation at ESSEC (slides)

Sutkin, Gary, MD, Andrew McKenzie, and Cynthia Liu MD. Semantically Ambiguous Language in the Teaching Operating Room. Under review at Surgery

This is a collaborative project with Surgilab, the surgical innovation lab 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. I cannot post a pre-print or submitted draft, but here is a very early description which I presented a while back. 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

In press 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.

accepted 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

McKenzie, Andrew, and Lydia Newkirk. 2020. Almost at-a-distance. Linguistics & Philosophy 43, 389–426. Online August 8, 2019. DOI: 10.1007/s10988-019-09275-6

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)

Curriculum vitae