Chris Kennedy

Faculty Photo
William H. Colvin Professor, Department of Linguistics; Faculty Director, Undergraduate Major in Cognitive Science
Rosenwald 205E
Office Hours: By Appointment
Ph.D. University of California at Santa Cruz, 1997
Teaching at UChicago since 2005
Research Interests: Semantics, Pragmatics, Syntax, Philosophy of Language

Dr. Chris Kennedy's work is geared towards discovering and describing the principles that are involved in relating linguistic forms to meanings; determining how this mapping is achieved through the interaction of properties of the linguistic system, properties of cognition more generally, and broader features of communicative contexts; and understanding the extent to which structural and typological features of language can be explained in terms of meaning. Over the past two decades, he has explored these issues primarily through an exploration of the language of comparison, amount and degree, though his research has also touched on core issues in the syntax-semantics interface such as ellipsis, anaphora, and quantification. Kennedy's work engages methodologically and theoretically with work in other areas of cognitive science.



  • McNally, L. and C. Kennedy (eds). 2008. Adjectives and Adverbs: Syntax, Semantics and Discourse. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Kennedy, C. 1999. Projecting the Adjective: The Syntax and Semantics of Gradability and Comparison. Outstanding Dissertations in Linguistics Series. New York: Garland Press.

Selected Articles/Chapters:

  • Xiang, M., C. Kennedy, W. Xu and T. Leffel. In press. “Pragmatic Reasoning and Semantic Convention: A Case Study on Gradable Adjectives.” Semantics and Pragmatics.
  • Kennedy, C. and M. Willer. 2022. “Familiarity Inferences, Subjective Attitudes and Counterstance Contingency: Towards a Pragmatic Theory of Subjective Meaning.” Linguistics and Philosophy.
  • Kennedy, C. and K. Syrett. 2022. “Numerals denote degree quantifiers: Evidence from child language.” In Sauerland, U. and N. Gotzner, Measurement, Number and Granularity, Palgrave-Macmillan.
  • Willer, M. and C. Kennedy. 2022. “Perspectival Content and Semantic Composition.” In Wyatt, J., J. Zakkou, and D. Zeman (eds), Perspectives on Taste, Routledge.
  • Willer, M. and C. Kennedy. 2020. “Assertion, Expression, Experience.” Inquiry. (
  • Kennedy, C. 2019. “The Sorites Paradox in Linguistics.” In Ohms, S. and E. Zardini (eds.) The Sorites Paradox. Cambridge University Press. 

2022-23 Course offerings

Mind, Brain and Meaning (COGS 20001, LING 26520) - Autumn 2022

What is the relationship between physical processes in the brain and body and the processes of thought and consciousness that constitute our mental life? Philosophers and others have puzzled over this question for millennia. Many have concluded it to be intractable. In recent decades, the field of cognitive science--encompassing philosophy, psychology, neuroscience, computer science, linguistics and other disciplines--has proposed a new form of answer.  The driving idea is that the interaction of the mental and the physical may be understood via a third level of analysis: that of the computational. This course offers a critical introduction to the elements of this approach, and surveys some of the alternatives models and theories that fall within it. Readings are drawn from a range of historical and contemporary sources in philosophy, psychology, linguistics and computer science.

Semantics and Pragmatics II (LING 30302) - Spring 2022

This is the second course in the first-year graduate sequence in semantics and pragmatics, designed to introduce students to the core principles and empirical issues addressed by formal semantics and to familiarize them with the analytical tools involved in the investigation of this domain. The focus of this class is truth-conditional aspects of meaning and the compositional interpretation of phrases and sentences. Students will develop skills in semantic analysis and argumentation by focusing on semantic questions that arise in the analysis of a range of different phenomena, including argument structure, coordination, quantification, comparison, binding and anaphora.


2021-22 Course offerings

Mind, Brain and Meaning (LING 26520) - Spring 2022

same description as above

Topics in Semantics and Pragmatics (LING ):  Binding - Spring 2022

An overview of issues in the semantics and syntax of binding and coreference, from early work in generative grammar to contemporary research. Topics to be covered include:  configurational constraints on covaluation, “classic” binding theory, binding vs. conference, reflexivity, binding and phi-features, crossover, scope-taking, binding and c-command, variable free semantics, static vs. dynamic accounts of binding.