Ezra Cook



About Me


I am a graduate student in the philosophy program at Northwestern University. I am ABD, working on a dissertation in the philosophy of language and linguistics. Here is my CV.


The Grammar of Embedding Environments


Propositional attitude verbs and modal auxiliaries have certain syntactic subcategorizion requirements.  A confluence of syntactic properties converge to create these environments, and decisions must be made regarding, for example, the differences between fully inflected and infinitival complements, the possible binding relations that are licensed, and the semantic effects (if any) of raising/control constructions, exceptional case marking, and null functional heads. Their integration with other elements of the inflectional component in complex embedding constructions reveal these requirements, which in turn provides insight into possible semantic denotations of the complements in these environments. (Cook (diss.))



Compositionality: Movement and Binding


Once binding by verbs is taken for granted, as I argue is a product of the above research, then a fruitful generalization becomes available. Specifically, a single, intensional functional application rule covers both cases of binding by verbs and quantifier movement and binding, allowing for explanations of inverse linking cases and Larson's Generalization not previously attempted. The distribution of possible binding configurations across intensional verbs provides additional insight into their locations in the makeup of the inflectional component of the syntax and some possible ways that syntactic features can be semantically realized. (Cook and Glanzberg (ms.), Cook (diss.))



Modality and Conditionals


Taking a broadly Kratzerian approach to the semantics of modals and conditionals, one interest of mine is the kinds of logics that imposing certain constraints on this system generates, such as a multi-agent doxastic logic in the case of epistemic modals. In addition, I am interested in the integration of tense and mood elements in complex embeddings, such as Tichý and Morgenbesser conditionals. While these examples arose initially as a criticism to the traditional Stalnaker-Lewis semantics, there are cases inspired by those that seem to generate wrinkles in Kratzer inspired analyses, as well. Studying these cases, specifically, the way tense and mood interact with modals embedded under conditionals, provides rich insight into the syntactic and semantic properties of these verbs and their respective environments. (Cook (2013), Cook (diss.))



Grounding and Explanation


One aspect of my work centers on providing an alternative understanding of Lewisian naturalness. Rather than defining relative naturalness according to a syntactic criteria, as Lewis does, I hope to make sense of relative naturalness according to an already understood grounding relation. I consider this, in some sense, a semantic interpretation of Lewisian naturalness. I hope this package can provide a better understanding of macro-level explanatory properties, such as those considered important in linguistics. In other work I argue that theory choice in semantics should be governed not only by empirical coverage, but explanatory adequacy, which I gloss as the ability of the theory to predict the data without arbitrary stipulations.

(Cook (ms.a), Cook (ms.b), Cook (diss.))



Semantic Context Sensitivity


I am interested in what might be considered context-shifting operations, what have been called Kaplanian monsters. These operations would shift the reference of indexical elements from the speech context. I am interested in how these operations are represented in a system with worlds and times taken as basic types, where intensional environments are simulated by verbal binding configurations licensed by their respective subcategorization requirements. These requirements constrain the complement to a particular semantic type, which is then generated through the iterated application of the rule intensional function application. This type of system allows one to distinguish different roles for the speech context without restricting the analysis arbitrarily. The data is explained, and there is no sense in which "context" has been shifted. There are simply binding relations licensed by subcategorization requirements, which are facilitated in the semantics by a type-adjustment rule. Where indexical features are present, they are always resolved to the context of speech. (Cook (diss.))






2015 Logic I (Northwestern)

2015 Introduction to Philosophy (Lawrence)

2015 Introduction to Philosophy (Lawrence)


Teaching Assistant

2014 Philosophy of Natural Science

2013 Minds and Machines

2013 Logic II

2012 Social Ethics

2012 Uncertainty

2012 Metaphysics

2011 Bioethics

2011 Logic II

2010 Logic I





Cook (2013) Epistemic Modals and Common Ground. Inquiry 56 (2-3)

Note: please see penultimate draft, as Inquiry has some typesetting issues.




Cook (dissertation) The Schmentencite Foundations of Generative Grammar. Northwestern University: (est. Spring 2015).


Cook (manuscript a) The selection problem: What can metasemantics do for you?. Academia: in progress.


Cook (manuscript b) Naturalness and Grounds. Academia: in progress.


Cook and Glanzberg (manuscript) Binding, Composition, and Meaning from Structure: in progress.


Ezra Cook






I use forest to typeset trees in LaTeX.




edit code







ezrajc [at] gmail [dot] com



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