On July 1st, 2012 Brian Leahy started working in the Linguistics department on the project “The Semantics and Pragmatics of Counterfactual Statements”, in the DFG-funded collaborative research center “What if? On the meaning, epistemology, and scientific relevance of counterfactual claims and thought experiments”. He has been a Postdoctoral fellow of the Zukunftskolleg since August 2010.
The “What if?” research center is an interdisciplinary group comprised of linguists, philosophers, historians and literary critics. Brian’s project studies the grammatical composition and pragmatics of conditional sentences. Some conditional sentences, such as “If John had come, Bill would have been happy”, strongly suggest that their component clauses are false: in the example, that John did not come and that Bill was not happy. Brian’s work explains how this information is generated while also providing a compositional semantics that explains how the meaning of the example above compares and contrasts with the meaning of other conditional sentences such as “If John came, Bill was happy”.
Brian also has a philosophical project that addresses the problem of conditionals within a teleosemantic framework.
Brian expressed his gratitude to the Zukunftskolleg and added that he had a great time there: “I've learned immensely from my colleagues; it's clear that my future as a scientist will benefit from the broader perspective that I was provided with by the Zukunftskolleg. Particularly fruitful was spending time with practising scientists and learning about the challenges they face and their methods for addressing those challenges. I think this has enabled me to improve my philosophical work; there are methods that I simply hadn't realized could be applied to philosophical work before.“
Brian’s research at the Zukunftskolleg produced the following publications:
Leahy, Brian, Eva Rafetseder, and Josef Perner. “Generic Reasoning, Quantiﬁed Reasoning, and Counterfactual Reasoning” forthcoming in Studia Logica.
Leahy, Brian. “Can Teleosemantics Deﬂect the EAAN?” forthcoming in Philosophia.
Leahy, Brian. “Counterfactual Antecedent Falsity and Embedded Antipresuppositions” forthcoming in MIT Working Papers in Linguistics.
Leahy, Brian. “Presuppositions and Antipresuppositions in Conditionals” Proceedings of Semantics and Linguistic Theory XXI: pp. 257–274.
Past honours and awards include:
SUN Scholarship for CEU Conditionals Summer School 2009
SSRHC Doctoral Dissertation Fellowship 2006-2007
University of Connecticut Outstanding Scholar Award Connecticut 2003-2006
Alan Blizzard Award for excellence in team teaching Alberta 2003
University of Alberta Master’s Recruitment Scholarship Alberta 2001-2003
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